Posted: 9:55 am on 5th September 2013

220px-MCG_stadiumKevin Rudd seems to have a fascination with sport this election. Perhaps it is just insecurity. His chin-up routine does need some work, and he has recently copped some flak on the campaign trail for re-enacting former Prime Minister John Howard’s ‘morning constitutional’.

However, WasteWatch wonders if insecurity is a good enough reason for the Prime Minister’s decision to spend $15 million of your money on ‘detailed design work’ for the proposed Stadium Northern Australia in Townsville.

Perhaps it’s also lucky that the stadium is to be built in the marginal seat of Herbert, which is held by the LNP member Ewen Jones by just 2.2%, and which the ALP desperately needs to win to avoid an electoral wipe-out.

Unluckily for Mr Rudd, a recent Galaxy poll conducted in a few marginal Queensland seats found the ALP trailing in Herbert by 10 points on a two-party preferred basis.

Even at $1.5 million per percentage point, the ALP might find this a tough fight.

This might be lucky for the Australian taxpayer though, as the $15 million gift was just the first round of funding sought from the Federal Government for the project. Townsville Enterprise, the corporation in charge of the development, wants $150 million from the government over the next five years, which would amount to more than half the cost of the project.

Someone should tell Kevin Rudd that there are cheaper ways to exercise.

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Posted: 11:35 am on 4th September 2013

evel-knievel-imageCan you see the similarities between Evel Knievel and Kevin Rudd?

No, neither can WasteWatch.

But that hasn’t stopped the Rudd Government from giving $166,000 of your money to the Robinvale & District Motorcycle Club, to upgrade their “Arena X Track”.

What, you might ask, is an “Arena X Track”? Arena X, or arenacross, is a modified version of supercross. What, you might ask, is supercross? Well, it’s a modified version of motocross. What, you might ask…

Essentially, arenacross is where riders race off-road motorcycles on artificially constructed dirt tracks in very small stadiums.

What, you might ask, is the benefit of this $166,000 fillip to the club?

Well, race days in Robinvale (population 2214) attract up to 70 riders, and hundreds of fans. With an arenacross track to replace their current motocross track, the club could attract more fans, and raise more money for the club through ticket sales.

What, you might ask, is the Rudd Government doing spending $166,000 of your money so that Robinvale & District Motorcycle Club can make bigger profits?

Ah, there you’re on your own…

Evel Knievel was once reported to have said he earned $60 million throughout his career, and spent $62 million.

Maybe now those similarities with Kevin Rudd become a little clearer.

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Posted: 1:41 pm on 3rd September 2013

It seems the Coalitionhandgun has been getting a little trigger happy with your money.

The recent Coalition policy to tackle crime includes a $100 million boost to Customs, to crack down on illegal gun imports.

According to the Coalition:

The cuts ordered by the Rudd-Gillard Labor Government mean 4.7 million fewer cargo, consignment and package inspections occur at our ports and airports each year. There are nor 4.7 million more opportunities for illegal guns and drugs to enter Australia every year due to the Rudd-Gillard Labor Government.

The policy is part of the Coalition’s bid to shore up support in Western Sydney. Although the statewide level of gun violence has not changed much in the last fifteen years, nearly half of non-fatal shootings occur in Western Sydney.

However, it’s not immediately clear to WasteWatch how the $100 million will help.

First, a 2012 Australian Crime Commission report found that of an estimated 260 000 illegal firearms in Australia, only 0.5 per cent were illegally imported. 12 per cent were stolen, while 44 per cent were simply not handed over or registered in the wake of the 1996 Port Arthur shooting.

Secondly, Customs has actually changed the way it conducts its inspections. Earlier this year, Customs acting CEO Michael Pezzullo pointed out that:

An increased focus intelligence-based interceptions has reduced the influence corrupt officials can have on screening packages, [and] in the past five years has led to an increase in the number of illegal packages detected, while the total number of inspections had dropped.

In other words, Customs is being smart about which packages they actually need to physically inspect.

So the Coalition has committed to spend $100 million of your money on… what exactly?

A return to a less efficient, less effective way of preventing illegal gun imports, which, after all, only account for 0.5 per cent of illegal firearms nationwide?

It’s a good thing we aren’t facing a budget black hole, and have plenty of money to spend on policies like this… Oh wait.


