Posted: 9:32 am on 3rd July 2013

Yesterday, Wastewatch posted about the $19 million spent on a race track in Toowoomba – $12 million to lay the artificial turf and another $7 million to rip it up and replace it with the natural stuff.

Well there is also proof of taxpayer money being spent on another racetrack in Mackay – $7.4 m for the Ooralea Racecourse, which just happened to reside in the marginal seat of the then Racing Minister Tim Mulherin:

Documents show funding approval was fast-tracked by the former [Bligh] Labor government for the course capital works, which included a new track and function centre as well as upgrades to its public and member’s facilities.

At the time of the state election in March last year, the Mackay project was 90 per cent finished while work on the Gold Coast — which hosts the annual Magic Millions Carnival and was deemed as being in desperate need of major work — had barely started.

Mr Mulherin narrowly held his seat of Mackay, which is now the most marginal Labor electorate in Queensland.

Governments really will go to extraordinary lengths, and extraordinary waste, to keep themselves in power. And we’re paying for their largesse.

We can’t wait for the sorts of porkbarrelling the federal election will bring us.

Posted: 7:27 pm on 2nd July 2013

Sydneysiders will remember that the Oxford Street Rainbow Crossing, painted on in time for this year’s Mardi Gras festival cost $110,000 to lay down, only to be ripped up just weeks later for another $30,000.

In an episode of waste reminiscent of the rainbow crossing debacle, it has been revealed by the commission of enquiry into the Queensland Racing board that the Queensland Government spent $12 million to install a ‘drought-proof’ race track in Toowoomba, only to rip it up again for another $7 million.

The Australian reports:

A push by the former Labor-aligned Racing Queensland board, which included powerbroker Bill Ludwig, for a synthetic track in Toowoomba has cost taxpayers $20 million, and now the four-year-old surface is being ripped up amid claims of ‘shonky’ construction, unapproved payments and missing records.

The touted ‘drought-free’ synthetic track is a focus of investigations into the rollout of $158m in capital works across regional racecourses under the former Bligh government.

The $12m design and construction of the track at Toowoomba’s Clifford Park – which will be returned to its grass surface at a cost of more than $7m – is among 37 contracts awarded without public tender by Racing Queensland between 2007 and the state election in March last year.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The inquiry will also probe the pre-election approval – overseen by Mr Ludwig, the AWU national president and state secretary – of new contracts for four Racing Queensland executives involved in the capital works, which delivered them 30 per cent pay rises and $1.85m in payouts when they quit just after the state election.

So not only are Queensland taxpayers paying for a pointless race track, only to have it ripped up years later, they’re also paying for the fat bonuses of Racing Queensland’s board members.



Posted: 2:25 pm on 2nd July 2013

Some will remember that in 2011 when Kevin Rudd was foreign minister (between his first and second stints as Prime Minister), he managed to spend more than $1 million in expenses travelling on 14 trips in the 12 months up to August 2011.

Then Prime Minister Gillard even questioned Mr Rudd following reports of international trips costing up to $80,000 each.

Well, it seems our new Prime Minister’s  phone bill of $29,676 for six months of calls shows that he has been busy while he has been on the backbench.  He has also been travelling the world on the taxpayer dollar:

Mr Rudd, whose globetrotting habits earned him the tag ‘Kevin 747’, also spent $27,000 on a ‘study’ tour to Switzerland, Canada and the US in July 2012. The then backbencher was also able to use his ‘celebrity’ status to organise meetings with United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and other world leaders.

But Mr Rudd is not the only politician out there wasting your tax dollars burning up the wires.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also rung up a hefty phone bill – of $33,523 – for the six months to 31 December 2012, as federal MPs spent more than $5 million on travel and office expenses.

It turns out the former backbencher turned Prime Minister has the third highest phone bill of all 226 federal MPs, trailing only retiring rural Liberal MP Barry Haase and Opposition Leader Mr Abbott. By comparison Julia Gillard’s prime ministerial expenses totalled a humble $2,961 for the same six month period.

So while some MPs seem to be mindful of the fact they are spending the Australian public’s money, others are carrying on like teenagers on a shopping spree with their father’s credit card.

Posted: 9:49 am on 2nd July 2013

Just in case you missed it amongst the scores of legislation rushing through parliament lately, last year the government passed the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, which among other things, requires businesses with 100 or more employees to report regularly to the government on the gender composition of their workforce, particularly on corporate boards.

Its enforced by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (yes, it does exist) and it will consume $5.1 million this year in its endeavour to ‘promote and improve gender equality in Australian workplaces.’


So what is it they actually do?

It is spending your hard earned taxpayer dollars running a  Women in Super to find out how the superannuation industry is working towards ‘levelling the gender playing field.’

One small example of this spending is a market research grant of $11,000 and it is just the latest in a long line of wasteful spending by an agency that has very little capacity to change the fortunes of women in the workplace.

Do we really need to have government spending our money telling companies how to run their businesses?

Private companies like Westpac, who publicise their use of gender targets, have done much more to raise awareness of women’s fortunes in the workplace than the Workplace Gender Equality Agency can hope to.

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Posted: 10:17 am on 28th June 2013

Do you enjoy a glass of wine over dinner?

