Does Tony Abbott deserve a medal,
Riding on the Pollie Pedal,
When what’s really in his head’ll
Likely cause a major scandal?
While all along the cyclists’ way
The media scrum’s there every day
Recording what he has to say
What he really thinks he hides away.
Like – how to get more and more votes?
Keep counting those illegal boats!
That should bring in some headline quotes
And keep the Greens at Labor’s throats.
Talk about our coast’s defences
As the main event commences,
Keeping up PR pretences,
While calculating his expenses.
He’ll claim each night for a motel,
(Not like Craig Thomson in Dobell!)
No chance our Tones will go to hell.
He’s cleared that with Cardinal Pell.
He’s not increasing his own wealth!
He is helping the nation’s health,
Not by preaching, but more by stealth,
A good example, like himself!
So it goes on, mile after mile!
The ALP daren’t be so vile
As to criticise, swallow bile.
Peta Credlin is one big smile.
Pollie Pedal, the well known national annual charity bike ride started in Adelaide on 28th April, and participants are riding some 1,000 kilometres through South Australia and Victoria to finish in Geelong on 5 May. When Carers Australia proudly announced the launch of their much publicized, and dare I say it, exploited, fund raiser by Tony Abbott they also told us that
Since its inception fifteen years ago Pollie Pedal has raised over $2.5 million for a range of charitable organisations.
which Mr. Abbott himself happily repeated on his own blog.
Correct me if my sums are wrong but after my very generous rounding out, after all expenses relating to its promotion are costed, acknowledging that the hundreds of participants meet their own expenses and appreciating all the work by thousands of local volunteers along the way, I make that an average raising of a paltry $165,000 each year. I use the word paltry advisedly because I know how careful one should be about belittling the work of charitable groups and their volunteer helpers, particularly one like Carers Australia who do such worthwhile work in the community. But I feel that they could be achieving a great deal more if so much of their energy were not taken up in promotion of the Pollie Pedal each year and they focussed instead on their real work and other less high profile fund raising efforts. Donations from 2GB and the Liberal Party alone, forget about the Labor Party and their other high profile sponsors, so prominently named on participants’ brand new spandex outfits could mount up. Even personal donations from many of the prominent citizens who participate in this event could very quickly raise 2.5 million dollars in one year, but over fifteen years?
There are, of course, other benefits than financial from this event. But last year journalist Malcolm Farr seemed to think that most of them accrued to Tony Abbott,
the first and major one being that he got to personally meet and chat with the locals in some of the country’s most marginal electorates.
The other two benefits are to help charity, and, he says, to set a fitness example for those who should have healthier lifestyles.
Tony Abbott himself acknowledges all that. As he told the Herald Sun
“For 15 years now, travelling through small towns, stopping at pubs and cafes and staying at caravan parks, Pollie Pedal has enabled me to engage with people in ways that are rarely possible through politics-as-usual,”
He went further to say that
“The other nice thing about the Pollie Pedal is that travelling on bikes and staying in caravan parks suggests to those who are familiar with it that politicians are not quite the creatures of luxury or the indulgent people that at least some of our critics like to think.”
All of which would be quite acceptable had Tony Abbott, like many riders, stayed with the original commitment to meet their all their own expenses. But it seems that many of his personal expenses like that expensive new spandex outfit each year and other equipment are met by sponsors. As well, he has always claimed from the Commonwealth a daily entitlement for accommodation which this year is over $350 a night. This, in spite of his firm statement that
“every rider, politicians included, pays $100 a day to cover expenses and is expected to raise at least $500 in personal sponsorship.”
Because this has always been billed as a non-political and charitable event, like many people on the left, till now I’ve followed the Labor Party line of not criticising or commenting on Tony Abbott’s efforts even though media coverage has always been more about Abbott than Carers Australia. This year this has been even more so than before, despite promises from a fellow Liberal party participant, candidate for the federal seat of Barker, Tony Pasin, that the fundraiser is not part of a campaign, saying
“We’re encouraging all members of the community to come and introduce themselves to Tony and the other politicians on the ride. This is not a Liberal party event, the politicians that are riding are from all political spectrums.”
I have yet to read or hear about who these “other politicians” are, but I see plenty of newsreel shots of Abbott either on the road on his bike, or at wayside stops meeting locals in his spanking white promotional outfit, or even being a “knight in shining armor” when one participant had a fall and both he and a cameraman were conveniently to hand to film footage for the evening news bulletin. I have to agree with Möbius Ecko of our own Cafe Whispers that
This has to be the most put up cringe worthy media setup stunt of the lot.
That comment confirmed the sense of outrage I had felt listening to Barry Cassidy, Adele Taylor and Gerard Henderson all agreeing that Pollie Pedal was ‘campaigning genius’ as he cycles through so many marginal seats, and how it has become a huge fund raiser! That really stuck in my craw, having read in past years about how Abbott milks his Commonwealth expense allowance for this event and when travelling for his own book launches and the like, particularly when I think of Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson being crucified over travel claims. Which is how this pome and post emerged. If my outrage has muddled my thinking so that my quotes, facts or sums are wrong, I am open to correction.
PS I am pleased though that today, 01/05/13, Tony Abbott’s Pollie Pedal has been upstaged by the Government’s announcement of its planned levy for its National Disability Insurance Scheme. I’ll leave it to leone over at The Pub to explain how she saw that happening………
Do you know what the best thing about PMJG’s announcement today was? Her superb timing. Slap bang in the middle of Tony’s Grand Triumphal Photo-op Tour. He thought he had a week off to do nothing but swan around on his bike, have dinner with Mormons and tweet lots of pictures of himself in different coloured lycra every day. He wuz wrong, so very wrong.
There was Abbott, out on the road in the backblocks of SA as she spoke. It took Abbott a couple of hours to get to wherever he was going, get gussied up, have a briefing and finally, hold a presser. Brilliant!
Now he has to come up with a response by tomorrow, and all his minders and shadow front benchers and advisors are far, far away. If only he had reliable high-speed internet access out there that would allow him to have an on-line conference……
I don’t believe for one moment that Prime Minister Julia Gillard planned it that way! Do you?