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by John Cadogan

Interesting story in News Limited major metro daily papers this morning: Only a tiny fraction of federal MPs drive fuel-efficient cars. In fact, if the reports are correct just seven out of 104 Gillard government MPs and just two out of 20 ministers drive anything other than a big car.

Car-spangled: Gillard Gov’t position on ministerial transportation

So what? I like big cars. You might also. Among enthusiasts – and politicians Down Under, apparently – horsepower and hyperbole beats hybrids any day. In this case, however, there’s the issue of officially sanctioned hypocrisy. Seems like our gas guzzling political representatives are talking the talk of climate change without the pesky burden of walking the walk. PM Julia ‘never be a carbon tax under a government I lead’ Gillard’s ‘company’ car is a VE Calais with the big 3.6-litre V6.

Future Federal Government fleet hot prospects?

There’s nothing wrong with the Calais. It’s made here. It’s a damn fine, spacious car. Great performance, heaps of legroom, and more than enough room for the ‘first bloke’s’ hair drier and foils in the boot. It’s just not the ideal car for the admiral of the pro-Carbon Tax Armada to sail into battle against an Evil Empire of Emitters.

Official Federal Government position on carbon tax legislation

Hyperactive Opposition Leader Tony Abbot’s official ride is a Ford Territory – also a good car, albeit another vehicle du jour with three-plus times the CO2 output of the most efficient cars in the market, and a prodigious thirst.

Mine’s bigger than yours, Julia: Oppo leader Abbot drives a Territory

Have these leaders, and more than 100 additional mindless MPs, at least on this issue, paused to consider that the carbon tax requires our elected representatives to demonstrate their commitment to the proposition of reducing emissions, not just preach about it, if they want the electorate not to dismiss the proposed upcoming impost on everything as nothing more than a fraudulent attempt to lower the living standards of ordinary Australians? Are they onto something, or is it all (like their choice of Government car) just pumping out a load of hot air.

You’d think, in politics – where image is everything – they’d get that.

Julia Gillard and Barack Obama toss a leather bag filled with gas the approximate width of a Buick

The governmental hypocrisy doesn’t end there. Flash back a couple of years and you’ll probably remember the gob-smacking series of taxpayer funds that were donated to Toyota to get the Hybrid Camry built at Toyota’s factory in Altona, Victoria. To recap, the Federal Government tipped $35 million into Toyota’s designated offshore account, metaphorically, and that gift was matched by Victoria’s Brumby state government: another $35 million. That’s a total of $70 million – serious seed money.

“Oh, I suppose it’s really only about this much bigger than a Prius,” Ms Gillard told reporters

The thing is, none of us as individuals was actually consulted about that donation. Correction: those donations. Yet it was our money given to the world’s largest car company. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the car – except maybe its age, and the fact that we don’t actually make the hybrid drivetrain here (Toyota just assembles it into a car that is essentially already rolling down the line).

Obama: “I know I’ve been busy lately, downloading my birth certificate and killing Osama bin Laden, but you guys Down Under still don’t like that Hybrid Camry enough to buy it. Right?”

Most of us would question the injection of an eight-figure taxpayer-funded backhander to the world’s largest company just to get a different variant of a car already built here out of the blocks – I mean either making it here is commercially viable or it isn’t. This choice to offer the funds – whipped up with much hoopla using words like ‘innovation’ … even though there wasn’t any – is interesting. Especially as governmental coffers aren’t (and weren’t then) awash with excess funds. Let’s face it, there are many apparently more worthwhile projects on the public ‘to do’ list competing for attention – such as fixing the roads, the health system, infrastructure generally, investing in aged care, mental health and medical research, and clawing back the budget deficit. To name just a few. Beats me why the Hybrid Camry got to the top of the list.

KRudd overestimates the number of federal ministers actually driving fuel-efficient cars today

It’s all the more galling when you consider that car’s sales jumped into an express elevator and hammered the ‘basement’ button as soon as it got out of the blocks – a trend that continues to this day. It could kindly be described as an under-performer. Statistically, it seems, nobody wants a Hybrid Camry – not even the pollies who were so generous with ‘our’ money to get it built here in the first place.

This is pretty much how the House of Reps would look if you were to remove everyone who drives a gas guzzler

Finally, there are the reporters at News who are oxygenating this issue, who seem to have a singular fascination with describing hybrids as being the most (or, indeed, the only) fuel-efficient cars on the market. It makes you wonder what Rupert is doing with his significant brigade of Aussie motoring journalists – allegedly the best in the business … if a current radio advertising campaign describing them as such is to be believed.

Perhaps the Grand High Poobah of News is gagging his motoring guys in the Holt Street broom closet, because it’s pretty obvious to anyone who actually follows the car market here or OS that hybrids are basically a fraudulent and failed economy experiment that remain, collectively, overpriced after a decade on sale. They aren’t even the most fuel efficient trick in the automotive playbook, seeing as plenty of small diesels blow hybrids right out of the water – especially on the long drive from Parliament House up Northbourne Avenue and on to Sydney or Melbourne.

New digs are not to shabby outside, but the car park is – literally – out of control

The only real reason to drive a hybrid is to look appropriately green – cue the pollies with their heads in the sand on this, still not getting the message. They’re in danger of getting the maximum sentence in the court of public opinion.

Here’s what I want to see: a gaggle of Ford Econetic Fiestas collecting these alleged public servants from the Parliament House forecourt. And if the cars are waiting for their important allotted ministers, the chauffers can switch the damn engines off.

Above: Hardest worker at Parliament House, Canberra

Personally, I don’t mind if the elected representatives freeze their asses off for the first few moments inside their taxpayer-funded rides, on a brisk Canberran evening … because that’s what plenty of low-income Aussies will be doing the whole winter long if the proposed carbon tax gets up.






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