Posted: 1:39 pm on 13th August 2013

Maybe you’re an Aussie Rules fan who hates the Pies; maybe you live outside Victoria and don’t think Aussie Rules even deserves to be called a sport.

Either way, you’re paying. Your money is going towards the Collingwood FC, thanks to the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport (DRALGAS).

Under the government’s Sport & Recreation Facility Commitment 2012, Collingwood have been given an $11 million grant to build what is termed “community and football infrastructure”, which allegedly includes a proper community centre too.

The Collingwood Football Club Foundation states that its “guiding objective is for Collingwood to be the biggest philanthropic sporting organisation in Australia”.

Certainly, its platform does seem admirable. CFCF focus on youth initiatives and engagement, fundraising for community groups and supporting education and employment for young people.

But let’s think about the use of the word ‘philanthropy’ – it’s most commonly used to describe acts of private charity for public good. Taking $11 million from the government hardly fits that description.

With government to the rescue, everybody’s a philanthropist! It’s easy to be charitable with other people’s money.

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Posted: 12:14 pm on 13th August 2013

In the lead-up to the September election, hundreds of millions of dollars of funding will be promised by politicians across the spectrum. Already, Kevin Rudd has promised $710 million in just two days, while Tony Abbott goes into the election with a $4.3 billion paid parental leave scheme, and a $2.5 billion decision to cut the company tax rate.

But how many of these promises will actually come to pass? Facing a budget black hole, the next government will be required to make hard decisions about which promises are ‘core’, and which are ‘non-core’, as someone once said. A whistle-stop tour through the last six years of government reads like a graveyard of broken promises.

There was FuelWatch, which would have imposed compliance costs of up to $4000 a year on service station owners.

There was GroceryWatch. Or was it GroceryChoice? Coles argued that its compliance costs for this program would have been $8 million a year.

There was the plan to provide 260 childcare centres across the country, at a cost of $11.9 billion, which collapsed two months before Kevin Rudd’s first prime ministership did.

There was the $275 million plan to open 31 GP super clinics across the country, which later morphed into a $630 million plan to build around 60 new super clinics, and upgrade 430 regular clinics. Only about thirty of these new super clinics are open today.

There was the $275 million Green Loans scheme, which collapsed in the lead-up to the 2010 election.

The list goes on.

While election spending counts can be a useful way of keeping track of the parties’ priorities, it is also worthwhile bearing in mind the cost to the taxpayer after the election, as these hair-brained schemes, cooked up in the excitement of a feverish campaign, come home to roost.

Foolish campaign promises are expensive. But holding our politicians to them might be even more so.

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Posted: 11:12 am on 8th August 2013

This week, the inquiry into the Queensland Health payroll software bungle was completed and handed down in Parliament by the Newman Government. The Australian reported that:

IBM delivered the flawed payroll system in 2010. It resulted in thousands of health workers being underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.

The $6.19m contract blew out and will ultimately cost Queensland taxpayers an estimated $1.2 billion.

The system, which was meant to be largely automated and cost-effective, continues to be labour-intensive and costly to operate.

Here at WasteWatch, we believe outsourcing and contracting to the private sector is often necessary and positive. But this case was handled so poorly, that the report concluded:

The former Labor government should have terminated its contract with IBM.

Instead, the Bligh government gave IBM an iron-clad agreement it would not terminate the contract and relinquished all rights to take legal action.

It looks like tough luck for taxpayers because, according to Campbell Newman, ‘the inquiry has found the settlement is binding and the state cannot take any action to reclaim any money.’

Another episode of mindless waste from spendthrift governments. How is it that the government can be so reckless with other people’s money? We might recall one of Milton Friedman’s four ways people spend money:

The fourth way is when people spend other people’s money on other people. In this case, the buyer has no rational interest in either value or quality. Government always and necessarily spends money in this fourth way. This guarantees inefficient public spending because the spenders have no vested interest in efficiently allocating those funds.

After $5 million was spent to produce the inquiry, it looks like the taxpayer has come up short once again.

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Posted: 3:00 pm on 7th August 2013

The Federal Government, through AusTrade, has handed the allegedly broke Queensland Government $16.5k to do something pointless – host an awards program for Queensland exporters.

Exporting companies are renowned for being leaders in seeking opportunities, leading with innovation and creating jobs for Queenslanders.

These awards provide a showcase of Queensland’s top exporters while encouraging others to succeed in world markets.