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Posted: 11:59 am on 28th August 2013

Chiko-chick-beforeNSW Nationals Leader Andrew Stoner obviously remembers the glory days of the Chiko roll. Do you?

Do you remember wandering the streets late at night after a university party, and suddenly being confronted by the Chiko Chick, clad in oh-so-tight red leather? Andrew Stoner does.

Do you remember the rocking 1970s, when Daddy Cool, AC/DC, the Skyhooks, and Cold Chisel stalked the earth, and Australians consumed over 40 million Chiko rolls every year, and exported a million more? Andrew Stoner does.

And do you mourn the decline in Chiko consumption, which slumped to a paltry 17 million rolls in 2011? Andrew Stoner does.

A week ago, Mr Stoner announced that the NSW Government would provide a substantial rescue package to the Bathurst factory which produces our beloved Chikos.

The commitment takes the form of a payroll tax rebate for 3 years; Mr Stoner is unsure how much this rescue package will cost NSW taxpayers, but acknowledged that it will be:

a pretty substantial amount… in the millions of dollars range.

The rescue package is supposed to help preserve the 195 jobs that were at risk, but here at WasteWatch, we wonder what other government plans are being hatched to help our Boomer politicians hang onto the memories of their glory days.

While we’re on the glory days, why not spend a few million on Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thompson, Rod Marsh, and Doug Walters? Or John Hipwell, Paul McLean, Mark Loane, and Tony Shaw? And while we’re at it, bring back Don’s Party, and Mad Max!

Andrew Stoner’s eyes must be sparkling…

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Posted: 12:18 pm on 27th August 2013

The electorate of Flynn, in regional Queensland, is a key marginal seat in the upcoming Federal election.

The new seat was first contested in the 2007 election, when Labor candidate Chris Trevor emerged victorious. However, since 2010 it has been held by LNP member Ken O’Dowd, with a margin of just under 4%.

Kevin Rudd is desperately attempting to regain the seat, amidst reports that Queensland marginal seats could hold the key to his Government’s survival.

It is difficult to put a price on survival, but the latest estimates out of ALP headquarters suggest it’s pretty pricey.

Minister for Regional Australia, Catherine King, recently announced $1.8 million for an airport upgrade in Biloela, a small town about two hours south of Rockhampton, in the heart of Flynn.

According to the Minister, the investment shows:

The Rudd Labor Government is serious about investing in regional and local communities and helping them meet future challenges and opportunities.

It seems only around 4200 of Biloela’s inhabitants are over 18. At around $430 per elector, the Rudd Government’s investment decision may be more about meeting its own future challenges, than meeting regional Australia’s.

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Posted: 11:00 am on 26th August 2013

It would be odd indeed if the deposition of a Victorian Prime Minister had led to an AFL cartel taking over the Labor Government. But it seems increasingly likely.

Recently, the Rudd Government announced an $800,000 fillip to the Aspley Hornets AFL Club. The club is apparently one of the largest AFL clubs in the country, and it desperately needs some new grass and some new stands.

It’s also in the marginal seat of Petrie.

Petrie is held by Labor member Yvette D’Ath, on a margin of just 2.5%, making it one of the top ten most marginal Labor-held seats in the country.

The announcement comes on the heels of the $11 million grant to Collingwood, which WasteWatch brought to your attention recently.

The money will no doubt infuriate John Connolly, the former Wallabies coach, who lost the Petrie LNP preselection race to Luke Howarth last year.

As a side note, AFL has nearly three times as many players as rugby union around Australia.

The Rudd Government will surely be hoping for a similarly thumping margin.

If only it had more of your money to spend…

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Posted: 1:31 pm on 21st August 2013

Surely it’s one of Australia’s most pressing infrastructure problems.

Facing a budget black hole, with the 2012-13 deficit projected to be somewhere in the vicinity of $25 billion, and the 2013-24 deficit is projected to be around $20 billion, Australians could be forgiven for thinking the election would be a bit light on pork barrel promises.

But they would be wrong.

Amongst the various infrastructure promises made so far in the election, like the Liberal’s promise of $25 million to upgrade the Great Ocean Road, or Labor’s promise of $52 million to duplicate Newcastle’s Tourle Street Bridge, another important issue has snuck onto the agenda.

Puffing Billy.

WasteWatch forgives you if you haven’t ever heard of the ancient steam train, which is a tourist attraction in the Dandenong Ranges just outside of Melbourne.

