When it comes to the cars parked in the garages of our Federal parliamentarians, saving the planet for the kids and grandkids doesn’t get a look-in.

Don't laugh, your local member could be inside.

Our Federal MPs, apart from a few Opposition hard heads, for some time have been issuing worthy public words about the need for urgent global action to stop greenhouse catastrophe. As Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said earlier this month, referring to the need for his Emissions Trading Scheme to get through parliament: “Denying climate change is bad for our kids, it is bad for our grandkids”.

But it’s clear that big, Aussie-made, carbon fuel-gulping grunt that MPs from all major parties want to drive under a taxpayer-funded perk costing about $5 million a year. They want a big donk under the bonnet.

A complete list of every one of the 243 vehicles selected by our Federal Parliamentarians obtained under the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act reveals a car fleet as close to rev head heaven as the bureaucracy will allow. When our Federal MPs take the drivers seat, it seems they instantly transform into climate change denialists.

The list of cars, accurate as of March 1 this year, shows the most preferred vehicle in the fleet chosen by our MPs is the Ford Territory – our locally-produced answer to the American SUV. (You can see the full document at the foot of this post.)

81 MPs ticked the box for what is possibly the heaviest Aussie-built passenger car ever made.

The Federal Government’s own Green Vehicle Guide gives the Territory a woeful 2.5 stars out of five, not that this detail deterred anyone.

An extraordinary 225 of the vehicles on the list are six or even eight cylinder cars. Apart from the Territory, others are the Holden Berlina and Calais vehicles or the Toyota Aurion V6. Some of the Toyota Landcrusiers, preferred among some country-based MPs, are diesel or in the case of one or two six cylinder cars, dual fuel LPG operated.

Every MP is entitled to at least one private-plated vehicle for personal use as part of their salary package. They can choose from a list of 35 cars valued at up to $48,990, or with approval from the Special Minister of State select a “non-standard vehicle”.

The affection for big sixes is out of step with the direction ordinary Australians have themselves been heading in for some time.

New car sales figures produced by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries have for years shown private buyers - that is, ordinary citizens rather than fleet buyers – have been selecting small four cylinders such as the Toyota Corolla and the Mazda3 as their car of choice. Australians no longer want big cars in their garage.

Rudd himself was embarrassed into swapping his private-plate Territory for a hybrid Toyota Prius in 2007 when, as Opposition Leader, it was revealed he was calling for action on greenhouse while driving a Territory.

His colleagues have been slow to follow his lead. The list shows just 10 other MPs have gone for the hybrid Toyota, including four green MPs and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong. Government junior minister Maxine McKew is another. Another seven selected four cylinder cars, including one Toyota Corolla and one Holden Astra.

MPs representing rural electorates, and Senators who like to get to country areas, have a case for arguing the need from them to get Toyota Landcruisers or Prados to get around the demanding terrain.

Harder to comprehend is why, for example, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner really needs a Ford Territory, including roof racks and running boards. The selection would appear an odd choice for negotiating the congested streets of Fitzroy and Richmond in his electorate of Melbourne.

At least Mr Tanner’s second taxpayer-funded ministerial vehicle, a Holden Berlina V6, gets three stars in the Green Vehicle Guide.

Mr Tanner’s liking for big donks contrasts with the commentary on climate change on his electorate website. At least he was honest in a recent ABC debate when he said about an ETS: “We are all the problem, and that’s why you need an all-encompassing structure and a scheme.”

Treasurer Wayne Swan, a key architect of the ETS, is another with a liking for the Territory, which he optioned up with a third row back seat and carry bars.

Other senior Government figures with the Territory include Chris Bowen, Mark Arbib and Stephen Conroy. Greg Combet and Simon Crean have gone the Holden Calais.  Anthony Albanese has a Falcon.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett has a Holden Berlina fitted with LPG fuel option.

