Foxes in Charge of the Hen House
The Amy-Gillett Foundation (AGF) is an Australian road-safety charity claiming one single aim in their manifesto: “to create a safer cycling environment in Australia”. Staffed with well-connected high-achievers, it is chaired by Mark Textor who the Australian Financial Review named as one of the ten most powerful Australians. How is it then, that the AGF not only failed to stop a New South Wales government imposing some of the most regressive cycle laws in the world, but they claim a “welcome” victory of an authoritarian crackdown?
Grassroots cycle advocacy has been wanting greater protection from road violence, specifically some minimum passing distance had become a public political issue. A (very) minimum passing distance now exists for overtaking drivers but much more has been lost to offset this meagre concession. Marketed as bringing equity for all road users and “balance” to traffic law according to Textor, New South Wales have actually deregulated the offenders whilst imposing increased punitive measures on the victims. People cycling must now carry photo-identification, fines have increased six-fold into hundreds of dollars and perceived annoyances are now judged by law as having parity with projecting lethal force from behind a wheel.
To put that in perspective, the fine for not wearing a helmet is twice that of driving in a bike lane — and for the uninitiated, drivers kill people and mandatory helmet laws are unequivocally “disastrous” for public safety. The science is in, the fractured skulls counted, the correct public policy has been long known — helmet laws reduce participation in cycling. Whilst a smug of community thought leaders have been baffled with such “stupidity” of law making, I say this is nothing more than a transparent legislative land grab. This is how the motoring industry has operated from inception because they have an inherently dangerous product with such poor efficiencies they need anti-competitiveness to remain viable. Decade, after decade, they’ve set up unaccountable “liberal” sock-puppet organisations to exclude real voices and creating a paralysis for any threatening social movement. In these ways The Amy-Gillett Foundation is no different.
Meet the Celebrity Victim
The NGO-complex is nothing but consistent. The preferred marketing strategy for any astro-turfed movement is to exploit some victim, celebrity, or ideally a manifestation of both as the public face of an organisation — the more emotive the story the better, anything that short-circuits rational faculties.
Famous examples include Malala Yousafzai and Bibi Aisha who were used as emotional blackmail to sell a crass imperialist indefinite Afghan occupation as righteous humanitarian intervention. Bob Geldoff has occupied the anti-war movement for a number of decades helping happy-clap his way to a royal knighthood whilst hiding the true nature of a pillaging west, even going so far to blame a Syrian war on the failed youth of today. Bridging the two types and back to our main concern is Olympic rower James Cracknell, who suffered life-long brain damage when struck on the head by a dangerous driver — the helmet he wore allegedly “saved his life” but not his personality nor complete memory. As is the way, he was elevated by a culture industry to Britain’s chief helmet advocate. I’m sure however sincere Cracknell is others were eyeing opportunity. In a similar way, Amy Gillett
would give her life to become the name, face and excuse for an Australian equivalent. She was killed a decade ago whilst cycling in Germany — quite what happened to both drivers is never touched on. Instead victims blackmail potential victims whilst not taking a shot at the steel elephant in the room.
Meet the Board of Directors
If the concern is road-safety which deals with mostly mangled flesh, broken bone and mechanics one expects experts in medicine, statistics, physiology, and engineering would be leading voices. One might even expect people who cycle. Not so for the AGF, instead exists an execution of financial types with fingers deep into both politics and the private sector.
Chairman, Mark Textor
They say a fish rots from the head and AGF is no exception: the foundation’s Chairman is also Managing Director and co-founder of Crosby-Textor, a global corporate lobbying group integral to the rise of Boris Johnson. He personally boasts direct clients that include governments, premiers, opposition leaders, the big players in mining, pharmacy, banking, tobacco, oil, gas and farming sectors. Textor has also been engaged by more than twenty national industry associations, including the Australian Bankers’ Association, the Business Council of Australia and Free TV. Most importantly “Mark” was chief external strategist for Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party, so let this fox that guards the hen house be recused due to conflict of interest. Fat chance because he’s unaccountable.
Charlie Farren & Jane Seaborn
These represent the token females on an otherwise all male board. Farren is a board member appendage and the remnants of the now defunct Bicycle Federation of Australia, which in a similar fashion gave lip service to road-safety focusing on modification of victim behaviour. Jane Seaborn is an AGF non-executive director that gets about: is media adviser for Canberra Airport, a private girls school director, and founding member of ACT Cycling Federation which encourages cycling as a sport or leisure.
Director, and Chief Research & Policy Advisor, Rod Katz
Following undergraduate degrees in Economics and Law from Australia National University, Katz built a career in banking and finance, now acting Principal of Advanced Professional Education which runs corporate conferences and provides strategy advice on transport policy.
Inaugural Chairman, Duncan Murray
Schooled in law, Murray has had a career in various financial institutions including private equity firm Otway Partners, international law specialists Allens Arthur Robinson, and Merrill Lynch which is the wealth management division of Bank of America. Currently he is CEO of Cape York Partnership which is some astro-turf organisation with an agenda of blaming a long brutalised aboriginal population for the poverty imposed on them by a white supremacy:
At the heart of the Agenda is the belief that passive welfare destroys incentive, self-reliance and self-respect. It robs the individual of the right to take responsibility for his or her own life. On the passive welfare pedestal of skewed incentives, there’s no reason to work, build capability or strive for a better future. Social norms in welfare-dependent communities disintegrate, discouraging work and education. Welfare becomes a permanent state.
This is the liberal version of the “damn lazy negro”. (Incidentally whilst we are here, all of the board are very, very white and by that I don’t just mean in skin tone.)
Chair of Finance & Governance, Matthew Pringle
Pringle has also been partner and executive director of Pitcher Partners for 25 years. This is an octopus of auditors, advisers, and accountants operating in various industries, independently membered with Baker Tilly International which is head-quartered in London with a revenue of 3.4b$ (USD). Pitcher Partners has broad operations but key areas in mining, haulage, transport, and the automotive industry.
Chair of Events Advisory Committee, Matt Dimattina
Why might a self-appointed group with business and political ties to the chief antagonists of cycling turn out to help convince the community they claim undue authority over, that progress is being made when it isn’t? Why wasn’t one of Australia’s heavyweights enough to abolish the helmet law entirely? They achieved what they wanted to achieve, all smiles in the process.