Posted: 11:11 am on 25th July 2013

Canberra is notable for its excess when it comes to the National Capital Authority, whose job it is to handle everything in the ACT relating to Canberra’s status as the national capital.

The commemorative projects for Canberra’s centenary have already given us the Skywhale, which was undoubtedly the cause of drops in public service productivity in the days surrounding its unveiling.

But now, the National Capital Exhibition has given the nation – and charged the taxpayer $200,000 for the privilege – an exhibition-slash-art workshop made from Lego and Duplo.

The “Brick by Brick: Build Your Own Capital” project is aimed at people of all ages and giving them the opportunity to create their own vision of the national capital and have it exhibited.

Most of us have to remain satisfied with only being able to showcase our wonderful Lego creations in the living rooms of our own homes, but instead we get to pay for the occasional tourist to have their work exhibited in a public building.

Yet another ridiculous use of public money.

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Posted: 11:57 am on 24th July 2013

Three weeks ago WasteWatch covered the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) $5m yearly budget to do not a whole lot. Their latest pet project was the Women in Super initiative – a series of talk fests that highlight what women do in the superannuation industry.

Lately, the Department of Family, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) granted $55,000 to the Australian Human Rights Commission to develop a toolkit for increasing women’s participation in male-dominated industries.

This toolkit is designed to assist leaders in organisations to develop and implement constructive and sustainable strategies to increase the representation of women in non-traditional roles in male-dominated industries. It provides practical suggestions and examples of different kinds of workplace strategies and mechanisms across four areas of: attraction, recruitment, retention and development of women.

The government should not be wasting precious tax dollars funding agencies to dictate who should be hired. And with all the money funded to the Commission, the latest insight from Elizabeth Broderick, Australia’s ‘Sex Discrimination Commissioner,’ is that the defence force is a male-dominated industry. Who knew!

Firms will hire the most promising workers from the candidates that apply. If those happen to be women, great. If they happen to be men, that is also great.

If concerned citizens think women shy away from certain industries or professions, it is up to those individuals to organise and fund research and initiatives on their own accord.

Strangely enough, the best argument against a government-mandated approach to workplace gender diversity is on the WGEA’s main page, in the form of a statement detailing that Westpac has reached its in-house goal for gender equality in leadership positions a whole two years early.

In 2010, Westpac set a target to increase the percentage of women in leadership roles from 33% to 40% by 2014, recognising the organisation would benefit from a more diverse pool of talent.

Allowing companies, such as like Westpac, to determine their own hiring policies is clearly the sensible approach to approaching women’s role in the workforce.

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Posted: 11:45 am on 22nd July 2013

Three weeks ago WasteWatch highlighted that the Queensland government spent $7.4m on a racetrack in Mackay in the lead up to the state election. The Ooralea racecourse is not a major hub for horse racing in Queensland, but it was in the marginal seat of then Racing Minister, Tim Mulherin.

As we were expecting, the vote-buying for the federal election was just about to begin.

The Australian has reported that the Rudd government has just embarked on a massive cash splash in marginal electorates in the run up to the coming federal election.

In a rush to spend as much money as possible in marginal seats, the Rudd government has given surf lifesaving clubs 72 hours to apply for funds for “shovel-ready” projects to be announced before the election campaign.

…Since the May budget, Anthony Albanese, now Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, has announced $3.2 m for two surf lifesaving buildings in Lyne, the NSW north coast seat of retiring independent MP Rob Oakeshott.

Grants have already been made to the Moruya surf club, in the NSW south coast electorate of Eden Monaro, and the Macmasters Beach and North Avoca clubs in Robertson, on the state’s central coast. Both are Labor-held marginal electorates.

…Surf Life Saving NSW has sought submissions from clubs across 11 marginal coastal electorates, bypassing Coalition-held surf hotspots held by frontbenchers Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison, Bronwyn Bishop, Luke Hartsuyker and Malcolm Turnbull.

It is as if they have given up trying to hide that this is just another obvious pork barrel. But I suppose when it works, why not try it again.

Mr Oakeshott, whose lobbying has secured $4.7m for surf clubs in his electorate since 2008, said surf clubs doubled as community halls for coastal towns.

After securing $2.7m of federal money to rebuild the Wauchope-Bonny Hills Surf Lifesaving Club, voters at the local polling booth awarded him 71 per cent of the two-candidate vote, a 5.5 per cent improvement on his performance at the 2007 state election.

Buckle your seatbelts, taxpayers, this is going to be one wasteful election ride.

Special thanks to one of our supporters who alerted us to this senseless waste of tax dollars.

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Posted: 9:52 am on 18th July 2013

The election is getting close, and the vote buying is just beginning.

Over the next few months before the election, whenever that may be, watch the waste pile up as politicians attempt to secure votes with the public purse.

Tony Abbott has kicked off the promise competition in Tasmania with his pledge to set aside $1.3 million of federal funds to upgrade Invermay Park in Launceston.

According to Abbott,

‘Sporting groups need playable grounds, and strong sporting groups are a vital part of local communities’ Mr Abbott said.

‘I know as a former health minister that widespread sporting participation makes our communities healthier, and this commitment will help the sporting clubs of Launceston.’

He even invoked great Aussie cricket captain Ricky Ponting to sell his message:

‘Invermay Park is where Ricky Ponting played his first years of cricket and let’s hope it will be the home of even more Australian sporting greats in the years ahead’

Not surprisingly, Bass is a key marginal seat the Coalition hopes to secure with the election of Andrew Nikolic.

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Posted: 11:48 am on 17th July 2013

We keep hearing how our children are getting fatter and fatter. Well, it turns out the government has a great new sport and recreation program to get our children fit and healthy again. Our latest instalment of mindless government waste is the funding of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus for young people.

According to their website,

The Flying Fruit Fly Circus is Australia’s world famous circus for young people. We are renowned as both a national centre of training excellence and an award-winning performing arts company, with a full-time training course, dedicated selective school and state-of-the-art facilities, catering for young people aged 8 to 18.

The Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport (DRALGAS) funds Flying Fruit Fly in order to support “the elite level circus education of primary and secondary school-age children”. One wonders why children are in need of elite level circus education, and a full-time one at that.

But here’s the real circus: DRALGAS is funding Flying Fruit Fly to the tune of $2.9 million while the NSW Department of Trade, Investment and Arts provides an additional $110,000, bringing the total amount spent on a circus to a nice, round $3 million.

The website for Flying Fruit Fly also proudly states:

Many of our graduating artists go on to join leading circus and performing arts companies, including Circus Oz, Cirque du Soleil, Circa and many others.

Why are taxpayers essentially paying for the training of performers of professional circus troupes? Sounds like corporate welfare to us.

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Posted: 11:09 am on 16th July 2013

Labor, the Coalition and the Greens all favour the constitutional amendment to recognise local government. They think it would ‘streamline’ the relationship between the Commonwealth and local governments. Local government could get money directly from the Commonwealth, allowing them to bypass the states.

Here at WasteWatch, we think this is a recipe of profligate local governments, aided and abetted by the Commonwealth government. Without the states applying the necessary brakes local governments would spend up big.

In fact, local governments are already wasting your tax dollars. Here’s just one example:

The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities awarded a $20,000  grant to Rockdale City Council in Sydney to create an official visitors’ guide to the ‘rare and endangered modernist fibro houses’ in the Monterey area.

According to Charles Pickett, writing for the website of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum,

…the fibro house is the most distinctive expression of Australian domestic architecture.

That’s right, local governments think your hard-earned is worth spending to educate visitors of the wonders of the ‘iconic’ asbestos-laden houses that dotted the pre-WWII suburban landscape, such as this one here:

Fibro house

We at WasteWatch beg to differ on the artistic and cultural merits of fibro (not to mention health impacts). But that’s beside the point.

This is just another example of mindless government waste. Perhaps a taste of what’s to come after the referendum.

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Posted: 12:01 pm on 15th July 2013

For many Australians, pay TV such as Foxtel is a luxury they can’t afford for themselves and their own families.

