Posted: 2:40 pm on 21st May 2014

preparing foodThe Australian National Preventative Health Agency (a.k.a. the Nanny) has been in WasteWatch’s sights recently.

This time it turns out they’ve been using nearly $200,000 of your money to develop a cookbook.

Some of the recipes are real killers. For instance, the baked beans on toast one is pretty complicated.

Ditto the chicken and avo sarnie.

Or how about the one entitled “Daily Snack – banana and yoghurt“? Can you guess what’s in it? Yep, bananas and yoghurt and… milk! Bet you didn’t expect that last one.

You can tell why it cost nearly $200,000 to develop.

WasteWatch wonders how much it cost to develop the National Heart Foundation’s healthy recipe collection. Or the Body+Soul one. Or the Taste.com one. Or…

Actually, WasteWatch wonders why another (taxpayer-funded) healthy meals cookbook is needed at all.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 4:00 pm on 14th May 2014

darling_harbour_08Sydney WasteWatchers will be familiar with Darling Harbour and its recent infestation of balloons.

These enormous 20-foot high balloons on the sides of random buildings—which spell out various imperatives like EAT, DANCE, or SHOP—are one manifestation of Darling Habour’s new “inflatable brand identity,” courtesy of international brand consultancy Interbrand.

According to David Storey, the general manager of the Sydney office of Interbrand:

This isn’t just about a new brand identity, but a strategic activation plan that will improve the Darling Harbour experience for everyone.

Of course, that’s what’s been wrong with Darling Harbour for all these years: Not enough balloons!

Anyway, Interbrand seems to have satisfied the NSW Government’s expectations, because another contract has just been signed to create some “brand style guidelines” and an “identity system” for the Rocks precinct.

This one will set the NSW taxpayer back $280,000.

That’s a lot of balloons.

WasteWatch suggests that perhaps the NSW Government could send a bored backbencher to pick up some novelty balloons for $30 each, and save the taxpayer tens of thousands of dollars.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 4:30 pm on 12th May 2014

money-airAustralian public servants have long been receiving taxpayer-funded training sessions.There was the “fulfilment training” for the staff at the Bureau of Meteorology. There were the “experiential poetry sessions” for one lucky worker at IP Australia.

Now the same agency will offer its workers training in “mindfulness” and “presenteeism.”

IP Australia has given nearly $20,000 of your money to a Victorian company for some “Master Your Mind Resilience Training” for its staff this year.

The price seems pretty resilient, too. The same training session from the same company cost you just over $11,000 in 2012.

The department has also spent over $11,000 on a different “Practical Resilience Workshop” run by a Wollongong-based competitor of the previous company.

IP Australia is not the only place concerned about the mindfulness of its staff. So far this year, the Department of Finance has spent $40,000 on resilience training, ASIC has spent $22,000, the ATO has spent nearly $11,000, and the Department of Agriculture has spent over $16,000.

Of course, resilience is a pretty important virtue. Now that it’s budget season, WasteWatch sometimes wonders whether the politicians who spoke so eloquently about spending restraint during the last election wouldn’t benefit from a bit of resilience training themselves.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 2:00 pm on 7th May 2014

chairRemember the world’s most expensive conference table the Federal Government purchased for the G20 in Brisbane later this year?

It turns out WasteWatch missed the real waste. Sorry.

See, the table was only $36,000.

The chairs that will go around it, on the other hand, cost you nearly $70,000.

Of course the contract went to a Canberran company again, so WasteWatch is waiting to hear how much the Australian taxpayer will have to pay for transporting the chairs the 1300km to Brisbane and storing them until the posteriors of the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors are good and ready.

We can’t wait for the next instalment in the G20 drama!

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 9:00 am on 1st May 2014

Mobile-Gaming-600

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has just spent $10,000 of your money “finalising” a mobile phone game app called “Run the River.”

Gamers must try to manage the waterflow of the Murray-Darling system, taking into account all the competing demands of different stakeholders.

According to Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator from South Australia and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, the game “very much reflects the challenges we face in the Murray-Darling Basin.”

Indeed, it seems like the game is designed to show you just how hard the Authority’s job is. The Murray Valley Standard writes:

Do you think you could run the river system better than the Murray-Darling Basin Authority?

The answer from the game’s intended audience of primary schoolers is clearly meant to be: “No.” With perhaps the tacit addendum: “Of course you can’t. So ease up on criticising us.”

Can it be that the Authority has spent $10,000 “finalising” a mobile phone game app designed to garner sympathy for itself?

WasteWatch wonders how much the rest of the process cost.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 9:00 am on 30th April 2014

failYes, yes, we did promise this would be the last update on the AEC’s WA Senate mistake.

But WasteWatch just can’t let sleeping dogs lie. Or lying dogs sleep. Or something. Anyway, we’re very sorry for lying to you.

We’ve had to write another post because the cost to the taxpayer has simply soared since our last one.

For instance, there’s been a $276,924 hit to the Australian taxpayer for rental of “off-site premises.”

And two advertising bills: one for $75,863.72, and one for $1,686,300.

And more than $12,000 for parking.

And, of course, nearly $35,000 for more “market research.”

There are plenty more, some for casual labour hire, others for more premises or printing. All up, over $3 million has been added to the taxpayer’s bill.

“Oops” indeed.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 12:00 pm on 29th April 2014

Finger-paintingThe arts are a familiar hunting-ground for WasteWatch.

We have already covered some of the more curious projects from the ACT, Western Australia, and at the federal level.

Now it’s NSW’s turn.

