Posted: 2:00 pm on 15th April 2014

champagneThe Australian taxpayer is getting pretty good at throwing dinner parties.

Their most recent hootenanny to come to light is the banquet dinner at Luna Park to be thrown for the young men and women of that illustrious body, the Y20.

The banquet dinner will set the taxpayer back more than $14,000.

This is on top of the nearly $11,000 the taxpayer has already coughed up for those same delegates to dine at the exclusive Star Room, in Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

And, of course, all these dinner parties are on top of the nearly $200,000 accommodation bill that the taxpayer will foot for these young jet-setters.

Apparently, the key themes for the Y20 summit are growth and job creation, global citizenship, and sustainable development. Ho hum.

However, one of Australia’s delegates emphasised a slightly different theme, trying to drum up attendance for a recent Y20 Q&A event in Canberra. “Want some direct democracy, free food and entertainment?” she tweeted.

Free food?

The delegate may not get full marks for literal accuracy (admittedly, “taxpayer-funded food” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it), but at least she seems to have nailed the real concerns of today’s youth.

Your tax dollars at work!

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted: 10:14 am on 4th April 2014

meeting-room-6Remember the $14,000 coffee table Senator Kim Carr’s department bought last year?

Well, buckle up for this one. The Federal Government has just spent more than $36,000 of your money on yet another specially designed table.

This one is exclusively for use by the foreign finance ministers and central bank governors who will be attending the G20 in Brisbane later this year.

Brisbane must be experiencing a table shortage.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Government gave the contract to a company based in . . . you guessed it, Canberra. Nearly 1300 km from Brisbane.

So the Government had to spend another $26,000 of your money on transporting and storing this extra-special table, bringing the total cost to the Australian taxpayer to over $60,000.

That’s even higher than the G20 taxicab bill that the taxpayer will foot.

At least the Government has already sorted out where they’re going to put this magical conference table.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted: 12:15 pm on 1st April 2014

balloonsRemember when WasteWatch uncovered the cost to the Australian taxpayer of Harmony Day 2013‘s colourful stickers and balloons?

Well, the magical day has come and gone. In case you missed it, it was on over a week ago.

Now that Harmony Day is behind us, it’s worth taking a look at the costs and benefits of the initiative.

The Howard Government introduced Harmony Day in 1999 as a way of marking the UN-approved International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which in turn was introduced in 1966 as a way of commemorating the horrific Sharpeville massacre of apartheid South Africa.

Australians are instructed to wear something orange, to demonstrate their support for cultural diversity and an inclusive Australia with lots of flowers and butterflies and beautiful sunset. Or perhaps just one where we don’t shoot people for protesting against discriminatory internal passports.

Harmony Day has cost the Australian taxpayer about $470,000.

WasteWatch’s conclusion? It seems unlikely that taxpayer-funded orange balloons and stickers will help address racial harmony in Australia.

As CIS Research Fellow Jeremy Sammut (on his WasteWatch debut!) wrote in The Spectator, “the ‘fair go’ culture that makes Australia a multiracial success” is a much better tool in the fight against racism than government programs.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted: 3:57 pm on 27th March 2014

In light of feedback and information from our readers, the Department of Defence spending on bird-proofing discussed in the fortnightly Wastewatch email was not in and of itself waste.

We have  taken down the original post.

Thank you for your feedback.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted: 1:38 pm on 26th March 2014

flagCan you name the date on which we celebrate  Australian Citizenship Day?

January 26 perhaps?  April 25 maybe?

Actually, Australian Citizenship Day is September 17. Have you heard of it? Wastewatch wouldn’t be surprised if haven’t.

You’re definitely paying for it though.

Australian Citizenship Day was established by the Howard Government in 2001, and is:

a special day to reflect on and celebrate being an Australian citizen.

It’s part of a plan for the Department of Immigration (and Border Protection) to:

promote the value of Australian citizenship and to encourage the acquisition of citizenship by eligible non-citizens.

In pursuit of this worthy and noble goal, the Department has flung around vast sums of your money.

In the three years from 2005, it spent $225,000 on Australian Citizenship products.

