Pollie pedaller Abbott in Grafton
TONY ABBOTT cycled into Grafton yesterday afternoon, got out of his Lycra and donned a Pollie Pedal T-shirt to promote a cause very close to his heart.
Since 1998 when he instigated the event, the Federal Opposition Leader has ridden 13,000 kilometres on the annual ride to raise money for organisations including the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Ronald McDonald House, as well as medical research into childhood leukemia, diabetes, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
One of the busiest men in Australian politics, last night Mr Abbott told The Daily Examiner about the fitness regime required to participate in his pet fundraising event.
“I get up an hour earlier than what otherwise would be the case, about 5am or sometimes earlier than that, and I either run for 40 or 50 minutes or ride the bike for 40 or 50 minutes,” he said.
“If you do that five or six days a week and then try to get out for a longer ride for two or three hours on a Sunday, that gives you a basic level of fitness which certainly means that you can do something like this.”
Mr Abbott said he found exercising “a great way to start each day”.
“For me it's mental therapy as much as anything else because when you are running or riding your mind is clear,” he said.
“For me it's a great stress release.
"It's very good to start the day with a clear head and you always do if you start the day with exercise.”
Mr Abbott said the idea of the Pollie Pedal was born over a few drinks with fellow MPs to counter Pauline Hanson being “all the rage in 1998”, and a general feeling of hostility towards the political class generally.
“We came to the conclusion that at least part of the reason was that they thought that we were a bit divorced from the daily life of the ordinary person,” he said.
“Eventually the idea evolved, after several further discussions, of a long-distance bike ride, staying in caravan parks and raising money for charity.”
Mr Abbott also reflected on the result of last weekend's state election whitewash by the Coalition.
“Here in Clarence there was a massive swing towards Steve Cansdell, which is a ringing endorsement for him as well as a ringing endorsement more generally,” he said.