Yet they are paying for the privilege of staff at the Department of Infrastructure and Transport to watch Foxtel to their hearts’ content.

A year’s subscription to Foxtel for the Department costs the taxpayer $32,000.

But, as it turns out, Infrastructure and Transport isn’t the only department that watches Foxtel on the public purse.

A year’s subscription to Foxtel at the Attorney General’s Department costs a whopping $52,446, while the Defence Materiel Organisation spent $25,000 and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs $13,655.

Perhaps they wanted to watch The Ashes at work.

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Posted: 12:30 pm on 11th July 2013

According to The Australian Holden want another $60 million in federal funding to continue manufacturing in cars in Australia.

South Australia’s Labor government yesterday warned the carmaker could announce the closure of its northern Adelaide plant by the end of the year, with Holden understood to be demanding more than the $275m it was promised last year to secure its operations in Australia until 2022.

Under the $275m co-investment package announced by Julia Gillard in March last year, a $215m grant and $60m from the South Australian and Victorian governments was committed to secure a $1 billion investment from Holden to build two next-generation vehicles at the Adelaide plant.

Now Holden are asking for another $60 million from state and/or federal governments to honour their agreement to continue making their two home-grown models, the Commodore and the Cruze.

Subsidies to car manufacturing companies look increasingly wasteful since Ford announced they would be closing down manufacturing plants.

Earlier this year, Holden revealed it had received $2.17 billion in assistance from the federal government over the last 12 years. That came after announcements at the end of 2012 that another 500 jobs would be shed to control costs.

At the same time, Aussies just don’t want Holden’s cars. Sales for the Commodore were down 25% in 2012.

Another $60 million to Holden would be another bucket load of cash thrown down the proverbial black hole. Your tax dollars at work!

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Posted: 12:07 pm on 9th July 2013

Harmony Day is a day where we all get together to celebrate our cultural differences. While we have no problem with celebrating diversity at work, we hardly think the taxpayer should cough up $93,000 for the privilege.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has completed a tender process for production and supply of Harmony Day 2014 stickers at a cost of $39,171,  as well as spending $53,900 on balloons for the event.

Harmony Day‘s motto this year is ‘Many stories, one Australia’. Well, we here at Wastewatch think this is just one more story of needless government waste.

But Australian governments are not the only ones wasting precious tax dollars on a feel-good spending spree.

Our American cousins across the pond witnessed the US State Department  caught red-handed by their independent watchdog for spending over $600,000 for a two-year period for Facebook ‘likes’.

“Many in the bureau criticise the advertising campaigns as ‘buying fans’ who may have once clicked on a post or ‘liked’ a photo but have no real interest in the topic and have never engaged further,” read the report released late last month.

This spend probably made more enemies than it did friends.

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Posted: 11:42 am on 8th July 2013

Wastewatch is devoted to informing you about how your tax dollars are being wasted by government every day. And while the ongoing narrative is frustrating and aggravating, every now and then we get a glimmer of hope that it is actually possible to cut down on waste and reduce the burden of government.

Today Wastewatch has some good news for taxpayers. The Australian Electoral Commission has announced they will not be running the National Tally Room in Canberra at this year’s federal election, which will save taxpayers $1.2 million.

Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn stated:

‘A number of television broadcasters have traditionally anchored their election night broadcasts from the NTR.   I have confirmation that none of the television networks intend to host their 2013 election coverage from the NTR.   Notably this includes the ABC.’

The ABC was the last broadcaster to confirm they no longer intended to use the outdated, manual tally room to broadcast the federal election results.

With the pace of technological change the National Tally Room has become an obsolete. Broadcasters already provide on-line election results on the night, with continuous updates.

As the Australian reports, the AEC will continue to provide on-line election results.

The Seven Network is understood to be planning to go to air from Sydney’s Martin Place, with Nine said to be considering broadcasting from a Sydney studio on election night.

The AEC had proposed ditching the NTR in 2007 to save money, as online technology rendered the manually operated tally board an anachronism.

The next logical step would be to terminate use of the National Tally Room for good.