Well it’s quite possible that somewhere in that bottle of Shiraz lies your share of the $22.7 million the government has appropriated for the wine industry to fund ‘Grape and Wine Research and Development.’

Yes, that’s right, the federal government is spending $22.7 million a year of your tax dollars to conduct research, development and marketing on behalf of Australia’s internationally respected wine industry.

Below is an excerpt from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry departmental budget statement.

Wine RD

Leaving aside the fact that much research and development funding is often duplicated by state governments, WasteWatch thinks that researching and developing profitable products is something wine growers themselves ought to be paying for, since their businesses will profit from it directly.

The recent success of the Australian wine industry, both here and abroad, was not due to the millions the industry draws in commonwealth funds, but the quality of the wine they produce. Wine makers have a strong incentive to contribute to research institutes who produce and disseminate the latest industry research and production methods.

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Posted: 11:41 am on 26th June 2013

The Hunter Valley is synonymous with rolling hills and quality Aussie wine. But now, thanks to the help of the federal government, it will also be known as the ‘sheepskin boot capital of Australia.’

A federal tourism grant of $250,000 was awarded to the establishment of a $2 million sheepskin factory tourist centre in Thornton, part of the greater Hunter region.

The ABC reported that:

The Mortels Sheepskin Tourist Centre will combine manufacturing, retail and interactive tourist displays focussing on the history of sheepskin manufacturing.

So on the way back from your weekend wine tour in the Hunter, drop into the Mortels Sheepskin Tourist Centre, to satisfy your endless curiosity about the sheepskin manufacturing process.

These are your taxpayer dollars at work.

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Posted: 10:21 am on 25th June 2013

Last month, WasteWatch reported that Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby had been subsidized to the tune of $80 million from the NSW government.

It turns out that the Queensland government has outlined millions of dollars of incentives to lure Beacon Pictures to shoot their new film starring Hugh Jackman, The Sea Hawk, in Queensland.

The government rationale for such funding is the prospect of job opportunities. But as CIS Policy Magazine contributor Gene Tunny explains, arts funding pays few employment dividends:

The film industry is not a large employer, and, as would be expected based on the ‘discontinuity and irregularity’ of the industry, many of the jobs are temporary. A recent estimate is that, in Australia, of the 7,000 or so actors and directors who are practising professionals, only 41 per cent, fewer than 3,000, spend at least half their time in industry jobs.

But film funding is nothing more than feel-good funding. It may feel good to have movies filmed here, but should governments really be paying millions to Hollywood producers to shoot films in Australia when we are faced with historically high debt levels and new income taxes like the NDIS levy.  We think the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Posted: 2:27 pm on 19th June 2013

The Australian Financial Review reported yesterday that the government, for some reason, has decided to duplicate existing state government regulatory processes at the federal level:

The Gillard government has conceded that new environmental regulations to require federal approval of coal seam gas and coal projects will essentially duplicate state assessments.

The government also said it would not try and extend these changes to shale gas. The changes, requiring federal assessment of the impact of coal seam gas and coal projects on water, will cost the government $10 million a year to employ 50 new staff.

That’s right.  Taxpayers are going to cough up $10 million a year and pay for 50 new public servants in order to do something they are already paying for through the taxes they pay to the states.

While this case is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to federal/state duplication (the federal departments of health and education being the two prime examples) it is hard to believe that in the current fiscal environment tha obvious cases of waste and duplication are still being created.


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Posted: 10:09 am on 19th June 2013

The Department of Health and Ageing has spent over $60,000 of your money on fridge magnets as part of its ‘Eat for Health’ campaign.

The ‘Eat for Health’ campaign provides ‘advice about the amount and kinds of foods that we need to eat for health and wellbeing’.

At WasteWatch we appreciate the importance of eating well but nothing bugs us more than the nanny state spending our money telling us what to eat.

If you check out the ‘Eat for Health’ website you will find that your money has been spent developing another computer game, this time a ‘Food Balance’ game where players get to “choose healthy foods from the Five Food Groups for meals and snacks for the whole day.”


On top of this preventative health spending, WasteWatch has found that the government has spent $189,000 of your money on a ‘health meals cookbook’ – not only is the government telling us how to eat, it is telling us how to cook as well.

WasteWatch is pretty sure the private sector has this sort of stuff covered.

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Posted: 10:55 am on 18th June 2013

We know from previous WasteWatch posts here and here, that the Australia Unlimited app has cost taxpayers at least $600k and has only had around 14,000 downloads.

That works out to be around $42 per download!

But magazines (even digital ones) are meant to be read for relatively lengthy periods of time, even in the 21st Century.

WasteWatch’s Freedom of Information request returned more data on Australia Unlimited‘s readership.  We discovered that between December 2012 and April 2013:

1.The average session duration is falling – from 57 seconds in January 2013 to 41 seconds in April 2013.

2. 77% of users were new users. Meaning that there are few regular readers.

3. People are using the app less over time – screens views per session ratio has fallen from 3.38 in January 2013 to 1.63 in April 2013.

The bottom line is that Austrade has successfully created a very nice looking taxpayer funded iPhone/iPad app that appears to be failing to attract readers.

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