Posted: 2:03 pm on 4th July 2014

Indoor-Ornamental-PlantWasteWatch needs some gift advice.

What do you get the federal public servant who already has everything?

See, this one already has a taxpayer-funded Foxtel subscription.

And super-comfy chairs to watch from.

And free yoga classes.

And a $14,000 coffee table.

And expensive coffee machines.

And free experiential poetry sessions.

WasteWatch was thinking of getting them a nice indoor plant for their office, but it turns out that’s a bit old-hat too.

See, the federal government has been spending up on indoor plants.

Naturally, the Department of the Environment has forked out the most, spending nearly $500,000 of taxpayer money over a five-year contract.

However, they were given a run for their (our?) money by the old Department of Education, Science, and Training, which racked up a $420,000 bill in a little over a year.

Even the Australian Crime Commission has gotten on the bandwagon, spending $106,000 over four years.

So WasteWatch is totally stumped now.

Any suggestions?

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 12:27 pm on 26th June 2014

crab_bridgeChristmas Island’s $54,000 crab bridge caused a bit of a stir when WasteWatch wrote about it early last year.

Readers from opposite ends of the crab spectrum offered their thoughts.

“It’s easy to sneer at actions taken to protect other species, but it is necessary to protect biodiversity and, ultimately, own our survival,” wrote one.

“I think someone should sponsor a crab boil fundraiser on the other side of the bridge,” wrote another.

Well, WasteWatch is going to stir the pot again.

See, the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has recently spent another $11,000 repairing the crab’s transit routes.

Do you think this a useful way of spending taxpayer money?

Those lucky crabs already received four concrete ground crossings back in 2011 for a whopping $230,000 (thanks, taxpayers!), and a fence for $160,000.

Let the hunger games begin…

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 5:27 pm on 24th June 2014

movie compRemember the ATO’s recent $50,000 video on the cash economy?

WasteWatch could barely keep its eyes open, and yet, at the time of writing, the video had received nearly 6,000 hits on YouTube.

And that certainly puts a Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development video to shame.

See, the Department recently spent about $70,000 of taxpayer money producing a YouTube clip detailing the Abbott government’s infrastructure spending, according to a recent estimates hearing in front of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee.

So far, only half the number of people who have watched the ATO’s offering have watched the Department’s video.

And that works out to be about $22 per view.

But creating true cinematic glory can be an expensive enterprise, and WasteWatch certainly respects that. Don’t you agree?

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 12:32 pm on 20th June 2014

chairYou’d better sit down to read this.

Remember the world’s most expensive conference chairs for the G20 meetings in Brisbane later this year?

Well, the Great Australian Chair Plague of 2014 hasn’t stopped there.

In April this year, the disease was discovered in Canberra, as Geoscience Australia racked up a $45,000 bill for designer meeting room chairs.

It struck again recently, as the Clean Energy Regulator spent $53,000 of taxpayer money on their own extra-special meeting room chairs.

Medical experts are at a loss to explain this sudden desire from public servants for lots of hyper-expensive designer chairs, but have confirmed fears that the words “taxpayer-funded” are likely only to aggravate the illness.

WasteWatch wishes its readers all the best for pulling through the dark days ahead.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 10:33 am on 12th June 2014

coinsSenate estimates committee hearings can be trying experiences for all involved. However, every so often, a nugget of gold emerges.

At a little after 10.30pm on Tuesday 3 June,  Ross MacDiarmid from the Royal Australian Mint made his debut before the Senate Economics Legislation Committee.

The evening was proceeding smoothly, until NSW Labor Senator Sam Dastyari asked Mr MacDiarmid how much it costs the Mint to produce its coins. The following exchange is worth reproducing in full:

Senator Dastyari: I am going to ask you a very odd question: what does a $2 coin or a 50c coin actually cost to produce?

Mr MacDiarmid : A $2 coin will cost us around 20-odd cents to produce, and the 50c will be somewhere in the range of 12c to 15c.

Chair: What about a 5c coin?

Mr MacDiarmid : Six cents.

Chair: That is why I was asking—I did not know the answer, but I suspected it might be that.

Senator Dastyari: A 5c coin costs 6c to produce?

Senator Cormann: So there is obviously some scope for improved efficiencies.

You think?

Last year, the Royal Australian Mint produced 68.7 million 5c coins, which adds up to $3,435,000.

However, according to Mr MacDiarmid’s answer, these coins would have cost the Australian taxpayer $4,122,000, meaning we sustained a loss of $687,000.

What’s that old saying? Something about looking after pennies, and the pounds looking after themselves?

At least now we know where that budget black-hole is coming from!

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 2:26 pm on 11th June 2014

technologySomeone in the Napthine government must read WasteWatch.

In a rebuke to WasteWatch’s insinuations that the Victorian government would deploy only low-grade sports-themed pork-barrelling techniques to claw back the November election, $3 million has just been set aside for ICT-themed pork-barrelling.

