Big four bank’s CEOs salaries
It’s been a week of both promising news and some disappointments, with good examples of both in the in the executive pay arena. Michael Pascoe reports.PT4M52S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2sghd 620 349 August 23, 2013
Sometimes it's just a small thing that pushes people over the edge of despair. And so it could be with Australian politics and its miserable leadership – a small matter of Murdoch political donations.
No, not the massive in-kind donation to the Coalition of space and time by Rupert's publications, but the pledge by both Labor and Liberal parties to force taxpayers to donate their hard-earned to a Murdoch company. That's to Rupert Murdoch, the twittering billionaire and global megalomaniac – apparently both craven sides of Australian politics think he needs our help.
No matter who is elected, the Broncos stand to win. Photo: Paul Harris
The Brisbane Broncos is a publicly listed company 68 per cent owned by Murdoch's News Corp Australia. It operates in the sport and entertainment industry – a highly competitive field that mostly doesn't enjoy taxpayer subsidies. If you follow rugby league, you might have heard of them and if you live in Brisbane you certainly would have, as the alternative name for Murdoch's Courier-Mail is the "Bronco-Mail".
Well, if the Liberal Party buffoons win the election, they are forcing you and me to give the Broncos $5 million. If the Labor Party clowns win, we have to hand over $3 million. And it's even worse if you're a Queenslander as your state government, for all its talk of responsible spending and cutting various services, is giving even more of your money so the Murdoch team can enjoy luxurious training facilities on prime inner-city land instead of making do in less salubrious suburbs.
Apparently it's legal for Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd and Campbell Newman to do that with our money. It should be a crime.
Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott face off at the leaders' forum at the Broncos Leagues Club earlier this week. Photo: Andrew Meares
The Broncos is a business, one of no greater or lesser intrinsic worth than your local garage or yoga instructor, but certainly larger, more privileged and better connected politically. If the Labor and Liberal parties can't find something better to do with a few million lazy dollars, they should be disbanded.
Oh the party faithful might stretch to come up with tenuous justifications for their generosity with my money – the health benefits of encouraging kiddies to play rugby league, for example. That's tosh. The Broncos is an admirably slick multimillion-dollar business with massive PR heft and presence. A few million dollars of our money will not matter a jot to whatever impact there might be on childhood obesity of watching the admirable Sam Thaiday smash into people.
No, this is a grubby and not-very-important vote-buying exercise in the grand tradition of the old pork barrel. Labor is desperate in Logan – the destination of its $3 million for a Broncos junior “academy” – and the Liberals are wary of the Ruddster impact in south-east Queensland. Quick, Tony, you'd better run up to Townsville and sling the Cowboys a few mill too – they're much more serious about their rugby league and will take offence at Broncos favouritism.
And this is just a more obviously egregious example, thanks to the Broncos ownership, of the continuing petty corruption of our public office. Lest I be accused of letting my football code bias colour my opinion, the Coalition's promise of a $10 million gift to the Australian Rugby Union upon election is also wrong. Big professional sports that pay their chief executives and jocks fabulous amounts of money have no right to random calls on the political purse.
But it goes further than that. The spirit of Roz Kelly's whiteboard – or PNG politicians' handouts – is alive and well. Happy is the local sporting club in a marginal electorate or, under a minority government, in a seat held by an independent. (Take a bow, the Rob Oakeshott memorial surf clubs.)
Indeed, there is a frenzy of sports-related pork barrelling under way, an all-in maul upon a ruck, with much of it under the radar. An AFR report on the grassroots sandbagging includes a list of sports-related election pledges (apparently not published online) that range from somewhat pathetic to bemusingly obvious - $10 million from Abbott to upgrade his local Brookvale Oval for the Sea Eagles, the team long-characterised as rugby league's “silvertails”.
The list is far from complete – it misses the $12 million promised by both sides to the Penrith Panthers, for example – and it appears to be Coalition policy to keep it that way as the opposition's beneficence is not centrally tabulated, like Labor's, but spread out on the relevant individual candidate's websites.
By the AFR's count, Labor has rolled out almost 70 local announcements in separate electorates in the past week, totalling about $450 million. Of that, there was a single $144 million item to fix hospital infrastructure but almost all of the rest were too small for national media to mention but were dutifully lapped up by the targeted local organs. The Coalition's promise of $500,000 just to fund a study for a stadium in Rockhampton is less than 0.01 per cent of the annual cost of a gold-plated maternity leave system, but it could well win more votes in Rocky.
It's particularly galling that the main excuse for this blatant vote-buying among the high-profile and often professional sport codes is children's participation. If these politicians were serious, they wouldn't waste our funds on athletes already earning six figures and clubs that can afford to pay them. Leave the big business of big sport to itself to cut its cloth to fit – if Manly fans want a better grandstand, let them pay for it, or do without.
I coached junior rugby for 11 years. If you want to encourage kids to play sport, make it easier for them. Pick up the bill for their insurance and grounds fees so that they can all afford to play, so that a single mother won't baulk at her child's desire to have a run with his mates. Don't try to pass off your unrestrained desire for the keys to the Lodge as a public good – it could make me too ill to enjoy watching the Wallabies beat the All Blacks on Saturday.
Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor