Vale Land Rover
Tonight I wish to pay homage to the passing of a car. Indeed, the car I mourn passes further into folklore when it ceases production in December this year. To confuse matters even further, it is not a car, and other descriptors like 'utility vehicle' or 'automobile' fail to do this most beautiful of creatures justice. Of course I am mourning, in that most platonic of relationships—between man and woman and the Land Rover Defender—the sad end of the Land Rover Defender's production.
I am the proud owner of a 2012 model Land Rover 110. I will own it until the day I die. It is called Boris, after I ran a poll on Facebook during the 2013 election campaign. It is white, with LNP stickers on the back and a Fulham Football Club sticker on the side. I do not think I have cleaned it since we began our relationship back in 2012, but to me that adds to the patina of its greatness. There is golden retriever hair from one end of the Land Rover to the other. There are remnants of stale Macca's chips down the seats, and a few stains of doubtful parentage decorate the interior.
Ever since I was a small boy I have dreamt of owning a Land Rover Defender. Others may dream of walking on the moon or playing cricket for Australia, but I wanted a clunky, 'brick on wheels', 'tough as nanna's teeth' beast of a vehicle. Perhaps it is from my childhood in regional Queensland, but there is something about a tractor or a cane harvester that makes me quite excited. But the one vehicle that stands out from them all, the one vehicle that makes me very, very excited, is the Land Rover Defender. Her Majesty the Queen is known to be quite fond of the Land Rover, which has become a symbol of British sturdiness.
Land Rover owners are a special bunch, and anyone who owns or drives or falls in love with a Land Rover is a pretty solid citizen. While driving along we always give ourselves a wave to the other drivers, because good manners cost nothing, while owning a Land Rover is priceless. But sadly, after 67 years of continuous production, the nanny-staters and crypto-communists in the European Union have killed off this great vehicle, with production to cease at the end of this year.
So, let us reflect on the Land Rover Defender and on the Land Rover. The genesis of the Land Rover occurred on a Welsh beach in 1947, when Maurice Wilks, chairman of the Rover company, sketched out the silhouette of the vehicle in the sand. And to be brutally honest, the shape of the Land Rover has not changed much since the late 1940s and that adds to the special magic of the Defender. The first Defenders rolled out in early 1948 when Ben Chifley was Prime Minister and George VI was on the throne. It was brought out because it was thought British farmers and indeed Commonwealth farmers would need a cheap, sturdy off-road vehicle.
The Land Rover was made from cheap aluminium and painted in military green because that was the only paint that was left after the end of the Second World War. Though lacking in comfort—and any Land Rover driver will tell you that even the modern versions are particularly uncomfortable—the Land Rover fulfilled the need for a sturdy and powerful vehicle to deal with whatever nature could throw up. Land Rovers became used by the British military, which bought thousands of vehicles for everyone from the medical corps to the SAS. Civilian versions were modelled for tanks, trains, conveyor belts, snowploughs, fire engines and hover vans.
Over the decades since, the Land Rover has become as synonymous with farming, adventure, life-saving, exploring and enterprise as it has with warfare and it has also become synonymous with the LNP Queensland in 2012-13, when Senator Canavan joined me on some particularly bumpy rides up and down the Bruce Highway. The modern specifications of the Land Rover Defender are something to behold. I would encourage you to go to the Land Rover website using the internet machine to find out how fantastic these vehicles are. I am not acting on a commission here but, Mr Acting Deputy President Dastyari, I think you will agree with me that they are so good that you will want to go and buy one.
Every single Land Rover has been made in the same factory in Solihull since 1948. There is even a test track of rugged terrain, water and mud, trees and hills—something I experienced while on a regional tour with my then boss, the chairman of the Conservative Party, Francis Maude, now Lord Maude, who happened to get bogged on one occasion.
Interestingly, another random fun fact is that Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond was born in Solihull. So it was quite fitting that Top Gear dedicated a special to the Land Rover earlier this year. Hammond took a 64-year-old Land Rover Defender to the Claerwen dam in Wales and climbed up the dam face using a strong winch powered by a secondary engine, replicating an ad which showed off the Land Rover back in the 1960s. If ever you needed a demonstration that this machine could do anything, it was that.
But now, it is all coming to an end. Tata, the current owners of Jaguar Land Rover, say that the decision to stop production is 'mainly legislation based', which is code for green-tape. Indeed, new European emission standards are making the Land Rover Defender illegal in Europe. It has become too much effort to comply with the environmental activists in Brussels. And so the Land Rover is going to be produced in Eastern Europe. The twentieth of December 2015 will be a very sad day, when the last Land Rover rolls off the production line at Solihull. We must be vigilant here in Australia that we do not allow Australian resource industries to suffer a similar fate at the hands of eco-terrorists and socialists, especially when they are trying to use the law to cut jobs and cut Australian industries. The only thing wrong with the Land Rover Defender is its parentage—it should be Australian rather than British.