The lucky recipients of NSW’s 2013-14 Arts Funding Program were announced last October, but WasteWatch hasn’t had the chance to look through them until now. Golly, there are some crackers.

How about $23,345 for the “creative development of a new performance installation, ‘Room Noise'”?

Apparently “Room Noise” “lies somewhere between performance installation, labyrinth, live art event and showground ride.”

If the average punter is still confused after that description, there is an informative video at the above website, where a be-helmeted individual wanders around an empty room while the whole installation moves around the floor. At the midway point of the video a mattress gets involved.

A word of caution, though: the video provides no clues as to the next iteration of “Room Noise,” which will apparently be completely different. The artwork is a “touring installation work that adapts to different contexts, environments and communities” and “each iteration of ‘Room Noise’ becomes an experience unique to the context and the artists that engage with it.”

It’s definitely one for the taxpayers.

Or how about $60,000 of your money for the “creative development and presentation of ‘Artwork'”? Not artwork in general, a piece called ‘Artwork.’

Despite its generic name, this particular artwork is actually more performance art, where “members of the public, sourced through online classified listings such as Gumtree . . . undertake a series of actions to create a performance.”

Not only will the artwork force these innocent members of the public to “navigate the unusual circumstances they find themselves in,” it will also “implicate the audience as consumers” (not consumers!), and force them to “consider their role as voyeurs, the assumptions they hold and the power dynamics at play.”

Ripper stuff.

The work rather undersells its creators, though. One of its stated goals is to “create an artwork in real time with real people (non-performers).” WasteWatch promises the parentheses aren’t our addition. Truly.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 10:00 am on 24th April 2014

money-airWasteWatch readers are no strangers to the Australian National Preventative Health Agency.

First, there was the $451,000 contract for one lucky Perth company to have a few beers at the taxpayer’s expense.

Next, there was the ANPHA’s brief dalliance with boy band One Direction, which included more taxpayer-funded pop merchandise than WasteWatch will ever be comfortable with.

Finally, there was the ANPHA’s $30,000 attempt to make the website for their anti-binge-drinking ‘Be the Influence’ campaign prettier. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Australians responded by going home, cracking a cold one, and shaking their heads at their government.

Well, the resilient ANPHA is undeterred. Recently, it has spent another $40,000 of your money on graphic design, including further attempts to beautify their website.

Perhaps this time Australians will listen to them. Or perhaps the ANPHA is just like any other nanny: completely unnecessary for adults.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 4:30 pm on 23rd April 2014

movie compWasteWatch has already told you all about the Australian Taxation Office’s long and proud YouTube history, including its recent attempt to beat Leonardo DiCaprio to an Oscar.

It seems the ATO hasn’t taken the hint from its shut-out at this year’s Academy Awards.

It recently forked out nearly $50,000 of your money for this rip-snorter of a video on the cash economy, hosted by television presenter David Koch.

Melanie Perkins, the CEO of Canva, and Derek Laney, a director at Salesforce, look riveted as they sit silently by for the entire duration of Kochie’s chinwag with ATO Senior Assistant Commissioner Michael Hardy.

Perhaps they’ll have more of an involvement with the rest of the campaign. And there will be a “rest of the campaign.” When did a government ever stop at one measly YouTube video?

The ATO is spending another $88,000 of your money on advertising about the cash economy.

Perhaps this is a step up from the ATO’s previous attempts to grapple with the problem, though. Back in 2006, some lucky ATO investigators were forced to attend a few of Sydney’s most prestigious pole dancing institutions, in an attempt to gauge the impact of the cash economy. Uh-huh, sure.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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Posted: 10:00 am on 16th April 2014

failThe federal budget is due in about a month.

Almost unable to contain its excitement, WasteWatch has decided to dedicate a post to a few of those brave funding programs that will no longer be with us on that second Tuesday in May.

Chief among them are the T-QUAL Tourism Quality Projects program and the Clean Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program.

Some great projects have been funded through these programs.

For example, in the January to March 2014 round of funding for the Clean Tech Food and Foundries Program, two interesting projects snuck through.

On January 23, South Australian wine company Fleurieu Vintners and Boar’s Rock got nearly $250,000 of taxpayer money to, amongst other things, “insulate existing wine tanks.”

On the same day, their neighbours, Serafino Wines, got nearly $280,000 of taxpayer money to do the same thing.

Continuing the wine theme, on December 18 last year, Seppeltsfield Wines, one of Australia’s oldest wine companies, received $110,000 of taxpayer money to build a 500-seat events centre. At the expense of the taxpayer, those 500 people will “benefit from a premium food and wine experience,” in unspecified ways. Lucky people!

Perhaps WasteWatch is being unfair. After all, on November 26 last year, the T-QUAL program also gave nearly $110,000 of taxpayer money to the “historic Wyong Milk Factory” to build a “Victorian-style” chocolate shop and create an Australian Artisan Chocolate School.

A week beforehand, on November 21, the program also distributed over $75,000 of taxpayer money to “improve the nature-based, food-and-beer experience that visitors seek” at the Bright Brewery in Victoria.

WasteWatch will be sorry to see the back of programs that funded such important projects.

We’re not too unhappy though; after all, the Melbourne’s North Investment and Innovation Fund will still exist.

WasteWatch’s favourite MNIIF project so far is the $407,000 of taxpayer money given to Bon Appetit on March 25 to “install robotic equipment to manufacture European style gelato and frozen cakes.”

So fear not, Australia.

Although the “age of entitlement” has been declared over, crucial projects will continue to be funded.

William Shrubb, Research Assistant

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