In the three years from 2007 ( there is some overlap), this climbed to a whopping $750,000 of taxpayer money.

In 2009, the Department spent $313,500 promoting Australian Citizenship on Australia Day, and then did the same thing in 2010.

Finally, in an effort to see if any of this was worth it, the Department spent nearly $190,000 last year on ‘research of Australian citizenship among Australian citizens and non-citizens.’

Apart from their dubious preposition choice, this contract brought the Department’s spending to nearly $1.8 million.

On a side note, it costs eligible non-citizens $260 to apply for Australian citizenship.

Perhaps all this spending is just part of DIBP’s business plan to rake in more through citizenship application fees.

Or is it just a waste of your money?

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted: 10:48 am on 25th March 2014

The Australian Taxation Office is at it again.

WasteWatch has previously brought to your attention the ATO’s desperate attempts to beat Leonardo DiCaprio to an Oscar.

Now it seems they’re spending your money on ‘reaffirmation’.

WasteWatch has uncovered a contract between the ATO and market research company Colmar Brunton worth nearly $35,000.

The contract is for “concept testing research for the ATP/Project Wickenby joint advertising campaign”.

Project Wickenby, set up by the Australian Government in 2006 to help combat tax avoidance, is no stranger to publicity, having previously targeted movie star Paul Hogan and claimed the scalp of entertainment magnate Glenn Wheatley.

It is also no stranger to using public money for its advertising.

In 2010, the ATO spent $223,000 advertising Project Wickenby, and followed this up with a further $71,500 in 2012.

The latest advertising campaign seems to be a result of a report the ATO commissioned from Colmar Brunton last year. The report was partly designed to understand:

perceptions of ATO effectiveness in detecting, deterring, and dealing with the spread of tax avoidance and offshore secrecy arrangements.

As part of the report, Colmar Brunton interviewed members of the general public to see if they had ever heard of Project Wickenby. Just 20% had. (So much for the nearly $300,000 of taxpayer money spent advertising it so far!)

Even more interesting, however, was the public desire to know more.

According to the report, there was a firm belief that more advertising to the general public would provide no deterrent benefit, since the use of offshore tax havens — which is primarily what Project Wickenby targets — are only the domain of the extremely wealthy.

Instead, the report concluded, “the main driver of interest was the desire for reassurance that the ATO is acting to keep the tax system fair for all,… a message that many said would reaffirm their own compliant behaviour.”

So there you have it.

After $300,000 of advertising for Project Wickenby, almost nobody has heard of it. However, the government is going to spend more money advertising about it, not for any deterrent effect, but just so that law-abiding taxpayers can feel ‘reaffirmed’.

Perhaps there would be less tax avoidance if fewer tax dollars were so obviously wasted.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted: 10:37 am on 24th March 2014

money-airKevin-747 certainly did have a taste for spending taxpayer money on sport in Australia.

Remember the $166,000 on the arenacross track down in Victoria?

Or the $800,000 to an AFL club in north Brisbane?

Or the whopping $15 million for a new Townsville stadium?

So it was no surprise when the Rudd Government committed another $7.5 million of taxpayer money to build an aquatic centre in the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia in the lead-up to the 2013 election.

The $7.5 million was supposed to come from the Regional Development Australia Fund, funded by the mining tax.

The problem was that the mining tax, as South Australian Liberal MP and Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs said:

wasn’t raising any revenue. In effect, Labor promised to fund this project from money it simply didn’t have.

Before the election, Mr Briggs also called the funding promise “a Labor promise,” and indicated that the Abbott government might not support the project.

So it was certainly a surprise to WasteWatch, and, no doubt, the residents of the Fleurieu Peninsula, when Mr Briggs announced in December last year that the new Government would contribute the requested $7.5 million to the project.

The funding agreement was signed recently, and the project is expected to be completed by 2017.

The bulk of the remaining cost of the project — estimated to be another $15 million — is expected to be borne by the Alexandrina and Victor Harbor (sic!) local councils.

Perhaps the compulsion to spend federal money on obscure local projects is more understandable since our current PM wishes to be remembered as ‘the infrastructure Prime Minister’.

