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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Planes, trains, and automobiles - The AIM Network

Planes, trains, and automobiles

In September 2008, the Daily Telegraph blared

“Kevin Rudd should ask himself: am I the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister? Kevin 07 has become Departure Gate 08.”

In 2009, newly crowned LOTO Tony Abbott said

“Kevin Rudd loves a crisis to give him an excuse to run
to the airport and jump on a 747 and go off and do photo ops with [then
British prime minister] Gordon Brown and Barack Obama.  I accept that
Australia’s voice should be heard in the councils of the world, but it
would be nice to hear the prime minister’s voice at home occasionally.”

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop accused Mr Rudd of harbouring an “obsession with chasing the global limelight”.

Tony picked up the criticism again when Rudd resumed the leadership in June 2013, saying

“I think he wants to campaign for the prime ministership
of this country from the front of a 747.  I don’t think the Australian
public are going to really warm to that but I think that’s the
temptation before him now, to not only be Kevin 747 but maybe Kevin A380
and spend most of the next few months out of the country.”

In contrast to his rhetoric in opposition, since getting the keys to
the plane, it is hardly any surprise to hear that Abbott has made 11 international trips, the same number as Mr Rudd made during his first 12 months in office.

At the beginning of this year it was briefly reported  that

“The $600 million lease on the current RAAF fleet of two
Boeing 737 business jets and three smaller Challenger 604 aircraft will
expire next year and the government will seek agreement from media
companies to limit criticism
of any decision to opt for bigger planes.  Any negative publicity would
be limited to plush add ons such as gold taps or marble sinks.”

This report is disturbing for a number of reasons.  Tony wants bigger
planes fitted out in VIP luxury so he can fly his media pack around
with him, along with hundreds of businessmen, whilst directing the media
to not criticise the decision or presumably risk losing their free

Every major media outlet has correspondents in other countries.  If
Rupert wants to fly extra people in I am sure he could afford to do so. 
After all, the ATO just gave him $882 million for being good at shifting money around.  (One wonders why they chose not to appeal that decision)

Tony Abbott paid a visit to China last April, accompanied by a record
number of over 700 businessmen who together represented over half the
value of the Australian stock exchange.  Few realise that this was the
first ‘outing’ of the REAL ‘Team Australia”.

“Five state premiers, along with 700 business leaders,
including three billionaires are with the prime minister. The government
has dubbed it “team Australia“.”

There was also a trip to Indonesia
immediately after Tony’s coronation where he hosted 20 business
heavyweights including the big banks, mining companies, and health care
companies.  Among them was Anthony Pratt, CEO of Visy, and Australian’s
second wealthiest person according to BRW.  Surely he owns his own jet. 
Must we fly James Packer around the world when he wants to land deals
to build more casinos?

In August it was revealed that

“DEFENCE Minister David Johnston has blown more than $100,000
sending empty VIP air force jets across the Nullarbor to pick up
colleagues from WA, including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.… the VIP
planes (RAAF Boeing 737) fly 3000km to Perth empty of passengers. The
“ghost flights’’ cost up to $16,000 each, ­excluding wages.  On the
return trip, MPs and their wives enjoy fine wine, craft beers, cocktails
and gourmet hot meals. MPs’ children have also taken the flights,
­according to passenger lists.”

Perhaps our airlines would be doing a bit better if they were
supported by our politicians.  It is also rather incongruous that
government representatives attending conferences get bumped from Tony’s
flying circus to make way for photographers and billionaires.

No discussion of planes would be complete without a mention of our
squadrons of fighter jets that we may or may not see in a decade or
two.  As I have said before, I consider this an enormous waste of money
as what we need most are planes that can do humanitarian drops or
disaster relief or evacuations or search and rescue.  We will not be
engaging in dog fights and to waste tens of billions on a training jet
to play war games in is a ridiculous waste of resources.

Trains don’t get much of a run with the Abbott government.  Despite
Infrastructure Australia identifying the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel as a
project of national significance and placing it at the top of its
priority list (the board was subsequently replaced), despite the Gillard
government offering funding for the project that was marked ready to
go, Tony Abbott is determined to build roads instead.  If states want
public transport they will have to sell assets because Tony wants
thousands of kilometres of pollution-producing bitumen heat islands to
be his legacy.

Australia and Antarctica are now the only two continents in the world where there is no high speed rail
project underway, though we have no hope of the discussion to progress
under this government even though the reasons for it seem compelling. 
Traditional rail lines could be opened up for freight and fuel guzzling
planes would largely be replaced for the trip between Melbourne,
Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.  Regional areas could be revitalised
giving the option for people to relocate with an easy commute when
necessary without having to queue up at airports or joust with trucks on
our congested highways.

Not content with buying himself some new planes, Tony Abbott has also
just bought a new fleet of bombproof BMWs.  The $6.2 million fleet can
withstand AK47 fire, attacks with explosive devices or armour-piercing
weapons.  I’m just wondering how many AK47s and armour-piercing weapons
are in circulation in Australia.  I hope they have special resistant
paint because they are far more likely to get egged which is a real
bugger to get off if you don’t do it straight away.

One wonders why we are paying the money to a German company when Holden
won the tender process.  Abbott said Holden had not even submitted a
bid for the tender, something the company says is incorrect.  Abbott’s
critics claim opting for BMW was all part of discrediting Holden around
the time it announced it would cease Australian operations.

We have been assured that it had nothing to do with Bridget Abbott
being given a gig as a “brand ambassador” for the BMW Sydney Carnival
in 2012.  Just as Louise Abbott got the job in the UN and Frances Abbott
got the $60,000 scholarship, she was no doubt chosen on merit. 
Successful accreditation of courses and extension of fee loans to
colleges such as the one that offered Ms Abbott the scholarship are also
entirely unrelated events.  But I digress into murky waters.

As well as Tony’s new fleet of BMWs, we have the endless use of
comcars by MPs.  Unless a very ‘helpful’ employee steals your diary and
goes to the trouble of matching your movements to your cab dockets going
back over several years, who would know what the cars are being used
for?  Apparently if you need to justify claiming travel and
accommodation, just get your photo taken visiting something even if it
DOES mean keeping all your colleagues waiting.

I have suggested before how much we could save by building an
accommodation wing at Parliament House.  Those who choose not to stay
there pay for their own accommodation and travel to and from work. 
Those who make appointments during sitting time for places outside
Canberra should also pay for travel out of their generous electoral
allowance or use the private vehicle provided to all MPs.  Not having
free RAAF jets and chauffeured limousines at their disposal might make
them a little more circumspect about dashing off for parties and
sporting events.

Most of the criticisms I have made in this article could be directed
at either of the major parties, though some are unique to Tony.  But it
is Tony who has been lamenting waste and Labor’s debt and deficit, Tony
that has mercilessly attacked the most vulnerable for the sake of a
number on a piece of paper, Tony that has been telling us that nothing
is free and we all must help to fix the problem.

All of us except Tony, that is.

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