Posted: 10:11 am on 2nd March 2015

Fracking In California Under Spotlight As Some Local Municipalities Issue BansAccording to a recent article in the Australian Financial Review, Screen Australia, Screen Queensland, and Screen West, and you too, are contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to an anti-fracking documentary called Frackman.

The documentary tracks Queensland resident, “pig shooter and accidental activist” Dayne Pratzsky on his escapades, including trespassing on private land, and getting arrested at anti-fracking protests.

So far, Screen Australia has invested $200,000 of your money in the film, plus giving it a $435,000 tax credit offered to films with significant Australian content and expenditure.

Screen Queensland has invested $220,000 of taxpayer money, while Screen West has contributed $156,000.

Former Queensland Arts Minister, Ian Walker, pointed out that Screen Queensland was an independent body, and its decisions were not based on political criteria, but on artistic merit, but we still have a few questions.

WasteWatch is neither for nor against fracking; we will leave that debate to people who know more about it. And we are not suggesting for one second that the film ought not to be made or screened.

But forcing the taxpayer to fund it, when it has already taken a side in a controversial question of public policy? We wonder if that might not be a bit much.

Steve Wright, a director of the Energy Resource Information Centre, seems to have already made up his mind. He calls the film “an anti-industry campaign tool,” and “a big element of the activist toolkit” in the anti-fracking campaign.

What do you think?

William Shrubb

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Posted: 7:54 am on 27th February 2015

signpostThe Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) is turning heads here at WasteWatch.

Its aim is to facilitate local partnerships between all levels of government and local communities; and provide good governance in the Australian territories.

Sounds great, right?

In keeping with their aims, a sum of $79,200 has been granted to deliver Road Safety Awareness courses in… Indonesia.

Huh? Indonesia?

While we celebrate globalisation here at WasteWatch, we can’t help feeling that entirely separate sovereign nations don’t quite fall under the remit of facilitating local partnerships with local communities.

Call us pedantic but it seems that in searching for the Great Ocean Road, the DIRD found themselves on The Silk Road instead!


Alex Russell 

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Posted: 10:12 am on 23rd February 2015

liberty_delcroixTo arms, dear readers! The honour of WasteWatch has been maligned.

We are now, according to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, part of a merry band of anti-intellectual “right-wing inquisitors” grinding evidence-based policy-making into the dust with our “crib guides to Hayek, von Mises, and Milton Friedman.”

The trigger for this outburst seems to be the latest product of the Canberra rumour-mill: the suggestion that there may not be enough money in the upcoming federal budget to pay for the 2016 census to be conducted in the same way past censuses have been conducted.

The Guardian article is stirring stuff. Censuses are celebrated as the foundation of everything good, from “sewered streets and lights” to sociology and, apparently, Christianity.

In the naughty corner are the usual suspects — the CIS and the IPA — who are supposedly aligned with the Abbott government in an unholy trinity of conservatism, “blind to the value of others’ intellectual endeavours when they do not accord with [our] firm prior commitments,” and “chuckl[ing] luridly at any sense of genuine inquiry.”

Our sin, it seems, dates back to last October, when we dared to publish a story about the $110,000 of your money that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has spent building and advertising a free app, called Run That Town, where players can make imaginary planning decisions in various neighbourhoods, based on data from the 2011 census.

WasteWatch never advocated abolishing or radically revising the census, but we did suggest that this game was possibly not the best use of taxpayer money.

Naturally, the Guardian became hot under the collar, and courageously leapt to the ABS’ defence, ruing the day we ever “cloak[ed ourselves] in borrowed academic robes” and strode forth to destroy the origins of Christianity and sewerage.

If we weren’t allegedly so busy indulging in the “privileged giggling of the unimaginative”, we might point out to the Guardian that evidence-based policy is one of the cornerstones of the CIS. WasteWatch might even dare to point out that the proposal to change the way the census runs came from the ABS itself, and not our unholy hands.

And we would agree with the ABS that spending $440 million of taxpayer money on a census, just because King Herod might have appreciated it, doesn’t qualify as a good example of evidence-based policy, if there is a cheaper, more efficient way of getting similarly reliable information.

But the Guardian knows all this already, they just didn’t want to let the evidence base get in the way of a good story.

So we will take our “desiccated attitude towards government and governance” back to our favourite task of apparently undermining “the basic foundations of the modern state.”

We’ll let you know when we’re done.

William Shrubb

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Posted: 8:17 am on 23rd February 2015

friendsIt seems that friendliness and empathy are the à la mode topics at the Australian Reseach Council for 2015.

Never one to be partisan though, the ARC obviously feel that in light of their forage into renaissance Italian mates and a quest for compassion, the scales of Lady Justice were balanced unevenly in favour of good vibes.

To remedy this, they’ve granted $182,600 to learn about the negative aspects of being a nagging neighbour.

It states that “very little is known about the negative side of neighbouring and no research has been conducted on its nature, causes and outcomes. This project examines unneighbourliness as an empirical and sociological problem in four suburban contexts”

Franklin P. Jones thought there was an easy away to avoid all the problems ‘unneighbourliness’ entails, however. “Nothing makes you more tolerant of a neighbour’s noisy party than being there”, he said.


Alex Russell

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Posted: 1:00 pm on 17th February 2015

soybeansThe Australian Research Council’s obsession with China just keeps boomeranging back to us here at WasteWatch.

There was the $183,000 spent researching the rural workers of China, a $133,514 grant to study Chinese prostitution, and who could forget $246,000 to gain greater insight into Chinese celebrity?

