Posted: 1:56 pm on 30th March 2015

versailles-mirrors Maybe it’s because Anthony Albanese’s been etching his opposition to data retention laws into the backs of all the chairs, just to make sure EVERYBODY knows it.

Or maybe it’s because Tony Abbott’s onion breath has finally become too strong.

Or maybe it’s just because of all the (policy) back-flips going on.

All we know is that something is wearing out the furniture in the House of Representatives quicker than you can say “leadership spill.”

Since the beginning of this year, six contracts from the Department of the House of Representatives, worth nearly $690,000 of your money, have been released, all for “office furniture.”

(See here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

WasteWatch is well aware that pollies are used to the beautiful things in life – so long as they don’t have to pay for them – but $690,000 in four months? That’s some serious retail therapy.

Your tax dollars at work!

William Shrubb

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Posted: 1:43 am on 25th March 2015

Happy-Friendship-day-20132Here at WasteWatch we’ve been trawling through some older grants for projects that are due to finish this year, in order to look out for them over the course of 2015.

The ARC’s five year plans have highlighted some curious ways to spend your money.

One of particular interest is a $575,000 grant which started in 2011.  The project clarifies the problem it will solve:

“Disagreements sometimes seem to be about the world, and sometimes seem to be about the right way to conceptualise or talk about the world”.

…and the ways in which Discovery Projects should allocate grants, it seems.

The project will, however, offer ‘a new way to determine which disputes fall into which category, and offers an understanding of the importance of the latter kind of disagreements, and how to resolve them’.

Phew!  Looking forward to seeing the finished product. We are sure this ‘new way’ will help build world peace.

Alex Russell 

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Posted: 11:07 am on 24th March 2015

greyhound It was almost a St Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Within days of the damning Four Corners report into live baiting across the greyhound  industry, aired on 16 February, the entire board of Greyhound Racing NSW was dismissed, and  the entire board of Greyhound Racing Victoria resigned, despite being cleared of wrongdoing  by the Victorian Racing Integrity Commissioner.

The scandal looks set to rock the Australian greyhound industry, but Victorian taxpayers may see an upside to the discovery of the vicious and cruel use of live animals during greyhound training.

As a result of the scandal, last month’s annual Victorian Greyhound Industry Awards Night was scratched.

The wining and dining was set to cost our southern cousins over $300,000.

However, as soon as the live baiting scandal became public, Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula ordered the awards evening to be cancelled, saying, “there is no time for celebration at the moment.” Amen.

Perhaps the $300,000 could just be donated to the RSPCA instead.

What do you think?

William Shrubb

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Posted: 10:05 am on 23rd March 2015

gold-coast-commonwealth-games-logo The Gold Coast still has three years before it hosts the Commonwealth Games, but already the  dollars, and the problems, are flowing.

It’s estimated that the Games will cost the Queensland taxpayer at least $1.3 billion, but the Queensland Auditor-General has described the preparations as “not at the level of maturity required,” and work is already $77.9 million over budget.

It’s not hard to see where all the money is going either.

For example, Broadbeach Bowls Club, which will host the (surprisingly gripping) Lawn Bowls competition, is getting $200,000 upgrade, courtesy of the Queensland taxpayer (see here, and here).

No doubt, top-quality lawn bowls is at the top of the list of priorities for Queenslanders.

WasteWatch can’t wait to see what else our lucky northern cousins will be funding in the years ahead!

William Shrubb

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Posted: 12:18 pm on 19th March 2015

keep-calm-and-use-an-apostrophe A spectre is haunting Australia – the spectre of apostrophes. Or apostrophe’s. We can’t remember. Apostrophes’?

That darned little mark has been the bane of many student’s – oops, students’ – lives, and its misuse generates more internet bile than many seemingly more important problems.

Recognising all this, policy makers around Australia have done the only sensible thing.

They have banded together, and banned it from the public sphere. No geographic names, or place names, will have an apostrophe.

King’s Cross? Nope, that’s in London. Regent’s Park? Same thing. Sydney only has Kings Cross and Regents Park.

Potts’ Point? Heaven forbid.

French’s Forest? Tell him he’s dreamin’.

According to the NSW Guidelines for the determination of placenames and the Victorian Guidelines for Geographic Names, possessive apostrophes in place names are strictly verboten.

One loyal WasteWatcher had a recent run-in with these state government grammar professors.

Developing his family property in northern Melbourne, he convinced the local council to name a road in the new area after his family, who had lived there for 160 years: “Murray’s Place.”

The development proceeded apace, but somewhere down the line, our friend noticed that the road name had morphed into “Murrays Place.”

A quick email to the council elicited the reason. Apostrophes are out these days. Only written approval from the Office of the Registrar for Geographic Names could save the Murray apostrophe from its fate.