Winning one of these awards means the opportunity to network with and be promoted by the government on behalf of one’s business: paid for by the taxpayer, of course.

From the website:

  • Inclusion in Trade and Investment Queensland’s 2013 Export Awards media/publicity campaigns
  • Profile as an Export Awards winner on the Trade and Investment Queensland website (export.qld.gov.au)
  • Profiling opportunities in Trade and Investment Queensland collateral (e.g. case studies on successful Queensland exporters, website exposure)
  • Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards winner’s logo for use on your company’s collateral

In addition, you get a fancy trophy and certificate for your trouble. Apparently, being told by the Queensland Government that you can manage a business well is good publicity. One would think that it would amount to telling your potential customers and clients that they should run in the opposite direction.

Not only that, such a program essentially amounts to giving established businesses a leg-up with in-kind assistance, and does nothing to increase the variety and viability of Queensland export businesses. Rather than cuts to company tax, payroll tax, or regulations, this is the best incentive the government can think of to encourage good business.

That’s quite an expensive pat on the back!

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Posted: 10:51 am on 6th August 2013

Art, it seems, is a state-dependent enterprise – government funds the creation of art and then justifies its stupid spending by spending more money on it to gild public service offices.

The federal Office of Parliamentary Counsel has spent $11,385 on a year-long lease of artwork for their offices, while the Attorney-General’s Department has spent almost double that amount – $22,440.

This is a photo of the interior of the Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra. Who needs to hire artwork when you’ve commissioned such a fancy building?

The AGD sourced its art from Artbank. Here’s the kicker: government funds the production of art by artists. These artists then have their work acquired by Artbank, which is a government agency. Artbank is dedicated to managing government artwork as well as leasing this art to public and private clients alike.

The government money-go-round is so convoluted it would take a pro consultant to put this information into a flowchart that made sense. Essentially, the government gives money to the artist (through a state or federal agency) for nothing in return, who then sells the produced artwork to another federal government agency, which then leases the artwork to yet more government agencies and maybe some private companies too.

We’ll be honest, we’re pretty confused about how this works too. But one thing’s for sure – it’s just another way government spends money absurdly.

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Posted: 11:42 am on 5th August 2013

The current Federal Cabinet must get plenty of downtime.

WasteWatch has already brought you news of how Tony Burke, our Minister for the Arts, must have gotten bored with the games selection on his iPhone.

Now it seems his colleague Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science, Research, and Higher Education, must be bored with the rides available at theme parks around the country.

Through the Australian Research Council, Senator Carr has given $300 000 to a team from RMIT University for research into “Enhancing the Australian theme park experience“.

Apparently this project will “contribute to furthering Australia’s lead in the production of compelling theme park experiences”, a lead which will come as a surprise to those who remember the collapse of Wonderland, Old Sydney Town, Fox Studios Backlot, Sega World Sydney…

RMIT is partnering with Village Roadshow for this project. In financial year 2011-2012, Village Roadshow recorded a net profit after tax of $33.8 million. You would Village Roadshow are capable of funding their own research into enhancing the Australian theme park experience.

But after his difficult few years under Julia Gillard, Senator Carr is surely due for a holiday.

Melbourne’s famous Funfields theme park has a ride called “Snakes Alive“. Perhaps it will be a welcome change from the Labor caucus room for Senator Carr. Or perhaps it will cut too close to home.

 

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Posted: 1:49 pm on 31st July 2013

Here at WasteWatch, we have already brought you the good news about the various Australian governments anxious to pour millions of dollars into Holden’s hungry maw.

Surprise, surprise, Holden is not the only one suckling at the teat of corporate welfare. The Automotive New Markets Program, a joint Federal-Victoria-South Australia program, is designed to help automotive supply chain companies diversify their customer base and product range.

The program has helped fund plenty of good ideas. For instance, the Australian branch of engineering company Bosch was given $500 000 for the development of more effective ‘back-over avoidance systems’, those reversing cameras and parking sensors designed to pick up small obstacles, like young children.

Similarly, MtM Auto was given $400 000 to help kit out a manufacturing plant in Victoria for the production of Tomcars, a popular all-terrain vehicle originally developed by the Israeli Defence Forces, which has proven popular with farmers and miners as well.

However, Senator Kim Carr, the new minister in charge of the program, must have some different priorities.