Last week, the Rudd Government promised $3.1 million to help upgrade poor Puffing Billy.

Billy faces significant problems following heavy rains earlier this year, falling ticket revenue, and rising maintenance costs, and Mr Rudd’s gift comes on top of $4.4 million promised by the Victorian Government.

But this may be only the beginning.

The Emerald Tourist Railway Board, the statutory authority currently in charge of Puffing Billy, has apparently put forward a $25 million “grand plan” of upgrades and capital investment.

Why, that’s five times as much as Tony Abbott just committed to upgrading the Brisbane Broncos training ground!

An election light on pork barrel promises? Don’t make us laugh.

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Posted: 11:40 am on 20th August 2013

Chances are you’ve seen one of the ads. You know, those full-page, bleak ads that warn the inhabitants of every marginal seat around the country that “You won’t be settled in Australia”.

The Rudd Government’s anti-people smuggling advertising blitz has already run into trouble. No information campaign has yet been conducted in Pakistan, Iran, or Afghanistan, although ads have been placed in neighbourhood newspapers in the marginal Sydney electorates of Bennelong and Parramatta, and marginal Brisbane electorates Rankin, Oxley, and Moreton.

The advertising campaign has also continued to run during the government’s caretaker period, a move the Opposition has criticised. Under caretaker conventions, ‘matters of contention’ require Opposition approval before taxpayer funds can be spent.

The government has defended its actions. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus claimed the domestic advertising blitz was crucial to getting the message across to diaspora communities around Australia, and asked the Opposition to support the campaign, “given the shared commitment of all political parties in Australia to the prevention of people smuggling.”

All this has come at an estimated cost of $5 million.

But now the government has gone further.

Last week, it gave nearly $40,000 of your money to a company on Sydney’s North Shore to conduct ‘tracking market research’ for the campaign.

Presumably they cold-call Indonesia to determine whether those people smugglers who receive the Parramatta Advertiser every week, have changed their business model.

Surely it can’t be for any other reason.

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Posted: 11:40 am on 19th August 2013

Just last week, WasteWatch brought you news of the $34 000 taxpayer-funded art binge for public service offices.

Now the pollies are getting in on the action. It seems interior decorating has become the new way to pass time in the halls of Parliament House.

As we wait with bated breath for the most recent report on our parliamentarians’ expenditure, the July-December 2012 report makes interesting reading.

Top of the list of notable spending was Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, who was the seventh most profligate parliamentarian in terms of ‘office fit-out costs’, spending over $300,000 beautifying her office.

However, she was outdone by Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who managed to rack up a staggering $317,000 on his interior decorating. One wonders what the notoriously abstemious Bob Brown – who spent just $3,400 in his last six months in office – would think.

Independent Andrew Wilkie also spent more than $150,000 on his office fit-out.

These three were the only parliamentarians who hold no other official positions, like being a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary, to spend over $100 000 on office fit-outs in the six-month period covered by the report.

Bear in mind, though, that the current base salary for Members of Parliament is just shy of $200,000. These are people who are used to the beautiful things in life. They just want the rest of us to pay for them.

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Posted: 1:26 pm on 14th August 2013

Three months ago, WasteWatch brought you the news that $47 000 of your money was spent at Christmas Island Golf Club.

It seems the Federal Government’s golf fascination has grown.

According to the Pre-Election Fiscal and Economic Outlook released yesterday, Karratha Country Club in Western Australia is the lucky recipient of $400,000 of your money to help with ‘grassing their greens’.

For non-golfers out there, the ‘green’ is that neat little area around the actual hole. Golf courses generally have either sand greens or grass greens. Sand greens are often more popular with clubs in dry areas, because the lack of water makes the maintenance of a grass green expensive.

The government’s fillip to the Karratha Country Club is nearly half the total estimated cost of the project. The Country Club expects that memberships will increase as a result of the change to grass greens, but says the greatest benefit is the “unanticipated increases in social players.”

Good to know the Federal Government is giving hundreds of thousands of your dollars to private golf clubs who expect unanticipated benefits.

Perhaps the Country Club has friends in high places. Karratha is a small town located in retiring Liberal MP Barry Haase’s electorate. What’s more, Mr Haase has previously thrown parties for his campaign team at the Country Club.

Perhaps he expects to be spending more time there after his retirement.

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