Preliminary enquiries established that the Registrar was unwilling to bend the rules laid down so clearly by his Bible, the Guidelines for Geographic Placenames 2010, Version 2. The road was now, and would ever remain, Murrays Place.

One wonders how much time, and taxpayer money, is spent ensuring that placenames around the country are uniformly, and incorrectly, punctuated.

Does anyone have a similar story?

William Shrubb

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Posted: 10:16 am on 13th March 2015

ComputersBrowsing the contracts issued by Government Departments often leaves you with more questions than you had before…namely, who is in charge of brokering and agreeing to them.

Just last week, The Department of Employment signed a contract for the procurement of 100 Dell Latitude Laptops, at the eye-popping price of $288,365. That works out at $2,883.65 per laptop.

Excluding laptops designed to be used in extreme outdoor conditions (presumably not a concern for the Dept. of Employment), $2,883.65 is just about the price of the most expensive Dell Latitude Laptop we could find. It comes with all the most advanced bells and whistles an office computer needs, like an ‘ultra sharp HD video card’.

Worse still, the Department of Employment get through computers fast. Just a year and a half ago they bought another 100 Dell computers for $119,240. At under half the price of last week’s contract, it has to be asked who is in charge of agreeing these deals.

Alex Russell 

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Posted: 12:00 am on 13th March 2015

We bringclean energy you more news from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) who assess the efficacy of, amongst other things, the outcomes of government awarded grants.

While you may still be coming to terms with the ineffective near-billion dollars spent on ethanol over the last decade, here’s another little scoop for you.

The Clean Technology Investment Program was allocated $800 million to “assist manufacturers to invest in energy-efficient capital equipment and low-emissions technologies, processes and products”.

The ANAO appraised the giving of grants unfavourably…and that’s being kind. It stated ” the approach that was taken to assessing applications was not sufficiently focussed on maximising program objectives and treating applicants equitably”

Great! So $800 million dollars of public money was handed out irresponsibly, incoherently and without equal consideration.

The audit continued: “As a result, it was common for funding to be approved for projects that did not have high expectations as to the extent of the reduction in carbon emissions intensity they would deliver”.

The upside of these audits is that the end result should be a more efficient expenditure of public money…We live in hope!

 

Alex Russell 

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Posted: 10:48 am on 6th March 2015

money-air“If you don’t like what’s being said,” ad-man Don Draper once told a prospective client, “change the conversation.”

Joe Hockey seems to be taking a leaf out of the Mad Men playbook.

At your expense, of course.

According to a recent Fairfax Media article, the Treasurer thinks the Australian public has insufficient reformist zeal.

To counter this disastrous situation, he is about to embark on a $650,000 attempt to “convince people of the need” for tax reform, in a spending blitz unveiled at a recent Senate estimates committee hearing.

Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, claims that the blitz is “more an engagement strategy than an advertising campaign,” but New South Wales Labor Senator Sam Dastyari said:

Joe Hockey is bribing the Australian people with half a million bucks of their own money. It looks like the Mad Men of the Abbott government have asked the Mad Men of the Australian advertising industry to pitch their tax ideas.

The blitz follows hot on the heels of the news that the federal government’s higher education advertising campaign is going to cost taxpayers twice as much as expected.

It doesn’t matter who is in government this advertising game never stops, the taxpayer well never seems to run dry.

William Shrubb

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Posted: 10:47 am on 6th March 2015

dreamingWe bring you news of the Future Fellowships scheme. It claims to support research in areas of critical national importance by giving outstanding researchers incentives to conduct their research in Australia.

With this in mind, here’s a five year grant from 2014 that has been awarded $843,142.00.

Wowzer! It really must be critically and nationally important to warrant nearly one million dollars worth of funding. What could it be?

Well…WasteWatch is here to tell you that this particular project “aims to uncover the development of dream interpretation from Classical Antiquity through early Christianity to early Islam and give an understanding of how dreams and visions were used as tools of religious control and as justification of violence against other religions”.

A highly interesting research project but by 2018 what will be the outcome of the grant?  In the current climate our tax dollars may be better spent trying to work out what young radicals in the 21st century are dreaming of when they leave our shores.

 

Alex Russell 

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Posted: 12:01 pm on 4th March 2015

friendsI know at WasteWatch we go on about the ARC grants but they keep giving.  Now we love it when people get along, but a $179, 700 tax-payer funded investigation into being friendly is pushing it.

Especially when the friends being investigated died 500 years ago and are from the Apennine peninsula.

The grant gave one lucky researcher the chance to examine “concord among humanists, philosophers, theologians, poets and political writers during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in the Italian peninsula”.

A true motley crew!

But fear not, the ARC are also looking out for you and me.

To help us understand, they have invested in compassion too. A $397,900 grant to “test whether empathy relies upon us simulating the emotion of others in ourselves” will be completed in 2018.

By then WasteWatch will be as concordant with the ARC as Machiavelli was with Vettori… we hope.

Alex Russell 

 

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