Among Opposition MPs, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has a Territory. Climate Change spokesman Greg Hunt has the Prius. There’s no surprise that Wilson Tuckey, a fully-accredited climate denier, has a Holden SS 6 litre V8.

There are 17 MPs who have taken full advantage of a Renumeration Tribunal ruling permitting them to have a second vehicle for use in Canberra as well as one in their electorate. Presumably, the Canberra vehicle gathers dust during the long months parliament is not sitting.

Through this ruling, Sydney-based Federal Liberal Louise Markus has two Territory vehicles at her disposal, one fitted with a “body coloured pack”. With Canberra just three hours away, it would seem a waste of public resources.

Somehow, Country Liberal Northern Territory Nigel Scullion has ended up with three vehicles, a Toyota Landcruiser and a Holden Berlina for the electorate and a Territory left in Canberra.

Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig, a Territory driver, said the government was examining “cleaning up” the parliamentary entitlements framework, including the private-plated vehicle scheme.

An independent committee would report to him next year with some recommendations intended to “reduce cost and increase transparency”.

Mr Ludwig said the new Toyota Camry hybrid vehicle, to be produced at the company’s Melbourne plant next year, would be added to the list of vehicles for Federal MPs “to allow more green choices”.

Whether our elective representatives willingly let go of their private preference for big, fuel-guzzling cars without some more direct persuasion will be curious to watch.

- Kelvin Bissett is Investigations Editor, Nine Network Australia

MPs private-plated vehicles


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    • Eric says:

      05:08am | 15/12/09

      Well, at least the Copenhagen conferees aren’t driving these cars. Most of them flew there in private jets.

      “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who keep telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.” - Glenn Reynolds

    • Tony Cooper says:

      06:46am | 15/12/09

      Well, now I feel like a ‘Greeny’.
      Words elude me, most of these vehicles are 4Ltr - that’s bloody rediculous.
      Wilson Tucky may well have gone for the 6Ltr V8 but one thing I can feel very comfortable in saying: it most likely gets better fuel economy than most and, is more comfortable.
      All I can say is: ‘I hope they at least got them in the colour GREEN’.

    • Matt says:

      06:50am | 15/12/09

      What does Kelvin drive?

    • Scuba Steve says:

      07:00am | 15/12/09

      There’s far more important issues going on here. What’s the correlation between Labor/Liberal and Holden/Ford? What kind of MP ticks the “No Options” box?

    • Joel B1 says:

      07:16am | 15/12/09

      Can I be the first to use this as an opportunity to gloat about how green this makes me?
      If so, then my 2nd hand 306 diesel peugeot with intercooled turbo that gets 800km to a 50l tank in the city and better than 1000km on the highway shows just how good I am, and how bad those MPs (esp the Labor ones) are.

    • Liz says:

      07:55am | 15/12/09

      So the Toorak Tractor is still alive and well in canberra then?

    • Sanchez says:

      07:55am | 15/12/09

      *sigh* what a beat-up!

      The purchase of large family size cars by MPs is good for their comfort, safety, the local auto industry AND australian families, who buy these cars for reasonable prices after the government has used them.

      For covering longer journeys - or in fact any journey - I will still drive a larger Australian made car. Don’t quote green vehicle guide stats - drive one for yourself then make the call. 

      What about the “carbon footprint” of shipping an imported car across from Japan or further afield???

      What does the author drive??? And where????

      To curb my greenhouse emissions,I have gone to solar hot water, use isolation switches to remove standby power drain, and built a home using passive ventilation principles.

      Young urban professionals who boast about thier goddamn useless Prius or Smart car and feel good about themselves will all end up upgrading when they eventually decide to have kids.

      And of these pompous urban tredites, who wants a ten year old Prius when it is no longer trendy, and has a $9000 battery that needs replacing? And what about the massive lithium ion battery that needs disposal???

      There is more to true energy conservation than simply running costs.
      There is the environmental cost of manufacture, and this can be spread across the life of the vehicle, and how many people it is used by.

      This is a bullsh1t beatup piece about nothing.
      I am sincerely disappointed.

    • Josh says:

      08:24am | 15/12/09

      What is Greens’ senator Sarah Hanson-Young doing with a Mitsubishi GT V6 of nearly 4.0 litres?  What about all of the public servants who get privately plated cars, with some SES couples having two vehicles, sometimes both 5.0 litre and fuel cards, to drive to work in Canberra with its excellent bus service?

    • Bob H says:

      08:25am | 15/12/09

      Everyone wants to tell everybody else how to save the planet so they can continue their own voracious consumption.  Please can we ignore all this phoney environmental concern, no one is really going to change how they actually behave.  The earth existed very nicely without humans and when we have all finished cra@pping on it, it will do again.

    • John Williams says:

      08:26am | 15/12/09

      Sanchez, you are not notable in the logic stakes.
      The point of the article is not simply the car/vehicle the pollies drive…it is the rampant hypocrisy they demonstrate.
      Because they bleat about the necessity for us plebs to consider the environment in all matters, particularly motor vehicles, whilst considering themselves exempt.

    • Hamish says:

      08:36am | 15/12/09

      * sigh * Sanchez gets dirty on the article? No surprises there. Typical lefty response is to ridicule and attack the author, everyone else and anything BUT the facts at hand. * sigh * * rolling eyes * ROFLMAO ...

    • Biff says:

      08:40am | 15/12/09

      Peter Garrett getting about in a large white car….what next. What happened to his bark hut philosophy?

      Not only do our MPs become fond of large white vehicles but they also develop a liking for airlines and overseas travel.

      Is there any room at the trough?

    • H of SA says:

      08:40am | 15/12/09

      Wow what a cheap, cheap shot. Where are the page 3 girls? Its what I would expect after a hack article like this

    • Jarmo says:

      08:41am | 15/12/09

      I agree with Sanchez, it’s a beat-up
      What you drive depends largely on your needs & what you can afford after being taxed to death.
      SAFETY & crash survival are much more important to me than driving a micro car that gets 10 zillion km per litre & is made out of plastic & recycled coke cans that are mostly imported anyway.
      What about presentation for the leaders of this country? Maybe they should all join the Armish & pick-up visiting dignitaries in their horse & sulky.

    • Zeta says:

      08:50am | 15/12/09

      Srsly. Kelvin Bissett makes it into my end of the year top 10 list of Australian journalists without fail. Being ‘without fail’ is hard in Australian journalism, because no matter how good you are, everyone seems to get lumped with at least one really dodgy story every year, but not Kelvin.

      I mean, here is a guy whose job it is to just pummel State and Federal Governments with FOI requests. I like to imagine that he lives inside an enourmous, heavily guarded warehouse full of hundreds of thousands of returned FOI documents that no newspaper ever has time to print. He’s like the keeper of Australian secrets. I bet he knows where they took Harold Holt.

    • Matt says:

      08:56am | 15/12/09

      Are you kidding me? The expectation of some people with this issue is well beyond me. My Federal seat is regional, and covers a massive area in regional Victoria. I’ll wager all the pissed of people on here thinking that ‘mps should use public transport’ havent ever gone past the ends of the tram lines out here where it can take up to a number of hours to cross the electorate.

    • Rover says:

      09:08am | 15/12/09

      The Herald Sun did this story earlier this year. Twice. Once as shock horror pollies snub green cars for gas guzzlers. Then as shock horror pollies snub Aussie-made cars for imported green cars.

    • D'oh says:

      09:18am | 15/12/09

      [face palm]

      “this is an opportunity for Australia to show leadership to the rest of the world”

      Kevin and Wong are happy to sprout this on the 6pm news spot, but in their own back yard?
      What is good for the goose in good for the gander, or are some people just more equal than others?  How about our government who are so keen to “act on climate change” start by setting an example and showing the kind of leadership here at home before trying to tell us and the rest of the world what to do.

      @ sanchez

      “What about the “carbon footprint” of shipping an imported car across from Japan or further afield???”

