Posted: 2:15 pm on 15th May 2013

While this years budget has seen cuts to the Baby Bonus and another indexation freeze for family tax benefits, as with any federal budget, there are always little spending measures that are getting more money than they deserve.

Wastewatch has been going through the budget papers and finding all these little budget items that will likely get lost in warm glow surrounding massive new spending measures like the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Off the back of spending $5.5 million advertising the Schoolkids Bonus (which is automatically paid to people getting Family Tax Benefit Part A, meaning that you don’t have to apply for it and paying money to advertise it is the definition of a waste of money), the government is spending $8 million to tell people the Child Care Rebate is not means tested.

Child Care Assistance - Information Campaign

The non-means tested Child Care Rebate is a serious target for further savings from a future government.  Therefore, given this year is an election year, this spending measure should be seen more as an attempt to create a political ‘poison pill’ rather than as a serious attempt at raising public awareness.

Anyway, this is what you are getting for your money:



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Posted: 4:53 pm on 14th May 2013

Following on from our revelations about the $54k crab bridge, we have uncovered a government tender to fix up the electrical wires at the Christmas Island Golf Club for around $47k.

Wastewatch loves its golf, and we welcome the fact that Christmas Islanders seem to like golf too.

While we are confident that the main users of Christmas Island’s golf course are members of the Australian Public Service (who are hosting boat arrivals), we do not think rewiring the Christmas Island Golf Club should be the financial responsibility of the Commonwealth government.

We think the cost of this retrofit should be paid for by the golfers themselves through green fees and memberships, rather than the Australian taxpayer who is already paying for these golfing public servants’ salaries.

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Posted: 11:59 am on 10th May 2013

Citizens of the Australian Capital Territory have coughed up $172k $300k for the Skywhale public art installation to celebrate the Centenary of the founding of Australia’s capital Canberra.

Putting to one side the merits of Canberra existence, the Skywhale is a 34m long, 23m high hot air balloon.


However, if you are thinking that the ACT Government will be able to sell this monstrosity and recoup some of its costs you would be mistaken.  Despite the $172k $300k investment, they don’t own the Skywhale, it is owned by its operator.

It is always worth remembering that the ACT government is the government chosen by the public service for the public service.  And this is what their government is spending their money on… just imagine what they are doing with ours!

UPDATE: Apparently, the $172k figure understates the true cost of this monstrosity and the actual figure is $334k.

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Posted: 1:21 pm on 8th May 2013

While it may come as no surprise that governments have found numerous ways to subsidise trade unions, the hard part is finding out how they do it.

We know that the Australian Electoral Commission covers the cost of internal elections of trade unions and also protected action ballots (at a cost of around $6 million a year).

But WasteWatch has found more subsidies for the trade union movement through the Translating and Interpreting Service.

The Commonwealth spends around $40 million a year on translation services, including free translations for Members of Parliament, general practitioners and medical specialists, some emergency service NGOs and also… trade unions.

Yes, trade unions get taxpayer funded subsidies so they can talk to their members. It would be reasonable to think that union dues would cover these sorts of costs, but no, the taxpayer is picking up the tab.

Unfortunately we can’t put an exact figure on the expenditure just for trade unions but we suspect that it is at least in the hundreds of thousands dollars per year. The dollars might not be that big, but scrapping free translation services for trade unions would still make a good savings measure.

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Posted: 2:04 pm on 7th May 2013

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has expanded its role to funding the arts sector. It appears DFAT is no longer content with focusing on its core issues like international trade and business.

WasteWatch recently dug up a treasure trove of DFAT grants to send Australian artists overseas.

Snuff Puppets, a group who create puppet shows using oversized and absurd puppets, rode the DFAT Grant gravy train in 2012 and 2013 and managed to score four different grants worth $115,720 that sent them to Chile, Peru, Shanghai, and Mumbai.

The grants were probably justified as a component of Australia’s ‘soft power’ projection into the world, but we aren’t sure this is the best use of taxpayer money.

We think that DFAT should get out of the business of arts patronage and to stop using taxpayer money sending puppet shows on around the world working holidays – we have the Australia Council to do that.

For more details on DFAT’s patronage program, check out this website.

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Posted: 9:24 am on 7th May 2013

Catching a cab is expensive and handing over $100 dollars for a trip can leave a hole in your wallet.   It’s worse when you have to foot the bill for taxis you aren’t even catching!

Government spending on taxis and transport is notorious; just ask Peter Slipper!

WasteWatch has been checking out just how much the Commonwealth has been spending on cab fares and we found evidence that they had clocked up over $32 million in taxi fares since 2007.

And that doesn’t include the cost of Comcar, the government’s own private limousine service.

The Australian Taxation Office has been a big spender – in just two years, from July 2011 to June 2013, they spent $13 million on cabs. The Department of Human services also deserves an honourable mention by clocking up over $6.3 million on cabs between July 2010 and June 2013.

Taxpayers could save millions through more widespread use of video and teleconferencing, instead of shuttling public servants from one place to another in cabs.

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Posted: 10:32 am on 6th May 2013

If in a few years a glass of Australian wine tastes better than it does now, you will know who to thank: the Australian taxpayer.

The government has announced $2.4 million to establish a ‘Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production’ at the University of Adelaide to help wine producers ‘tap into new markets like Asia’s growing middle class‘.

If the benefits of China’s growing middle class and its appetite for wine are so profitable for Australia’s wine industry, it would be reasonable to think that the industry could pay for this sort of stuff itself.

As part of the CIS’ TARGET30 campaign, we recommended the abolition of all corporate welfare in order to save taxpayers billions and make the economy more efficient.

This is just one example of the billions government spends on doing things for the private sector that they are more than capable of doing themselves.

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Posted: 10:22 am on 2nd May 2013

If you wanted to get in shape, what would you do?

Or better yet, what should the government do?

The majority of Australians would take responsibility for their own health and to stay in shape.  They might start jogging a few times a week or cycle to work each day.

However for NSW Railcorp staff its a different story…

WasteWatch has found a government tender worth $163,900 to allow around 2,400 Railcorp staff to participate in a Pedometer Challenge.

Is this really the best use of taxpayer funds?

Aren’t they capable of joining the gym and paying their own fees like everyone else?

So not only do some people in government want to control more an dmore of our lives through a broad variety of preventative health measures like fat and sugar taxes, government is already paying for public servants’ get-fit and anti-obesity programs.

When will it ever end?

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Posted: 1:46 pm on 30th April 2013

WasteWatch has found a treasure trove of extravagant spending in the Department of Foreign Affairs grant lists.

One of our favourties is a $31,000 grant to pay for four Japanese scouts and an adult leader to travel to the Queensland Scout Jamboree to establish a ‘pen pals’ program.

While the participants in the program will no doubt love it, we aren’t so sure that this is the best use of public money.   In the digital age, a cheaper way to build a program along these lines is to do it via email or video conferencing.

We found this grant buried in an excel spreadsheet of DFAT grants for 2012-13. You can find a link to this years grant list and previous years’ grants here.

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Posted: 11:25 am on 29th April 2013

Christmas Island is famous for its red crabs and the annual migration from the island’s interior to the sea.

The trip can be a dangerous one and involves crossing roads and other unfriendly obstacles.

To mitigate these dangers, governments have poured money into all sorts of things to help the Christmas Island crabs : fences to divert them from roads, tunnels under roads and even road closures.

However, these all pale in comparison to their latest architectural triumph; the $54k crab bridge!


But given today’s revelations that the budget has a $12 billion hole in it we wonder if spending initiatives like this crab bridge are the best use of taxpayer money.


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