BULLDUST

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - DEAN MEL­LOR

AT­TI­TUDES to four-wheel driv­ers have changed a lot over the past 10 years or so… prob­a­bly be­cause just about ev­ery­one drives a 4x4 these days. Through­out the al­most eight years I sat in the edi­tor’s chair at 4X4 Australia, from 2002 to 2009, 4Wders seemed to cop a lot of crap from other road users, egged on by spe­cial in­ter­est groups and big cor­po­ra­tions. As a re­sult I of­ten found my­self de­fend­ing the rights of 4Wders through the main­stream me­dia in news­pa­pers, on talk­back ra­dio and via morn­ing TV shows and cur­rent af­fairs pro­grams.

Driv­ers of pas­sen­ger sedans and hatch­backs used to com­plain that large 4WDS blocked their view in traf­fic and other such non­sense. So they picked on them, claim­ing “4WDS have no place in the city” and “the only rea­son peo­ple drive 4WDS is they have small egos”, or even nas­tier as­per­sions such as “they drive a big 4WD to make up for their small ap­pendages”.

This is the kind of fod­der main­stream me­dia thrives on: find an easy tar­get the ma­jor­ity of its au­di­ence re­sents and give ’em hell. Spe­cial in­ter­est groups such as the Pedes­trian Coun­cil of Australia (PCA) fed the fire with in­flam­ma­tory lan­guage, pump­ing out ab­surd press re­leases with ti­tles la­belling 4WDS as “Ur­ban As­sault Ve­hi­cles” and calling on spe­cial li­cences and age re­stric­tions for driv­ers of 4WDS weigh­ing more than two tonnes. Streuth! If that were the case to­day then just about ev­ery­one would have a ‘spe­cial’ li­cence.

Sev­eral years ago dur­ing a live ra­dio interview I was am­bushed by the self­ap­pointed chair­man of the PCA, Harold Scruby. The sta­tion had pre­ar­ranged an interview with me to osten­si­bly talk about that year’s 4X4 Of The Year win­ner, but when dis­cussing the topic the pre­sen­ter sud­denly asked for Scruby’s opinion – up un­til that point I had no idea this bloke was on the other line. An ar­gu­ment en­sued and, af­ter the interview, I made a note to add said ra­dio sta­tion to my black­list.

On an­other oc­ca­sion I was in­vited to de­bate the PCA Chair­man on Chan­nel 9’s The To­day Show about the in­creased use of 4WDS in ur­ban ar­eas or some such thing. I obliged and, al­though I pre­sented my opin­ions in a well-in­formed and calm man­ner, af­ter­wards I re­flected that there re­ally is no ar­gu­ing with some­one who seems over­whelmed by emo­tion and ir­ra­tional thought.

In 2005 an­other mob called The Australia In­sti­tute re­leased an ab­surd web pa­per ti­tled ‘Who Drives 4WDS?’ which made claims based on Roy Mor­gan re­search that stated things such as “City driv­ers of 4WDS also tend to be more obese, with two thirds (66 per cent) be­ing over­weight or obese com­pared to 57 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion over­all” and “In their at­ti­tudes, city driv­ers of large 4WDS are morally more con­ser­va­tive and less com­mu­nity ori­en­tated than other driv­ers.”

What a crock! Ap­par­ently the Roy Mor­gan re­search was based on data col­lected from 24,718 re­spon­dents aged 14 and over. If they were ask­ing 14-year-olds for their opin­ions on the topic, I can only imag­ine how skewed the ques­tions must have been. Nev­er­the­less, I headed over to the Chan­nel 9 stu­dios once again, this time to de­bunk the web pa­per’s find­ings in front of an­other break­fast TV au­di­ence.

Then there was the big in­sur­ance com­pany that com­mis­sioned re­search to show that in ur­ban col­li­sions be­tween large 4WDS and small pas­sen­ger cars, the small cars came out sec­ond best. Now any­one with even the slight­est un­der­stand­ing of physics could fig­ure that one out with­out com­mis­sion­ing a re­search pa­per, so why the hell did an in­sur­ance com­pany (which, by the way, in­sures both large 4WDS and small pas­sen­ger cars) feel the need to head down this path? Em­bar­rass­ingly, just af­ter be­ing in­ter­viewed by To­day Tonight re­gard­ing the mat­ter, I drove a large 4WD into the back of a small car. But I di­gress…

These days the main­stream me­dia seems to have moved on from bag­ging 4Wders on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, prob­a­bly be­cause most of their au­di­ence now drives a 4x4. Ei­ther that or they’ve sim­ply found some­thing else to have a go at.

Pop­u­lar­ity in 4WDS has seen a shift in at­ti­tude to­wards these ve­hi­cles.

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