      If you bother to do the sums, an efficient 4 cylinder Japanese car has a much smaller carbon footprint over its life even after taking into account shipping to Australia.  I should know, I did the figures and I drive one.  It makes perfect economic & environmental sense.

      Pure hypocrisy.

    • Josh says:

      09:28am | 15/12/09

      You give the extreme example of a large regional seat to bolster your case, although Victoria doesn’t have the unpaved roads of so0me other states and a SUV might not be necessary.  However many parliamentarians never leave the city unless on holiday and nor do senior public servants, yet they have 5.0 litre limos and SUVs.  Then there is the case of the ‘sustainability conscious’ Greens, who have a senator who ‘needs’ a fuel-burning rocket-ship Mitsubishi GT V6 of nearly 4.0 litres and 175 kilowatts (235 hp)!  A Prius has an engine of less than half that capacity.

    • JJP says:

      09:42am | 15/12/09

      This is a beat up. Good to see that the Nine network hasn’t lost its touch covering non-stories.

      Nice going numbero deux!

    • Sanchez says:

      10:15am | 15/12/09

      I did miss one point on which i would like to compliment Kelvin.
      The fact you included the recent commencement of production of the new Camry Hybrid in Melbourne was commendable.

      Your criticism of the Ford Territory as a “Gas Guzzler” however, remains a cheap shot at a good vehicle.

    • Hybrid says:

      10:22am | 15/12/09

      The voters would be glad to know that Senator Scullion puts one of his three vehicles to good use. He uses the Landcruiser to bash its way through the scrub when out hunting.

    • Jack Smith says:

      10:40am | 15/12/09

      So not using V8s and SUVs are for the public, but , of course, not for those MPs, in other words this restraint is for us and not for them???

      Kelvin Basset, by the way, Check their water meters while you are at it!!!!!!!

    • Aaron says:

      10:45am | 15/12/09

      Seeing as the majority of times an MP gets into a car it with 4 other people and a boot load of equipment, I’m not surprised they choose large cars.  I’ve seen how MPs travel and there is no way that a small car would cut it 90% of the time.

      And as has been pointed out, lets include the embedded carbon in all these imports into the equation and calculate just how bad the “gas guzzlers” really are.  I reckon they will come out on top over the span of their lives as MP mobiles.

    • Amber Dekstris says:

      11:21am | 15/12/09

      Kelvin says, “The affection for big sixes is out of step with the direction ordinary Australians have themselves been heading in for some time.”

      I disagree: look at the number of trucklike “cars” on the roads these days compared to earlier.

    • Joe says:

      11:28am | 15/12/09

      I just love the fact Julia Gillard drives a Toyota.  Perhaps she also flies a Hornet jet on the weekends…

      I would have thought General Julia would really screw the planet and drive a Bushmaster around to keep her safe from all those hairy chested annoyances.

    • Lexi says:

      11:34am | 15/12/09

      Headline of the year.

    • OzeWander says:

      11:44am | 15/12/09

      So many arm chair experts and part-time environmentalists here. I am proud to be amongst such an educated and green crowd.

      I suppose given Copenhagen has generated so much media interest and allowed us to exhume a few great beat-ups, may as well flog the proverbial regarding ministerial transportation. At the end of the day, you really can’t win can you?

      We buy local, we get flamed for buying Gas guzzlers! Bugger our local industry and the security of this country’s future…

      I am sure there would be equal number of whingers on here had the ministers chosen to drive Daewoos. “What about local industry?” they would cry!

      Do we actually KNOW the carbon footprint difference between hauling a foreign car into the country via ship (coupled with their manufacturing processes, waste management, etc etc etc), vs buying local?

      “I’ve done the sums!” exclaims one reader. Damn that must have been one big sum and you must have access to data Joe Public otherwise wouldn’t.

      People drive a Prius for one reason only. So they can tell the world they are doing their bit for the environment. Otherwise, we’d be buy more efficient cars (to manufacturer, recycle and operate) than a Prius. Marketing has a wonderful way of obscuring clarity with rainbows and butterflies.

    • andi says:

      12:25pm | 15/12/09

      Matt to answer your question Rudd drives a Toyota Prius which is a hybrid vehicle.
      Staff writers should check their facts out more closely before wrting. The total figure for cars including fuel for Private Plated cars was $4.3 million not $5 million as stated in the article. AlsoThree MPs claimed nothing at all: Parramatta MP Julie Owens ALP, former Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull LNP and Minister for Childcare Kate Ellis ALP. Other MPs who kept their transport costs under $1000 were Stuart Robert LIB,Suzanne Boyce LIB, and Labor Senator David Feeney. These M.P’s should be instructing their colleagues how to economise.

    • - says:

      12:30pm | 15/12/09

      way to do the hard yards kevin. how hypocritical

    • Richard says:

      12:44pm | 15/12/09

      Good on ‘em !!  Designed and Made in Australia they are…..
      Keep our own employed… and the profits etc stay in Australia.
      I’ll bet they are as proud as I am to be driving in Australias Own.

    • miles says:

      01:07pm | 15/12/09

      ah, i thought kevin drove a ute…

    • MERC. LOVERS says:

      01:09pm | 15/12/09

      They really are Merc or Jag (oops) a prince or princess.  Don’t kid yourself about they patriachism boys.  It is all just good showmanship.

    • David says:

      01:23pm | 15/12/09

      A Cheap Shot at a world class Australian Designed and Manufactured Vehicle. Something a Hybrid Camery or Prius will never be, regardless of how many may or may not be assembled here, thanks to Kevs Green Car initiative hand outs. If the Prius was a better option it wouldn’t need to be propped up with government money and there would be no photo opportunity for Kevin 747. Take your Prius outside the city limits and you will soon see why the Territory and other Australian Built Vehicles are world class for what they are designed for, Safety, Reliability and Comfort all day anywhere, not just in the inner city suburbs.

    • John Aquilina says:

      01:38pm | 15/12/09

      The Territory is an excellent car to tote around a bunch of MPs & their hacks. Would you rather 2 separate cars costing heaps more and using more in fuel? Horses for courses. A big car for a big job.

      It may be approriate for them to convert them to cleaner / greener LPG. A abundant local fuel that is also helping Australia remain energy self-sufficient. Even if they did change them over after 40,000kms the families that buy ex-Govt cars would further benifit from a policy of converting to LPG. So will the environment and the Aussie trade balance

    • Jacquie Butterfield says:

      02:24pm | 15/12/09

      Scuba Steve, it’s Labour 10 including Penny Wong and Kevin Rudd, Liberals4 includes Joanne Gash and Philip Ruddock 4, Greens number two who are Christine Milne and Rachel Siewert and we may therefore assume that the rest of them walk or cycle?

    • Scott Collingwood says:

      02:25pm | 15/12/09


    • Smart Nicki says:

      02:51pm | 15/12/09

      I think they should walk, yes we all should walk.
      Walking is good. The fresh air do good for thinking and new policy ideas.
      Only the emission you give is from your backside.
      And no shoes on.

    • Andrew says:

      02:55pm | 15/12/09

      The image looks like all of the gravy trains are parked at Fat Cat Central!

      Once again it is a demonstration that We, the voting public are the “Have not’s” and our Pollies are the “Have’s!”  Copenhagen, the GFC, etc, etc means nothing when you can be funded by the public purse for thing considered Luxuries by the humans!

    • Josh says:

      02:57pm | 15/12/09

      John Aquilina said, “The Territory is an excellent car to tote around a bunch of MPs & their hacks”

      Since when did MPs chauffeur drive others around?  I lived in Canberra for years and what I saw were large limos with drivers and the motors running 24/7 for the one pollie to step aboard by himself.  After all, they are always going in a slightly different direction they say and do not share. 

