Posted: 11:10 am on 24th May 2013

When it comes to tax rebates and government subsidies, the great American novel The Great Gatsby, is an Australian movie, according to a recent report in The Australian ($):

AUSTRALIA is the last major territory in the world to see The Great Gatsby. Yet it is ostensibly an Australian film, qualifying for the federal government’s producer offset where 40 per cent of qualifying Australian expenditure is paid for by the government. The total contribution to the $US190 million ($194m) film by Australian governments, when combined with state incentives, is reportedly $US80m-plus.

But don’t worry.  If you believe the NSW government, apparently the economic benefits will more than cover the cost of the movie.  In 2011, the Australian Financial Review reported that the economic benefits from The Great Gatsby would be of the order of $340m ($):

It is credited with injecting $340 million into the NSW economy and partially reversing the film-production drought. The NSW government has estimated the overall impact of the film, which commenced principle photography at Fox last week, at almost three times its $120 million budget.

Even if the reports of massive economic benefits are accurate (and we are not sure that they are) is this the best use of taxpayer money?

It strikes us that this is just a redistribution of wealth.  Firstly there is a transfer of wealth to the Hollywood stars earning mega-millions and secondly to the Australian film industry who can’t seem to attract these movies on merit.

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Posted: 10:27 am on 23rd May 2013

You may have of already heard of the upcoming referendum to recognise local government in the Australian Constitution, but you may not of heard of the $11.6 million the government is spending to educate you about it.

Unfortunately, it seems that the government ministers themselves may require some more education about their proposed constitutional amendment.

Constitutional expert Anne Twomey wrote a good takedown here of Anthony Albanese’s understanding of his own proposal (given that he is the local government minister this is worrying), which is to expand the powers of government to allow it to grant financial assistance to any State or local government “on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit”.

University of Melbourne law professor Cheryl Saunders, also attacks the measure as a bad idea here.

It seems that government ministers should take some time out to educate themselves on the nature of their own constitutional amendment rather than spending taxpayer’s money to educate taxpayers about how they want government to spend taxpayer’s money on local government.

Referendum on Local Government

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Posted: 3:03 pm on 21st May 2013

The Conversation is an independent news website that sources its authors from within the academic and research community.

The idea behind the site is a worthy one, it makes the work of academic experts more accessible to the general public.  This recent piece by constitutional expert Anne Twomey on the local government referendum is a good example of the sorts of things they publish.

Despite already being supported indirectly by taxpayers through universities, the government has coughed up another $2 million of your money.

The irony is that The Conversation aims to be independent, including from government, but is also now dependent on government money. Since when did independence from government require government funding?


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Posted: 1:28 pm on 20th May 2013

Following on from last week’s WasteWatch post on the $20 million in corporate welfare for the Australian computer games industry outlined in the Budget, we have found that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has developed a new computer game called Run that Town using 2011 Census data.

Dan Runs Bondi

WasteWatch hasn’t played the game yet, but it looks like it is some kind of SimCity clone, and according to some early reviews of the game, it is quite a good one.

But getting good reviews doesn’t mean it is the best use of taxpayer money.  In its efforts to market its wares to younger generations, the government departments and agencies are looking at new approaches, which include developing viral videos and games.

Take for example, this $76k government tender to develop a nanotechnology game or this $20k tender to develop a DNA sequencing game, or this $23k spent to develop a game for the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority.

Do Australians pay taxes to make games aimed at marketing government services back to taxpayers?  Is this the best way to spend taxpayer dollars?  We aren’t sure that it is.

We haven’t managed to find a price sticker on how much Run that Town game cost taxpayers, but we will let you know when we do.

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Posted: 1:59 pm on 16th May 2013

Australia has compulsory voting and the penalty for not voting is a nominal fine.

But this hasn’t stopped the government announcing spending $7.3 million on a ‘Pre-election Enrolment Stimulation and Information Campaign’, to remind everyone that it is easier to vote now than ever before.

Pre-election Enrolment Stimulation and Information Campaign

And if the $8 million the government is spending advertising the fact that the Child Care Rebate is not means tested was not enough, the government is also spending $10 million in the lead up to the election to ‘inform Australians about the benefits of Medicare and health related services…’.

All this advertising spending in an election year begs the question: what is the government really advertising?

Medicare - Communications Campaign

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Posted: 11:43 am on 16th May 2013

The Budget confirmed just how much money it will cost Australian taxpayers to get Brad Pitt to film his new film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo… $21.6 million.

The average Australian working full time earns about $70,000 a year and pays around $15,347 in tax.  Which is equivalent to more than 1,400 Australians working for a full year to pay the income tax required to ensure this movie is made in Australia.

That’s roughly equivalent to the population of a small suburb or a small regional town.

The government is also spending another $20.8 million to address skills shortages in the arts industry, with increased funding for ballet, circus, dance and drama organisations.  These are your tax dollars at work.

Filming 20000 leagues under the sea contribution

Funding for Arts Training Organisations

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Posted: 4:53 pm on 15th May 2013

This years budget also has a splash of corporate welfare for the Tasmanian electorate of Kingston.

Taxpayers are forking out $4 million to expand, of all things, a call centre run by the Vodafone Hutchinson Australia company.

Tasmania’s reputation as the beggar state of Australia is not without foundation, and this largesse enhances that reputation (to see just how bad the situation is, check out this article by Andrew Baker which outlines the $100m subsidy Tasmanians get for living in Tasmania).

Vodaphone Hutchinson Australia - Tasmanian call centre expansion



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Posted: 4:00 pm on 15th May 2013

In terms of annual revenue the computer game industry surpassed the film industry many years ago, but despite the extraordinary sums of money available to the savvy entrepreneur, the government has decided to step in and ‘help’.

The 2013-14 Budget contains $20m over three years to establish the Australian Interactive Games Fund to ‘help support the development of the interactive video games industry in Australia’.

Just think, the next time you buy an Australian made game for your iphone, you may be paying for it twice, once with your before tax income and again with your after tax income.

Australian Interactive Games Fund

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Posted: 3:17 pm on 15th May 2013

The Budget should have enough pork to keep government aligned Independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor from voting against it in a no-confidence motion until the election this September.

Tony Windsor’s electorate of New England is getting $540k for three projects to support community associations in Armidale, Inverell and Werris Creek.Community infrastructure projects in Armidale, Inverell and Werris Creek

By comparison, Rob Oakeshott may have felt he got dudded when he found out that he only got $412k for three ‘youth, community and cultural projects in his electorate of Lyne.

Community infrastructure projects in Manning Valley Port Macq and Hastings Valley

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Posted: 2:57 pm on 15th May 2013

The 2013-14 Budget has new funding for not one but two new think tanks.

The government is providing $4.6 million over four years to set up the Andrew Fisher Applied Policy Institute for Ageing.  Andrew Fisher was Prime Minister of Australia on three seperate occassions from 1908 to 1915, during which time the foundations of the Australian welfare state were established (namely the Age Pension and the Invalid Pension).

While WasteWatch thinks tackling the growing cost of Australia’s ageing population is extremely important, we don’t need another government funded think tank to do the work.  The government should have just checked out The Centre for Independent Studies’ TARGET30 welfare report or CIS Research Fellow Stephen Kirchner’s work on superannuation to get ideas for reforming our system of retirement savings.

Andrew Fisher Applied Policy Institute for Ageing

The government is also providing $3 million to establish a Tax Studies Institute at the Australian National University.  Again, the CIS has been working towards tax reform for decades.  Instead of spending more of other people’s money, they could have just read the work of CIS Senior Fellows Robert Carling and Peter Saunders.

Tax Studies Institute - establishment

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