Posted: 10:16 am on 30th January 2015

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Remember the recent $183,000 of your money the Australian Research Council gave to one lucky academic to study China’s rural migrant workers, in order to “demonstrate unequivocally that love and romance are far from ‘trivial’ for these individuals”?

It seems the ARC has long had a curious interest in our great northern neighbour.

However, two projects from back in 2009 indicate that the ARC may not have taken its responsibility to support projects with “cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits for all Australians” very seriously back then either!

The first handout, a $133,514 study entitled  Governing Prostitution in the People’s Republic of Chinamaintained it would produce “the first detailed study of the governmental regulation  of prostitution in present day China.”

Phew! We were definitely missing that. Who needs improved infrastructure and safer roads, when you can have your tax dollars spent on learning how President Xi governs and regulates prostitution?

The project also aimed to “position Australian research at the international forefront of this field,” so we can expect plenty more taxpayer-funded prostitution ‘research’ in the future.

It reminds WasteWatch of the Australian Taxation Office’s famous taxpayer-funded visits to some of Sydney’s most prestigious pole-dancing establishments.

The second ARC study cost a mere $246,000 of your money. Entitled Being famous in China: Celebrities,  Heroes and public figures, it aimed to study the “mechanisms by which celebrity and fame have been performed and mobilised,” and promised to produce “a foundation upon which a more global conception of celebrity can be developed.”

A priority of the Australian electorate, we’re sure!

Alex Russell

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Posted: 10:27 am on 28th January 2015

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Government advertising costs have always been one of WasteWatch’s bugbears.

Finally,  it seems we’re not alone!

Last week Fairfax Media broke the news that the federal government’s higher education advertising campaign is set to cost taxpayers twice as much as previous estimates:

“The total budget for the campaign was revealed by Auditor-General Ian McPhee following complaints by independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Labor’s higher education spokesman, Kim Carr.

The Department of Education and Training advised Mr McPhee that the government had budgeted $14.6 million for the campaign.

This includes $9.5 million on media placements, $2.3 million on creative development and $1.3 million on the campaign website, excluding GST.”

The article quotes Senator Xenophon:

“This was an absolute waste of taxpayer funds – both sides of politics do it when they are in power. It should be illegal to spend taxpayer money promoting legislation that has not passed through Parliament.”

Hear, hear!

Read more here, and check out WasteWatch’s other stories on government advertising costs here.

William Shrubb

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Posted: 8:51 am on 27th January 2015

money-airThey’re tenacious, you’ve got to give them that.

See, the Australian Taxation Office has obviously just begun yet another campaign to set the cinematic world alight.

Remember their first $30,000 animated effort?

Or their second $50,000 effort, including a rip-snorter of an interview about the cash economy with ATO Senior Assistant Commissioner Michael Hardy?

Well, it seems like ATO videos, like the Punic Wars, come in threes.

Details about this latest campaign remain sketchy at this point, but the price tag is clear: nearly $60,000 of your money will be spent on “video development” for some YouTube clips.

For that kind of money, you could make Clerks twice over, or Paranormal Activity FOUR times!

Maybe the ATO is finally in with a shot at the Palme d’Or this time…

William Shrubb

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Posted: 10:31 am on 21st January 2015

 

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The Australian Research Council is a pretty fertile hunting-ground for WasteWatch.

The ARC have just released the details of their latest round of Discovery Project grants, which are designed to “deliver cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits to all Australians.”

Sometimes this aspiration seems to be, as Hamlet said, more honoured in the breach than the observance.

Of course, most of the projects deliver benefits to someone.

For example, sensitive and single high school boys around the nation will no doubt be thrilled by the $154,000 investigation by two philosophy professors into that age-old question: do “nice guys finish last”? Their “empirical investigation of the circumstances in which moral behaviour can have harmful side-effects” will give lifestyle blogs enough new content to last for years.

Or what about the $183,000 study of China’s rural migrant workers, which will “demonstrate unequivocally that love and romance are far from ‘trivial’ for these individuals”? The mind boggles.

A particular favourite, however, is the $333,000 history of… opinion polls. Not only can our day-to-day life be blighted by the constant pressures of short-termist, poll-driven politicians, now we get to fork out for the privilege of watching their corrosive impact over the last 75 years too!

Your tax dollars at work.

William Shrubb

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Posted: 2:42 pm on 20th January 2015

money-airWe couldn’t let you miss this story in The Canberra Times.    

Angst from ATO public servants over how long it took to change an office lightbulb

‘The number of public servants it takes to change a little bulb is quite a few.

The Australian Taxation Office now no longer pulls out one or two light tubes from the roof if staff are complaining about brightness, according to internal correspondence. In fact, it can turn into a lengthy bureaucratic process and has caused angst among ATO staff.

The internal emails show staff sent dozens of messages and spent several months debating what should be done when staff complained about bright overhead lights. ‘  Read more

 

 

 

 

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Posted: 8:56 am on 19th January 2015

research-paper-writing1-300x200Ah, WasteWatch loves the smell of Australian Research Council grants in the morning!

The ARC is supposed to support projects that have “cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits for all Australians.”

Perhaps encouraged by reading our previous coverage of ARC grants, the incoming Abbott government promised to evaluate grant applications more thoroughly than previous governments.

We think they still have a way to go.

Not only must someone in the Abbott government have a Renaissance fetish, they also have some other strange tastes in research.

One of WasteWatch’s favourites is the study of doctoral and master’s graduates conducted by… doctoral and master’s graduates! It’s a steal, at only $313,000. No doubt that will buy many coffees, as academics congregate on campuses around the country to ponder the “wasteful attrition” of their research degree candidates, and mull over the reasons for their own conspicuous success.

The project claims it will contribute “theoretically, methodologically, and substantively in order to advance understanding of researcher development.” In other fields, that’s called ‘navel-gazing,’ isn’t it?

Or what about the $42,000 of your money that one lucky historian received to do some First World War research, on the basis that “1915’s battles are little known”? Such a claim probably comes as a surprise to anyone who has heard of the Second Battle of Ypres, or the Battle of Loos, or this little place called Gallipoli.

Some of the academics are becoming surprisingly ‘meta’ too. One lucky one will receive $180,000 worth of grant money to research ‘grantsmanship’. Yes, that’s the practice of applying for grants.

Struggling to see the cultural, economic, social or environmental benefits? Join the club.

William Shrubb

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Posted: 1:41 pm on 18th December 2014

airportThere’s just something about airports, isn’t there?

That sense of adventure and exploration in the air.

The halls filled with throngs of eager travellers.

The taxpayer-funded visits to the business class lounge.

Wait, what?

See, the Future Fund Management Agency has recently signed a one-year contract with Brisbane-based corporate travel giant FCm Travel Solutions for “business airline travel.”

In the course of that one year, from April 2014 to April 2015, the Future Fund will spend a whopping $1.3 million of taxpayer money.

Unfortunately, the Fund won’t be required to write on how it spent its travel money.

Nevertheless, WasteWatch wishes the Fund happy travels, as it takes its taxpayer-funded flights round the country to inspect its taxpayer-funded investments.

What larks.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 1:38 pm on 17th December 2014

New_York_TaxiIt has been over a year since WasteWatch last checked up on the Commonwealth government’s cab addiction.

As of May 7 last year, the federal government had racked up $32 million worth of taxi fares over about six years.

WasteWatch hates to say it, but it doesn’t seem like that trend has changed.

In the fourteen months months since we last checked, the federal government has spent nearly $18 million ferrying people around at the taxpayer’s expense.

Once again, the Australian Tax Office wins the award for most profligate, racking up a bill of over $10 million.

The Department of Human Services comes in second, with just over $4.1 million, while the Australian Communications and Media Authority (of carbon-neutral sticky notepad fame) claims the bronze medal, spending just over $1 million.

If only the government had invested vast sums of money in building internet infrastructure, and advertising teleworking.

Wait a minute…

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 3:02 pm on 12th December 2014

sausage-sizzle-pictureA time-honoured plank of Australian culture is under threat in New South Wales.

The ancient sausage-sizzle-after-Saturday-sport tradition (“such stuff as dreams are made on”) is firmly in the sights of the NSW Health Department.

Having signed on to the Healthy Eating and Active Living Strategy 2013-2018, the latest in a series of obesity reports and plans, the Department clearly feels obliged to throw good money after bad.

The latest spending is a $165,000 contract for a “digital media strategy” for the Department’s big new idea: the Finish with the Right Stuff campaign.

This campaign is designed to encourage sports clubs across the state to stop offering sausage sizzles after sports games, and provide tofu, quinoa, activated almonds and goji berries at reduced prices instead.

So even while the Australian National Preventative Health Agency (one of WasteWatch’s favourite targets) slips gradually into the Great Public Service in the Sky, the fight will continue.

Sausage sizzlers, unite! You have nothing to lose but your nannies!

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 8:25 am on 9th December 2014

plantIt is a jungle in Canberra and we are not talking about politics and parliament. The jungle we have found is in the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) who is spending $66, 641.04 of taxpayer money over the next 3 years on ‘interior plant landscaping’.

We thought the federal budget explained the need for us all to ‘tighten our belt’. Surely this three year contract that works out at just over $427 every week to water and maintain (sorry, landscape) plants would have been a good place to start!

It seems that both sides of Parliament are fond of greenery. Our regular readers will remember the government spending spree back in July of this year. Since then the bill might have reduced somewhat, but the government is still spending a large amount of our money on what we would classify as a ‘would be nice but not essential’ item.

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