      What really needs control though is the number of middle management and senior public servants with vehicles.  There are many in the State PS as well as the federal public service who have the taxpayer support their hobby farm lifestyle by living well away from work and using the guvvy funded vehicle to commute for example, from the Gold Coast to Brisbane daily and have done so for years.  Let senior public servants receive salaries only and cut out these tax perks unavailable to the public.

    • Razor says:

      03:00pm | 15/12/09

      Complete;y agree with the basis of this article - expose the hypocrits.

      I would much prefer to see either of two more enlightened approaches:

      Stop this type of ‘entitlment’ funding and just give each politician a split of the amount it costs to run parliament, electoral offices, flights, accomodation, staff, mail, stationary (might need a scaling system for size of electorate and distance from Canberra but that would be it) - everything and they can decide what they need to buy.  Anything left gets taxed at marginal tax rates.

      Or, stop telling them what sort of cars they can buy - set a maximum price and then let them buy whatever they want.  Restricting them to certain vehicles is PCness personified.

      I am personally dissappointed that there aren’t a lot of better cars being driven by our politicians.  Shows how low our expectations of them are.  I was happy to see Turnbull banging around in a BMW (I think it was a 5 series but could have been a 7).  I would like to see a few Merc AMG SL 63s etc driven by our parliamentarians.  Maybe a Walkinshaw Supercharged 6.0L Clubsport, at least.

      Pay peanuts - get monkeys.

    • Glen says:

      10:49pm | 15/12/09

      You didn’t make it clear that the pic of the white cars are the commonwealth car fleet.  They are in addition to the other cars that the pollies are allowed.  They were originally meant to ensure that the pollies were not caught short when they needed transport.  This has typically been perverted so that they are at their beck and call.  So in effect many have 2 cars for private use and a chauffeured limo at their beck and call all at the taxpayer’s expense.  I have no even started to talk about wat they do when they travel around the country (and if you think of busses then you are not on this planet), and then there are the planes.  Perks; until you see and know what they get you have no idea.

    • Geoff says:

      11:05pm | 15/12/09

      people with no clue about cars shouldn’t write articles about them.  this article suggests that there is nothing more to working out a car’s fuel economy than counting the number of cylinders.  maybe first check how well advanced the current aussie 6’s are - better fuel economy than many 4 cylinder vehicles.  All the politicians should be forced to by aussie made vehicles to support our local economy.  btw prius is a dud.  the most fuel efficient local car is a Ford diesel.

    • Glen Andrew says:

      11:05am | 16/12/09

      Any of you ever driven a prius?  It is revolting and wil never appeal to a male.  It is a true metrosexual car and an insult to all males, not because of its poor performance or its impractical design, and not because pouring loots of petrol down a huge and thirsty engine is a sign of virility but because of its effeminate interior and exterior design.  Put any red blooded mal into one and they will feel lost an uncomfortable.  At the end of the journey they will feel completely unsatisfied and robbed.  No wonder Krudd drives one.

    • Chris says:

      08:26am | 07/01/10

      Right, so these are PRIVATE plated cars. All very reasonable cars and it’s great to see the majority of these guys support Australian industry. How is this news worthy? Also greenies, drive your car of choice and let us drive our car of choice. mmmmm 5.4L quad cam V8 here…

    • LC says:

      12:37pm | 23/03/11

      My employer runs a small fleet of Priuses in order for us to get to clients. I can officially say they are THE BLANDEST car to drive. Terrible performance, boring interior, impractical design, the list goes on. Not even the fuel economy is worth it, seeing as there are cars which get better liters/100 kms than it, and The feel good factor if you think that AGW/ACC is occurring is the ONLY plus (provided you drive the required 70,000kms in order to start making up for emissions made during manufacture and disposal, of course).

      I’ll start driving hybrids, when they make hybrids that are desirable to drive, at an affordable cost. In the meantime, I’m sticking to my sinful gas-guzzler (by today’s standards) and my motorcycle.


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