According to The Age, among the funded initiatives in the ICT Workplace Development Plan are:

a technology graduate employment program in the public service, practical technology advice for small and medium businesses, career and course awareness activities targeting students and support for technology events targeting women.

However, the pork-barrelling comes at a time when domestic enrolments in ICT courses are plummeting, as jobs move offshore and salaries stagnate.

The Plan probably won’t make a whit of difference either; Matt Barrie of Freelancer.com says similar past initiatives have had “abysmal” results.

Perhaps the Napthine government will be measuring results in votes rather than ICT enrolments…

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 2:07 pm on 5th June 2014

money-airDealing with the NSW planning authorities might well be at the top of any renovator’s list of nightmares.

But fear not: The NSW government knows there is a problem and is working on a reform agenda.

Not the same reform agenda that successive NSW governments have been tinkering with since at least 2003.

This one is very different.

And to show how serious this government is about delivering on the promise of reform, they’ve signed a $306,900 contract to get the ball rolling.

Sort of.

See, the contract is not about the delivery of the Planning Reform Agenda.

Neither is it for help from an existing Program Management Office to assist the delivery of the Planning Reform Agenda.

It is not even for the establishment of a new Program Management Office to assist the delivery of the Planning Reform Agenda.

The $306,900 contract is for a “roadmap” for the establishment of a new Program Management Office to assist the delivery of the Planning Reform Agenda.

WasteWatch can’t wait to see what the costs are for actually doing anything about the Planning Reform Agenda.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 10:25 am on 3rd June 2014

airplaneTaxpayer-funded travel is surely one of the biggest perks of being a pollie.

Remember the $50,000-an-hour pollie shuttle?

Or WasteWatch’s paean to the old Parliamentarians’ Overseas Study Travel Reports?

Well, it seems that Tasmanian Labor Senator Helen Polley wanted in on the action.

Senator Polley has racked up a travel bill of nearly $30,000 of taxpayer money on 20 charter flights between Launceston and Hobart between February 2011 and March 2013, according to documents from the Finance Department.

The Senator has defended her travel expenditure, saying:

Although I am based in Launceston, many of the meetings and constituent issues I have to attend to are in Hobart or elsewhere in the state.

However, as Liberal Bass MP Andrew Nikolic pointed out:

For someone without portfolio responsibilities that does appear to be an extraordinary amount of money.

WasteWatch couldn’t agree more. At a time of cuts to government assistance to many Australians, our pollies shouldn’t be able to get away with forcing the taxpayer to spend half the median Australian income on their jet-setting.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 4:34 pm on 28th May 2014

Golfer Waiting to Tee offThe Napthine government is in a spot of bother down in Victoria.

Since the resignation of Geoff Shaw, they are a minority government in a deteriorating position in the opinion polls, and they are staring down the barrel of an election in November this year.

Luckily, they have at least one trusted weapon up their sleeve in the coming months: sports-themed pork-barrelling.

WasteWatch spent much of the 2013 federal election campaign tracking sports-themed pork-barrelling promises, and this post promises to be the first in our new Victorian segment.

See, the government has just committed $121,000 of taxpayer money to two sports clubs for various upgrades.

WasteWatch is sure that it’s only coincidence that the two clubs happen to be located in the seat of Buninyong.

It’s probably also only coincidence that, in the wake of the Victorian Electoral Boundaries Commission’s decision to redraw the electoral map, this new seat of Buninyong is very marginal, being notionally a Labor-held seat by a margin of only 1.6%.

Actually, now that we think about it, we’re absolutely convinced that it’s an excellent use of taxpayer money, and that it’s got nothing to do with the precarious electoral position of the government.

Don’t you agree?

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 9:00 am on 22nd May 2014

coffeeRemember WasteWatch’s famous Periodic coffee table?

It was the $14,000 coffee table with the Periodic table encased in the top that the Department of Industry bought (with your money) last year.

WasteWatch was a bit bemused at the time, but further digging has revealed that the Department had a very good reason for buying such an expensive coffee table.

They are coffee snobs.

See, back May 2012, the Department spent nearly $75,000 of your money on the “provision of coffee machines,” so that their public servants wouldn’t have to cross the street to the local cafe for their brew, like everyone else in Australia.

Then, in July 2013, they signed a $45,000 contract for the “maintenance and general servicing” of these machines, bringing their coffee expenditure to over $130,000 of taxpayer money.

What’s more, these coffee machines were made by Jura, which produces some of the best (read: most expensive) coffee machines in the world (see here, and here).

To be fair, the Department of Industry is not the only government agency that could go for a ‘Joe’ at any time of the day or night. In January last year, ASIC spent over $15,000 of your money on a “reconditioned” espresso machine for their staff.

So now the $14,000 coffee table makes much more sense.

If only somebody in Canberra would open a cafe, so these poor public servants wouldn’t be forced to buy top-of-the-line coffee machines with other people’s money.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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