Well, not wanting to buck the trend, the ARC have continued their intrepid exploration into all things Chinese, this time in the name of historical studies…and soybeans.

$154, 978 has been granted in pursuit of analysing ‘…the changing importance of soy as Manchuria transitioned from Japanese to Chinese rule’.

You read that correctly, don’t worry.

The bean held dear by coeliac coffee drinkers around the world demands a substantial amount of taxpayer money because both Japan and China ‘… established mechanisms to control the soy economy, direct its proceeds to private wealth and regional development and increase production through development, reorganization or coercion’.

Riveting stuff to read over your morning cappuccino…with soy milk, of course.


Alex Russell 



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Posted: 10:56 am on 16th February 2015


Woops! You may recall back in October we brought news of 369 tablets sitting unused in the Department of Human Services just waiting to be re-homed.

Well, unfortunately it appears that those at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau don’t read WasteWatch otherwise they could perhaps have saved themselves some money.

A contract published in January shows that $19,514.77 was spent on procuring Microsoft Surface Pro 3s.

It seems communication is a bit of a problem for ATSB, they failed to respond to WasteWatch’s email regarding the contract, which simply asked how many tablets they received for just short of $20,000.

Allow us to quote our precognitive selves from the aforementioned October article:

“Wastewatch thinks that . . . the large swathes of electrical equipment wasting away could be re-allocated elsewhere”

Well…at least they will know for next time.

Alex Russell


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Posted: 11:26 am on 11th February 2015

Australian-FlagRemember ‘Citizenship Day’?

That special day, September 17, set aside by the Howard government to “reflect on and celebrate being an Australian citizen”?

That special day that has, so far, hoovered up nearly $2 million of your money?

Well, the citizenship celebrations are back.

You see, last year was the 65th anniversary of the coming into force of the Nationality and Citizenship Act, which established Australian citizenship for the first time.

We’ve celebrated this law before, of course.

In 2009, we celebrated its diamond jubilee by designing a special $1 coin.

Ten years before that, in what seems like a rather joyless celebration by comparison, we created a special postage stamp, some lapel pins, and a statistical booklet about the 1996 census, in case anyone was having trouble sleeping that year.

This time round, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has decided that some commemorative plaques will do nicely.

It’s unlikely you’ll ever get your hands on one – they’re probably reserved for places where only public servants and pollies will ever get to see them – but you’re definitely paying for them, to the tune of nearly $40,000.

Everyone repeat after us:

From this time forward,

I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its plaques,

Whose cost I share,

Whose terribly important function I respect, and

Whose hanging-places I will uphold.

William Shrubb

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Posted: 10:40 am on 10th February 2015

flagThe Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade naturally works to promote Australia, and rightly so.

But it seems to come at quite a cost.

Browsing through their awarded grants of 2012/13 exposed that $40,000 was gifted to Grainger TV in accordance with the Council on Australia-Latin American Relations (COALAR).

Whatever for?

“The dubbing of four episodes of Travel Oz in Spanish and Portuguese for showing on cable TV in Latin America and for use by Australian Embassies.”

With each episode lasting 90 minutes, that comes in at a cool $6,666.66/hr of footage, or $111.11/ minute…

Not exactly pocket change.

Alex Russell 

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Posted: 10:36 am on 10th February 2015

embarrassedThere might be some red faces around the federal Health Department at the moment.

WasteWatch has unearthed a cryptic little contract, worth just over $11,000 of your money, for what could be a pretty costly moment of absent-mindedness.

See, the contract is for “EDW Forgot Password Reset Functionality.”

An EDW is an ‘enterprise data warehouse.’ They are big databases that companies and governments use to store all the information they’ve gathered from all their different transactions. They then analyse all this disparate information to see if they can pick up any useful patterns.

All of which is fantastic, and can reveal counter-intuitive behaviours in consumers, or patients, and improve that rarest of gems: evidence-based policy-making.

But it kind of requires you to know what the password to the database is.

Anybody who has ever been locked out of their email account, or their apartment building, or their online banking site, knows the perils of the modern fascination with passwords.

It seems like this modern plague has struck again.

What exactly happened isn’t quite clear from the contract description, but one of WasteWatch’s techie friends suggests that possibly the Health Department forgot its master password, and needed someone to come in and reset it without wiping the database, or maybe that the Health Department bought a software program that didn’t include a function for staff who forgot their passwords, and so they had to pay someone to add one in.

The Health Department has not responded to WasteWatch’s requests for clarification, so, for the moment, the exact details of this affair will remain murky.

At least one word seems like a pretty clear summary though: oops!

William Shrubb

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Posted: 9:13 am on 5th February 2015

poppinsilhouetteHow many spoonfuls of sugar will it take to help this news go down?

Just before its abolition after the 2013 federal election, the Department of Energy, Resources and Tourism snuck out a few more grants.

As part of its Tourism Quality Projects program, the Department handed a casual $26,400 of your money to the Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council to facilitate the building of a very important statue in the middle of Bowral.

The statue, of course, will be a bronze depiction of Mary Poppins.

Apparently Bowral is the birthplace of Helen Lyndon Goff (pen name P.L. Travers), the fictional flying nanny’s creator.

According to the Arts Council:

By erecting an elegant life-size bronze statue of Mary Poppins as commemorative public art, this project will highlight the hidden depths of Australia’s history and literary heritage for visitors from all over the world.

It seems that Mary isn’t the only thing that can blow in on the East Wind though. Grants from the taxpayer can too!

Alex Russell

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