Some people just can’t take yes for an answer.

One of those people appears to be Senator Lyn Allison, who is terribly indignant that the Government did not give her a Prius. Or that we did give her a Prius. Or something like that. It’s hard to be perpetually indignant when you actually get what you want, but I suppose this is the Australian Democrats, spiritual home of Greg Barnes and David Hicks.

So, let’s get some facts straight. There is a “standard” list of vehicles for MPs. In the main, it reflects those vehicles that are available to senior public servants. Its key criteria are that the cars be Australian-made sedans or station wagons, under $47,000. Note the words “Australian-made”.

Prius vehicles are not Australian-made. In fact, all of the enviro-vehicles are made overseas. Just as all 4WD vehicle were made overseas, prior to the production of the Ford Territory and the Holden Adventra.

For that reason, any parliamentarian can write to the Special Minister of State and request what is called “a non-standard vehicle”. Up until a few years ago, there were only two reasons which would be acceptable for a non-standard vehicle: operational reasons, or occupational health and safety reasons.

However, the previous Special Minister of State, Senator Eric Abetz, decided to include a third reason, environmental considerations. Now I know all the screaming lefties will choke on their soy-ecocinos about this next statement, but Eric is something of a greenie. Having been his chief of staff from 2001 to 2006, I know that he actually cares quite deeply about the environment. So he thought it would be a good idea to allow people to have cars which they would not otherwise be allowed to have, solely on the basis of their concern for the environment.

The original Prius cars were quite expensive to lease, because LeasePlan had no history of their residual value, and so had to price their lease rates accordingly. For that reason, Senator Allison had to pony up a bit of her own cash to meet the differential. But some might say it is a small price to pay to save the planet, and I am sure she wouldn’t want to suggest that it is beholden on taxpayers to subsidise her lifestyle choices.

So what is the crux of her complaint? That MPs are unaware of the ability to choose a vehicle on the basis of environmental considerations. But this is just BS. It is clearly stated in the Entitlements Handbook. This handbook is sent to all MPs offices, both electorate and Parliament House, and it is included on the official entitlements’ website.

So what is the gripe? That MPs don’t read what is plainly visible if they just choose to look! Whose fault is that? Not the Department of Finance, that’s for sure. It’s absolutely clear in its official documentation.

It’s also complete nonsense to say that MPs have not been able to get fuel cards for independent suppliers. This has been going on for years now. There was some initial reluctance to provide E10 fuel because, as I am sure you will all remember, the Labor Party ran a dishonest, but very effective, scare campaign on the alleged “danger to engines” from ethanol. LeasePlan was unwilling to allow ethanol to be used in their vehicles, but now that has been changed.

So, perhaps, Senator Grumpy Bum might like to thank the Howard Government for actually pursuing better environmental outcomes, rather then being acting like a spoilt brat. Imagine her whinge if we didn’t give her exactly what she wanted!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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