Posted: 5:49 pm on 3rd July 2015

money-airDear WasteWatch reader,

Over the last few years, WasteWatch has developed a small niche in the Centre for Independent Studies’ TARGET30 program to reduce the size of government.

We have opened many an intern’s eye as they researched the levels of incidental waste in government departments. We have been quoted in local and regional newspapers in every state and territory in Australia, as well as in national newspapers like The Australian and The Guardian and have been interviewed on radio shows across the country.

More and more people are taking notice of waste. Major newspapers and radio shows are joining the fight against the growing size of government, and running their own wasteful spending segments, while both the federal Liberal and Labor parties created their own Waste Watch committees.  Only this week federal senators came out complaining about the excessive spending on their new offices.

However, as the media landscape changes, key CIS staff move on, and the CIS focuses its resources on the most important policy questions facing Australia today, WasteWatch will sadly be going into hibernation.

We are sorry that there will be fewer people checking to see if governments is spending $360k of your money designing a coffee cup, or $20k on ‘experiential poetry sessions’ for public servants, or $30k on just two hours of wining and dining at the Human Rights Awards evening.

Or whether they were spending $500k of your money on five little squiggly lines, or over $300k on ‘reaffirmation’ for taxpayers, or 6c for every 5c coin they produce.

We are proud to have contributed a small part to the movement to make governments accountable for all their spending decisions – large or small.   Now, more than ever, we need to keep our governments accountable.

For the last time, yours irreverently,

William Shrubb and all those who have contributed

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Posted: 8:19 am on 27th May 2015

New Perth stadiumWith government debt in Western Australia looming towards $30 billion dollars, it’s hard to imagine a more wasteful misuse of taxpayer’s funds than the $8.6 million dollar advertising campaign for the ‘Bigger Picture’ series of infrastructure projects, including the new Perth stadium and the Fiona Stanley Hospital.

The projects themselves are designed to create a more ‘vibrant city’ that Western Australians are ‘proud to call home’, but the majority of citizens won’t be too proud when they are unable to use the new amenities that they helped build, because all their hard-earned pennies have been funnelled into advertising costs instead!

Surely the government could have informed the public about the projects without paying for highly-produced videos, signage and ads in the press and on social media?

With an astonishing 47 followers on the Bigger Picture YouTube channel, it seems that the exorbitant amounts of money spent on advertising have really engaged the local population!

Perhaps it would have been a smarter idea for the Government to channel the $8.6 million into the projects themselves.

 

Katie Wilson

 

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Posted: 1:13 pm on 26th May 2015

surfingThe grommets are taking over!

WasteWatch recently brought to your attention the support given to the ‘emerging Australia-China surfing industry’ by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

It turns out that China isn’t the only country in the sights of DFAT’s new gnarly public servants.

The department has recently spent even more of your money – $29,000, in fact – on Peruvian surfers.

Thanks to this grant, two young, disadvantaged Peruvian surfers will be included in the Proyecto Sofia Mulanovich series of surf camps in Peru, being coached and guided by a Peruvian world surfing champion.

From the terms of the grant, it doesn’t sound like any Australians will be involved in the process. The young surfers will not come to Australia, nor will they be taught by any Australians.

What, then, is Australia’s interest in these two young surfers?

If we are so dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth in Peru — a cause WasteWatch is happy to support — is sending two of them to surf camp the best way to do it?

What do you think?

William Shrubb

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Posted: 9:01 am on 20th May 2015

cricketWhat’s the first thing that would pop into your head if WasteWatch said: “opera”?

Pavarotti?

Verdi?

Shane Warne?

See, back in 2008, a marvellous musical based on Shane Warne’s life debuted in Melbourne.

It won rave reviews, with numbers like What An S-M-Mess I’m In, Bunny In The Headlights, and The Ball.

Of course, Warney’s life (and face) have undergone a few changes since 2008, and an updated version of the musical, complete with Liz Hurley and cosmetic surgery, was debuted in 2013.

This updated version is now set to tour India with Opera Australia as part of a cultural exchange programme, courtesy of a $55,000 grant from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

With cricket’s popularity in India surely we don’t need to fund a musical that should be able to cover its costs with ticket sales and support from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

DFAT’s own grant guidelines for the programme state that:

Strong preference will be given to projects that showcase Australian excellence to influential Indian audiences.

WasteWatch suspects that Warney has already showcased enough excellence for Indian audiences during his long career.

Your tax dollars at work!

William Shrubb

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Posted: 9:01 am on 19th May 2015

surfingWe all know Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a keen surfer.

Less well-known is the fact that Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, must also be a fan.

WasteWatch can’t think of any other explanation for the $16,500 of your money that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has given to a Gold Coast surfing industry group for ‘strategies for developing global alliances in the emerging Australia-China surfing industry’.

WasteWatch didn’t even know there was an ‘emerging Australia-China surfing industry.’

If you’re surprised to find ‘China’ and ‘surfing’ in the same sentence, you’re not alone.

It seems the Chinese surfing scene is not yet at the same level as the Gold Coast, or Southern California. A few years ago, Brendan Sheridan, an American surfing apostle living in China, told Surfer magazine that

‘When I got [there] in 2006, there were only one or two Chinese surfers. Now there are a good 25.’

