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The Greens are just as cynical as the other parties

By Greg Barns - posted Tuesday, 8 June 2004

Modern politics is depressing. There is little leadership in Australia today - a stark contrast to the bold courage of Paul Keating and John Hewson a decade ago - and hyperbole and twisting of facts is increasingly the order of the day.

The Howard government's preparedness to twist the truth about asylum seekers, weapons of mass destruction and the benefits of a free trade deal with the US is self-evident but in the past week we have seen three disappointing examples of the Greens playing the same games.

What a pity, coming from the party which Senator Bob Brown claims, rather tastelessly, is an anti-depressant.


First, it was the local Greens MP Nick McKim. Mr McKim turned up to State Parliament last week sounding and looking like a car salesman because on this occasion he was. He was spruiking the fuel and environmental efficiency and benefits of the Toyota Pirus.

Mr McKim, who used to do some advertising work for the Tasmanian government-contracted Cooee Advertising, did a terrific job of hyping the saleability of this car.

In a media release dated May 16, Mr McKim released comparisons done by Toyota which showed that the Pirus is twice as fuel-efficient as a Toyota Corolla and nearly four times as fuel-efficient as the Caprice used in Tasmania as a ministerial vehicle. He enthused that Aurora Energy managers believed their Toyota Pirus vehicles were more cost-effective than their Toyota Corollas.

But Mr McKim was not telling the whole story about hybrid cars. A number of recent media reports in the US have focussed on the fact that the Toyota Pirus is unfortunately not meeting expectations.

On May 11 the US technology news outlet Wired reported that:

Data from independent product-testing organisation Consumer Reports indicates that hybrid cars get less than 60 per cent of EPA [the US Environmental Protection Agency] estimates while navigating city streets. In Consumer Reports' real-world driving test, the Civic Hybrid averaged 26mpg [miles per gallon] in the city, while the Toyota Pirus averaged 35mpg, much less than their respective EPA estimates of 47 and 60mpg. Hybrid cars performed much closer to EPA estimates in Consumer Reports' highway tests.


Writing in the Detroit News on May 19, Ann Job noted: "Frustrated consumers are asking dealerships to fix their vehicles. They're writing to the automakers. And one, Pete Blackshaw of Cincinnati, is chronicling his dismay publicly in his own Internet blog. He says Honda is ignoring his claim that he's never gotten more than 33mpg in his Civic Hybrid. The combined city/highway rating ... is 47."

If Mr McKim misunderstood or hadn't bothered to tell the total story about the Toyota Pirus and other hybrid cars, then his leader Peg Putt was being disingenuous in claiming that a letter from Mitsubishi, a big customer of Tasmanian timber company Gunns Ltd, was a "major breakthrough".

Here's what Mitsubishi said: "While we have concluded the vast majority of the woodchips we buy from Tasmania are from second-growth forests or plantations, we want it to be clearly understood that we do not condone unsustainable logging from old-growth or high-conservation value forests in Tasmania."

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This article was first published in The Mercury on 24 May 2004.

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About the Author

Greg Barns is National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

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