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Cheers - AE

Friday, 22 July 2011

Smug mode

Smug mode activated
It seems like just the other day when I had a nice, satisfying rant about governments' poor talent for picking winners and how they often end up just spunking away eye-watering sums of money - and not their own money - on activities that shouldn't be a government function in the first place. Oh, silly me, it was just the other day, wasn't it? On that occasion I was having a go at the idea that governments are any good at promoting tourism, and also wondering whether they should be doing it even if they are any good, I also mentioned that perennial theme of mine: governments attempting to be sports promoters. And just two days later an article in The Age proves my point.
An independent economic impact report has found that overall, the 2011 Grand Prix increased Victoria's gross state product by between $32 million and $39 million.
Which would be wonderful except for two things. First is my broken record refrain of 'It's not their bloody money'. As I've said more than once, including in that last rant on the subject, if the government took the huge pile of taxpayers' money down to the casino and came back with a few million more than it went with there'd still be hell to pay despite because that's not what paying taxes is for. And nor is being a fucking sports promoter. Even if you take the statist line and say taxes are necessary to provide 'essential' services the widest definition of 'essential' doesn't include motor races, Olympics, tennis tournaments and paying money to randy golf stars to stop shagging for long enough to play some bloody golf. Even if you take the socialist line and believe taxes are also necessary to redistribute wealth I'm pretty certain the idea isn't to redistribute it into the pockets of billionaires. Doesn't matter how much money it makes, pretty much any way you look at it it's not something the government should be taxing people in order to do. It simply isn't.

Oh, and the second thing that makes the ≈$35 million boost the Grand Prix gave the state's economy less than wonderful? As the article points out, it costs the government more than $50 million, meaning that even by the most generous estimates of the benefits it ended up costing the state more than $11 million, and with more pessimistic figures perhaps over $18 million.


Actually for me personally there's a third less than wonderful thing, and that is the possible health effects from my blood pressure spiking when I read quotes from pollies defending this kind of thing.
Tourism and Major Events Minister Louise Asher said despite what is an overall loss to the state, there are other benefits from the event which need to be taken into account.
Yes, Louise Asher again, the very same Louise Asher who was attempting to justify spending vast sums on having Oprah Winfrey over in a failed bid to boost tourism. Now I kind of understood her attempting to defend that cock-up since both the previous Labor government under John Brumby and the current Coalition government under Liberal Ted Baillieu, Lou's boss, had a hand in it. But the Grand Prix? Aside from the fact that it was a Liberal Premier who poached the event from Adelaide in the first place that's something that can be laid at the door of Labor party since, as I blogged back in January, they had the last opportunity to get rid of the Grand Prix or preferably just to stop subsidising the damn thing only three years ago. Instead John Brumby signed a new contract to keep the race here until 2015, which was not only committed his own government to carry on subsidising it but, since the term of the contract is longer than the Victorian election cycle, also the Baillieu government too. And since Ted seemed less than happy about the cost of the race and being stuck with a contract he had nothing to do with you'd think that his ministers would be folding it into the pointiest point they can and poking Labor in the eyes with it. To be fair Ms Asher did have a small swipe at Labor for having locked the state into a lousy deal, but only a small one because she seemed a bit busy telling us all that losing the thick end of twenty million was actually A Good Thing and that in any case it'll be brilliant one day, you just wait.
Tourism and Major Events Minister Louise Asher said despite what is an overall loss to the state, there are other benefits from the event which need to be taken into account.
"You have to look at the whole year, at ongoing branding of Melbourne," Ms Asher told reporters today.
Ms Asher said new negotiations on the Grand Prix contract will begin in 2014 and she anticipates getting a better deal from Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, to whom the licence fee is paid.
Is there any danger of getting a politician to consider whether we need to pay him anything at all? It takes place on state owned land, yes? Rather than the government paying him even a cent from petty cash, let alone for the millions from the taxpayer, for the privilege of having the Grand Prix shouldn't Bernie Ecclestone be paying the state for the privilege of holding it in a public park near the city centre?

I'd hoped after Baillieu's remarks earlier this year there might be a move towards telling Bernie that if the British Grand Prix can be run without subsidies it would be expected that the Melbourne Grand Prix should as well, and that if that means the race is uneconomic to have here than it's fucking uneconomic. Ms Asher's talk of getting a better deal when the contract's renegotiated in a few years suggests that's a pretty faint hope.

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