Seems like a promising start. If his figures are correct, DFAT has contributed nearly $700 per surfer.

Definitely a foreign affairs priority!

William Shrubb

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Posted: 5:21 pm on 13th May 2015

puppyRemember when WasteWatch discovered that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had given $16,500 of your money to Guide Dogs Queensland, so that they could provide 10 Labrador Retriever puppies for Japan?

“DFAT: promoting Australia’s interests, one untrained Labrador puppy at a time,” we said then.

We thought perhaps there were better ways of fostering ties between Australia and Japan.

Unluckily, DFAT didn’t agree, and this year, Guide Dogs Queensland is back.

And it seems like the going rate for puppies is increasing.

See, the department recently gave away $17,050 of your money for the provision of only four guide dog puppies to Japan.

There must be a desperate dog shortage in Japan at the moment.

William Shrubb

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Posted: 5:20 pm on 12th May 2015

selfieThey used to be called self-portraits.

Rembrandt did one.

So did Van Gogh.

And then, unfortunately, the smartphone generation caught on.

The ‘selfie‘ craze – where a smartphone holder contorts themselves suddenly in the middle of a footpath, or at a restaurant, or during a pretty sunset, to pout at their screen – is the reason that all contemporary photos look like iterations of Sir William Beechey‘s famous portrait of Horatio Nelson: only one hand is ever visible.

Every sensible person in the world, including WasteWatch of course, is bent on banishing the selfie, sending it back to whatever cave in Hell it first crawled out of.

And yet, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is refusing to pull its weight.

Not only that, they are actively supporting the selfie, to the tune of more than $50,000.

That’s right, your tax dollars are being given to the Institute of Tourism at Queensland’s Griffith University for the purpose of:

Facilitating cross-cultural understanding through “selfie tourism.”

Still feel like filling out your tax return correctly in a couple of months?

William Shrubb

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Posted: 5:18 pm on 11th May 2015

LoveIf your relationship is on the rocks, don’t stress! The relationship wizards, otherwise known as, the federal government and the Australian Research Council (ARC) are here to fix it.

A $223,838  University of Western Sydney project funded by the Australian Research Council aims to study and compare different relationships to provide insight into why some thrive and others fail. No . . . apparently falling in and out of love is not a natural part of life.

You would think ARC might have thought twice about this grant after the government’s abortive attempt to help smooth love’s progress.  The failed Couple Counselling Scheme had only 4233 couples take up the $200 voucher.  It worked out that when the program was closed down in Jan 2015 each voucher cost the taxpayer $603 in administration costs!

We understand that couples with a greater degree of happiness and stability provide a better environment for their children. Correct! It is a no-brainer. Perhaps the government should focus on relieving the pressure placed on couples by the rising costs of living as opposed to philosophical research into the nature of relationships.

 

Katie Wilson

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Posted: 12:13 pm on 5th May 2015

Finger-paintingLast November marked 25 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was first opened for state signature.

Australia, along with most of the rest of the world, is now a party to the Convention, which affirms many important rights, like the rights of children not to be tortured, not to be subject to sexual abuse or trafficking, and not to be drafted into military service.

Alongside these rights are some that might raise an eyebrow, such as article 31’s protection of the “right to play,” or article 17’s obligation on state parties to “encourage the production and dissemination of children’s books.”

Nevertheless, despite varying opinions on whether playtime and the Muddleheaded Wombat ought properly to be described as ‘human rights,’ most people would agree that the Convention is pretty harmless, and grounded in a thoroughly decent desire to protect those who often cannot protect themselves.

It is interesting how these things acquire a life of their own, though.

Article 42 of the Convention gives parties the obligation to “make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike.”

Presumably this is the provision that the Old Parliament House in Canberra was thinking of, when they decided to spend taxpayer money setting up an exhibition celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Convention.

A worthy goal, and one that the Australian government was bound to fulfill somehow, right?

Sure, but was a $31,000 kaleidoscope cubby the best way of going about it?

Particularly when the cubby was available for ‘taxpayer playtime’ for only four evenings?

What do you think?

William Shrubb

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Posted: 12:12 pm on 4th May 2015

beerThere’s an awful lot of drinking going on in the name of government funded research, however it seems the Australian taxpayer is the only one getting hammered in this round.

Forget liver disease, heart disease, cancer, drink-driving and all the other negative effects of alcohol. The Australian Research Council (ARC) has been using its limited resources to focus on the more important aspects of public life: improving the taste of beer.

A 2014 Australian Research Council grant handed out $355,000 to the ‘beer detectives’ (aka the University of Tasmania and Hop Products) to aid in the research and development of new beers with ‘distinctive and desirable new flavours’.

This isn’t the only time that booze has come to the forefront of government research. Waste Watch recently sprung the government giving $451,000 of your hard earned money to a market research council as part of a National Binge Drinking Strategy.

With alcohol being listed as Australia’s number one drug problem for over 50 years, you’d think increasing the allure of beer would be low on their list of priorities.

This is certainly a public cost for private benefit. If private companies such as Hop want to improve their products, then they should bear the costs, not everyday taxpayers. Perhaps Hop Products is out of pocket after their $15 million investment in a new processing plant.

The ARC has spending watchdogs wondering whether they had a few beers themselves before they handed out this grant.

Katie Wilson

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