Prime minister of Australia Kevin Rudd travels widely but in deliberately low-key style. He doesn’t even have exclusive use of his cars and planes, and the only upgrades he is keen to do are to make his transport greener.
Australians like to think of themselves as egalitarian and their prime minister’s transport reflects this. Even though Kevin Rudd is widely known as “Kevin 747” for his globe-trotting habits, he has a fleet of five modest aircraft at his disposal and 10 cars. All are used by other VIPs as well and the planes are leased, not owned, by the state.
The two Boeing 737-700IGWs that Rudd uses for long-haul flights can be fitted with a special VIP cabin for him. With only around 30 business-class style seats on board, there is often not enough room for journalists.
Since an Australian journalist died in a local airline crash when following the PM in Indonesia in 2007, the chief of the defence force and the media have called for the prime minister to use larger long-haul aircraft – possibly RAAF Airbus tankers refitted for passengers. But the opposition complains this would cost the state €25m. The modesty of the PM’s travel arrangements – and the government’s reluctance to use bigger planes – is part of a deliberate strategy to maintain the image of the prime minister as an ordinary bloke.
On the road, Rudd moves in an armoured, white, Australian-made Holden Caprice, often choosing to sit in the front seat. The PM does not even get the luxury of the Rolls-Royce, which is reserved for the governor-general, Quentin Bryce and his boss, Queen Elizabeth II. Rudd’s official Sydney residence is equally humble – the old servants’ quarters next door to the governor-general’s mansion.
In the first six months of 2008, Rudd spent more than AU$600,000 on overseas travel, including an 18-day round-the-world trip. So the two Boeings got plenty of use. Each has a range of about 11,270km and from Canberra could reach Honolulu, Tokyo and Hong Kong before having to refuel.
Smaller than the B737, the Bombardier Challenger CL-604 carries a maximum of nine passengers with two pilots and up to two attendants. With a maximum range of 7,458km, the aircraft can fly to all major capitals in the region from Canberra.
The government does not go in for upgrades unless pushed. The only time a prime ministerial jet was replaced in recent years was after Rudd’s predecessor, John Howard, got stranded when his aircraft broke down.
The top-of-the-range Caprice from local carmaker Holden is modified for security by another local firm, Tenix. Rudd has his own, and the others are used by VIPs and the PM when needed. Despite the fact that Rudd has committed himself to more environmentally friendly cars, his two-ton limousine is hardly a beacon of greenness. However, under new government guidelines, all official vehicles are required to use ethanol fuel where possible and trials of hybrid cars are under way.
Traditional Maori sports have faded from school timetables in New Zealand, according to Harko Brown, a Maori sports teacher and author. He is calling for an indigenous sports policy to bring them back and has appealed to the Waitangi Tribunal, which oversees the 1840 Treaty that governs relations between Europeans and Maori. Brown expects the tribunal to make a decision by 2011.
Brown says, “The claim hinges on aspects related to social justice… and reversing the centuries of stigmatisation of Maori games.”
Some Maori sports have gained a following abroad while disappearing into obscurity back home. Ki-o-rahi for example, – a tough, seven-a-side ball game played on a circular field – has been introduced in 31,000 US schools as part of a world sports programme. Time for Australians to start playing ball, perhaps.
Australia’s Northern Territory is to create a new city – the fourth largest after Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs. As yet, the only forms of life in Weddell, south of Palmerston, are cattle. But with the territory’s urban population expected to double by 2030, developers hope cheaper housing will entice the first of 40,000 people to buy here as soon as 2014.
Australia spent AU$6.4bn (€3.25bn) on six years of military presence in Iraq, seven years in Afghanistan and 10 years in East Timor.