Nevertheless, what a waste!

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted: 9:13 am on 19th March 2014

confusionWasteWatch is fairly used to coming across government contracts that could be categorised as “probably not waste, but who would know?”

Usually they are Defence Department ones, or ones from the Defence Materiel Organisation like this $22,000 one for “Nulka FCP and ACSIL Integration.”

Who would know if $22,000 is a reasonable price for the Australian taxpayer to pay for Nulka FCP and ACSIL Integration? WasteWatch certainly doesn’t.

Or, for instance, why is DMO buying “wetsuit raw materials” for over $50,000? Why not buy the completed wetsuit? Is it part of a strange new training regime for Australia’s commando regiments, or is it a cost-saving measure, or something else entirely?

However, occasionally WasteWatch finds something that we are not so happy to let slide.

Like this $84,656 contract from our friends at the Bureau of Meteorology.

The contract is with an Australian IT&T firm for a “programme of work to implement Key Aspects of Government.”

Sorry, what?

A Google search of “key aspect of government” doesn’t turn up anything helpful.

A Google search of “KAG” turns up the local chapter of the Klingon Assault Guards in Australia, and the Koala Action Group, but little more of use.

What on earth are our friends at BoM spending taxpayer money on this time?

The moves towards transparency in government contracts and tendering are to be encouraged, but they ought also, as far as possible, to be comprehensible to the general public.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted: 9:39 am on 17th March 2014

l-plateFor the last six years and a half years, learner drivers in NSW (WasteWatch’s home) have been subjected to more and more onerous conditions in order to qualify for their provisional licence.

For licences issued before 1 July 2007, learners had only to complete 50 hours of accompanied driving.

Then, the requirement jumped to a ridiculous 120 hours.

Next, the NSW government recognised the ridiculousness of this requirement, and created a little exemption.

If a learner driver took a 1-hour lesson with a certified instructor, they could record 3 hours in their logbook, up to a total of 10 hours of lessons.

(NB: All young WasteWatchers should check their local licencing laws to find out what crazy conditions apply this week.)

Then, the NSW government realised that since driving lessons can cost $80 an hour, and since not every learner in NSW can get a fully-licensed relative or friend to take them on 120 hours of accompanied driving, they were setting up a licencing system that could make the cost of a provisional licence close to $10,000.

So, in the manner of governments around the world, they got together in a smoky room somewhere and had some meetings, and thought very hard.

The upshot was not a change to the NSW licencing requirements (or other states and territories), but yet another government program, this time at a federal level.

After the 2007 election, the Rudd Government committed $17 million across 5 years to a program called Keys2Drive, which subsidises driving lessons for learners.

After the recent 2013 election, the Abbott Government committed a further $10 million across 3 years.

Oh! the magic of government programs.

WasteWatch can hardly wait for the next instalment in the drama.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted: 9:50 am on 11th March 2014

money-airRemember the G20 meeting-room roundabout WasteWatch told you about last year?

It turns out meeting rooms for talkfests between central bankers isn’t the only thing your tax dollars are paying for.

The Australian taxpayer is also footing the bill for the Y20 summit, or the youth version of the G20 summit.

So far those costs include nearly $45,000 for swanky venue hire, and $144,000 to put the next generation of jetsetting politicians up for a few nights at one of Sydney’s top hotels.

What will the Y20 summit contribute to anything?

A communique, apparently.

The communique will contain the thoughts of the self-appointed vanguard of today’s youth on “growth and job creation” (we’d like some, please), “labour mobility and educational transfer” (we’d like to be able to go on overseas jaunts too, please), and “sustainable development” (good luck with that one).

In a recent excellent piece, the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that the recent G20 communique — yes, the one that called for “carefully calibrated and clearly communicated” monetary policy and a magical 2% global growth target — was long on vague aspirational statements, and short on real content.

So do we seriously think these kids going to be any better?

Let them organise their own conference if they want, but let’s hold off on the taxpayer assistance unless the taxpayer might actually get something out of it.

What do you think?

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *