AT the risk of repeating myself, I drive a Ford Ranger 4×4 ute. One of the best things about my Ranger is that it was designed and engineered in Victoria. Whilst the Australian car manufacturing industry is just about finished, it looks like the Australian car design and engineering industry is going gangbusters. It’s just a shame that the Ranger is built in Thailand and not here.
I love my ute. It has alloy wheels, winch, compressor, bull bar and driving lights; accessories that would probably see me jailed under a Greens government as some sort of anti-social environmental heretic or at best labelled as some sort of Bogan “redneck”.
The reason I drive a 4×4 ute apart from it being enormously handy, is that around the Benambra Electoral District there are areas that are often only accessible by 4×4 and I need one to get around the whole of the electorate. I had a Ford Territory beforehand and although all-wheel-drive set up is ok for driving down the odd gravel road, I must confess to having been bogged up in Mitta and Dartmouth and being bailed out by some generous locals.
The first time I parked my ute at Parliament House, Melbourne it set the alarm bells ringing, security came and looked at it thinking that some trespasser had snuck past the boom gate, the PSOs muttered into their police radios seeking details of the registered owner. The media came and filmed it thinking that it might be the basis of some sort of political protest.
Normally like most blokes I’d be happy if a crowd gathered to admire my ride. Sadly on this occasion, the reason that my faithful beast attracted such interest was a prevailing view among the political and media classes that it was out of place in a parking lot that was more accustomed to being occupied by chauffeur driven limousines (with or without a dog or two in the back) and that no politician would ever drive a car like that. After all it was not on the list of government-approved vehicles so it must not be a pollie’s car right?
Such an attitude says volumes about the political class and how out of touch some of them are with the real world. Last year the biggest selling car in Australia was the Toyota Hilux, the fourth biggest seller was the Ford Ranger. The Mitsubishi Triton was the ninth most popular on the list. Of the 312,275 cars that made up Australia’s top 10 in 2016, 101,025 (nearly a third of them) were utes. Utes that are increasingly being bought by Australian families for use as the primary family car. Utes that are an everyday sight on our roads, in our shopping centre car parks and at school pick-up times. Utes that average Australians drive. Yet when one gets parked in the Parliament House parking lot in the state where in 1934 the first ute – the most Australian of all motor vehicles, was designed and built it’s like the Martians had landed.
Perhaps some of our politicians need to get out more and see how real people live their lives. If they did they would see that they are not all hybrid-driving hipsters from the inner city. They’d see that some of us tow boats and caravans; some of us have kids that we like to take fishing and camping, some of us are tradies and some of us just like how handy a ute can be.
Perhaps it’s time that politicians were reminded that some of us drive utes – and we vote.
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