Pimp my MP
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.
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
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