Victoria-based Palm Products has recently received $360 000 for the development of….. a Coffee Travel Cup! Not just any coffee travel cup, mind you. This is an extra-special, Marc Newson-designed, apparently unbreakable coffee travel cup. And lest you think this is too high a price for a coffee travel cup, the grant will help Palm Products build a child-sized version too.

Word on the street is the Government would like to see an add-on to make drinking coffee easier for faceless men, who have hitherto found consumption difficult. Men in blue ties have also been identified as a target market.

So rest assured, you busy parents of Australia with your mochachino-sipping children in tow, Senator Carr has got your back!

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Posted: 11:06 am on 30th July 2013

In the wake of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) decided to tackle racial intolerance and the threat of violence in Australia with some good acronyms.

The central plank of this all-out assault was the National Action Plan to Build on Social Cohesion, Harmony and Security, affectionately known as NAPBSCHS. Under this plan, grants were distributed to community organisations that promoted racial tolerance and harmony.

In 2010, responsibility for these grants was transferred from NAPBSCHS to DSCP, or the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program. In NSW, much of the program’s funding goes to sports clubs in Western Sydney, who run projects that try to reduce gang activity and increase the number of culturally diverse youth playing sport.

However, the program occasionally funds non-sport projects too.

For instance, this year the Auburn Community Development Network will get $50,000 to run a project called “The Art of Hospitality: Bring a Plate”. As part of this project:

Participants will design, create and produce ceramic plates with anti-racism messages… The painted plates will be used for communal dinners on culturally significant occasions.

While the punters let their creative juices flow, they will be entertained by a guest speaker, who will “address the theme of racism and prejudice.” Not even Mozart was so well looked after.

And if you can’t make it to Auburn for some plate-painting, fear not; the entire proceedings will be broadcast on ABC Radio National.

As the Minister for Multicultural Affairs Senator Kate Lundy said, “While the vast majority of Australians embrace what it means to be Australian and reject racism in all its forms, there are still pockets of racism and discrimination in our communities.”

Luckily, the DSCP is on the case, tackling racism one painted ceramic plate at a time.

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Posted: 10:03 am on 29th July 2013

Are you a fan of playing Angry Birds, or Candy Crush Saga, or Words With Friends on your mobile phone on the way to work? Now you have friends in high places. Tony Burke, our new Immigration Minister, and Minister for the Arts, surely enjoys a similar relaxation from the trials and tribulations of being a pollie.

However, the Minister must be getting bored with his current games selection, because he has just given Screen Australia $6 million for their new Games Enterprise program.

“Gaming is at the front line of creativity in new technology,” Mr Burke said. “Our Australian games industry has distinguished itself in recent years by recognising the enormous potential of creating games applications for smartphones and tablets.”

The $6 million has been distributed between 10 different Australian gaming companies. One of the lucky recipients is Defiant Development, which has brought us such gems as Rocket Bunnies, where players are invited to ‘escape spiders, avoid mines, dodge peril, explore the galaxy, and solve devious puzzles’, all from the comfort of the ministerial car.

Mr Burke tried to claim he is backing a winner, arguing that “the Australian games sector is expanding in terms of the number of people playing, its economic and cultural impact, and its influence beyond the entertainment industry.” However, the hand-out comes at a time when the industry has lost 60% of its workforce in the last six years.

Lucky for gamers, this hand-out is just Round One. The Government’s Creative Australia policy has set aside an additional $4 million for future rounds of funding.

The Minister can now sleep soundly at night, knowing that his capacity to ‘dodge peril’ on the way to the office is assured. Perhaps the Government has learnt from Julia Gillard’s experience at last.

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Posted: 3:37 pm on 26th July 2013

As part of the Government’s Cyber Safety campaign, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has started a new campaign to teach kids and parents how to use the internet safely. The campaign is called Cybersmart,

Designed to support and encourage participation in the digital economy by providing information and education which empowers children to be safe online.

I’m sure many parents haven’t even heard of the campaign Cybersmart, let alone learnt anything from its information sources.

But even if you think the government can successfully teach its citizens about how to use a resource they already use every day, you couldn’t pick a more ludicrous means of getting the message out.

AusTender documents reveal ACMA spent $23,428 to print paper sticky notepads for the digital safety program.

Not only that, the tender recipient’s website says that its products are all 100% carbon-neutral.

Since this is supposed to be a Cyber Safety campaign, maybe somesort of electronic promotion would be more appropriate. We are, as tech nerds like to say, moving toward a ‘paperless’ society.

But in the dinosaur land of government, common sense is not so common.

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