Ninety years ago the government made a huge announcement. The first part of the Pacific Highway, our national route 1, had been constructed.
It was a lie. It wasn’t. But that hasn’t stopped successive state and federal governments making the same grand announcements about one of the busiest and deadliest roads in Australia.
About 25 people die and 1200 are injured on the road every year.
On Thursday the pollies were at it again. Deputy PM Michael McCormack told everyone that mattered in Coffs Harbour that his government would spend $971 million on a 14km road to bypass The Big Banana. Now the Pacific Highway is only 790km long but over the last 90 years, while the announcements have been quick, the road building has been slow.
The road wasn’t sealed until 1958, there was still a car ferry running until 1996 and long stretches of our national highway are still two lanes.
In the meantime it only took eight years to fly some blokes the 384,400km from America to the moon, eight years to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge and 60 years to build 11,000km of autobahns (with a few small distractions like Allied bombing going on).
Look, you know as well as I do, pollies of all persuasions see cars (except for electric ones) as big mobile ATMs. When they get a bit short of the readies they push the excise, rego, tariffs and luxury car tax buttons and the electronic hand goes into your sky rocket, removes your hard earned cash and sends it to Canberra or your local capital — where about 4c in the dollar is spent on roads and the rest goes to important projects like VIP planes from America, submarines from France (remember the Rainbow Warrior), ministerial cars from Germany and supporting an efficient and high performing public sector through providing leadership to commonwealth entities through team-building exercises at expensive restaurants. Of course that money would be better spent with my friend and race coach Phil Alexander at raceawaytracktime.com.au, who does super team building in non-embarrassing but politically correct cars.
Australia’s top motoring organisation, the Australian Automobile Association, estimates that over the next five years readers of this column and the majority of other drivers who would not be seen dead in a battery-powered car will pay $72.5bn in fuel excise and import duties.
They also had a few quiet words for the chauffeured persons who gave us our budget this week. “The AAA is disappointed that the government has not seized the opportunity presented by improved economic conditions to abolish redundant import taxes on vehicles. The budget shows that Australians will pay an extra $5.1bn for newer, cleaner and safer cars over the next four years. The government needs to explain to voters how it justifies continuing to add $1.3bn every year to Australian car prices, in order to protect an industry that no longer exists.”
And the Australian Historic Vehicle Interest Group, a group of enthusiasts from all over this great land with crook roads, made their own budget submission. Like many of us they are justly concerned about the damaging impact various federal laws are having on our motoring heritage.
In their submission they said that three laws are at the crux of the problem: the luxury car tax on the import, or reimport, of cars over 30 years old; the way the asbestos ban is enforced on the import of classic cars, and the proposed new import rules for cars over 30 years old, with the existing as-of-right entitlement to an import permit to be replaced by a ministerial discretion.
The group’s chairman, former heavy duty lawyer and classic car tragic Doug Young, says the luxury car tax has irreversibly depleted Australia’s once-great historic car fleet.
“For instance we have lost half our vintage Bentleys in that time with none returning. The same applies to Vauxhall 30/98s.
“This acts as an almost complete barrier to the importation of historic cars, resulting in the loss of opportunities for Australian businesses, deprives Australians of jobs, and prevents the replenishment of Australia’s once-great heritage motoring fleet.
At least Doug and his team had a bit of a win. In Tuesday night’s budget the Treasurer told the nation that the LCT is now to be removed in its entirety on cars reimported into Australia following refurbishment overseas, from January 1, 2019.
Talking of the world’s oldest race car driver, 90-year-old Hershel McGriff took the wheel of the Bill McNally Racing’s 04 Toyota Camry last Saturday night for the first half of the Port of Tucson Twin 100 at Tuscon Speedway.
Before he stepped into the car Hershel had a full cardiac workover and then played the national anthem on the trombone to officially open the night’s proceedings. Then he was off. A NASCAR hall of famer, Hershel has won more races than Carlton and Essendon have won footy matches. And what a race! After 100 laps the chequered flag dropped and our hero was only six laps behind the winner in 18th place.
Finally, now the LCT’s going on refurbished cars from overseas, I’m selling my BA ute but keeping the Porker and buying, wait for it, a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Ute! Built by Steve Clark and his sons at Clark and Carter for Tony Bamford (you have to call him Lord Bamford). Tony owns J.C. Bamford Excavators Limited, which sells digging equipment to hole diggers in 150 countries. More importantly he owns two Fezzer 250 GTOs and now the world’s most beautiful ute with the tray that is a wooden ship owners dream. I have made him an offer which includes throwing in my Ford and four spare tyres.