Thursday, April 30, 2009

Peter Holmes a Court, making NSW number one, and sporting carnivals for carpetbaggers

(Above: the NSW Olympic stadium, some time known as Telstra and ANZ stadium, the NSW Labor party's solution to failing state infrastructure, including power and public transport. Running late for dinner because the train's stopped running and there's no power in the house? Never mind, take a look at this photo and fondly remember all the fine sporting moments you've experienced in your life).

Peter Holmes a Court contributes a sterling piece of rhetoric to The Sydney Morning Herald, an edited extract of a speech he gave to the NSW Business Chamber's NSW: Reclaiming 1st campaign, run under the header Let's make our state a winner once again.

And so say all of us, at least those who reside in New South Wales, shaken by the recent savage beatings handed out by the toads, and the shame of watching Melbourne experience a bohemian cultural revival that's made it a place where you can enjoy a glass of wine in a cafe without thinking you have to worry about your status as an alcoholic (or buy food to placate the wowsers).

But then I noticed tucked away in his article a hint of what he might be looking for:

It is not enough for NSW to simply be in the game, when those around you spend their time working out how to get your business, how to stage your sporting events and how to steal your jobs.

Dearie me, sounds like more 'panem et circenses' is on the cards, as you might expect from someone who thinks a revival of the Rabbitohs rugby league club can somehow act as a metaphor for the kind of revival we need in New South Wales.

The next thing you know, grasping entrepreneurs and promoters will be huddled in the corridors of parliament house, lobbying for the right to take our money to subsidize their risks while either stealing sporting events from other states, or staging brand new sporting follies of the most rapacious and useless kind.

We're not talking here about the intergalactic tiddlywinks carnival, or the world chess championship, but the usual suspects, like the senile world of Formula 1 and similar sporting carnivals, which all are supposed to work on the idea of economic multipliers, proving that for every dollar you drop in Bernie Ecclestone's pocket, the state is supposed to enjoy four dollars of economic revival.

While what usually happens is that Bernie makes out like a bandit (and so might his wife in their divorce battle), the punters get three days of bread and circuses, there's nil impact on tourism, and marginal benefit to the economy, politicians get box seats, and the tax paying public get to pick up any shortfall.

This kind of sporting socialism reached a kind of nadir under Bob Carr, who refused to spend any money on infrastructure but found time to bung on an Olympic games and then conveniently toddled off into the sunset to leave his successors to pick up the mess and try to work out what to do with the white elephant used as the main Olympics stadium.

You won't usually find the right wing commentariat carrying on about this. You will find them bleating at every conceivable opportunity about funding for the arts, or films, or theatre, or music, or whatever, and what an incredible waste it is, but nary a word about why sport should be given this kind of 'major event' free kick on a regular basis.

Is it because they have abundant petrol head and sports jock tendencies? You betcha. They don't mind a little funding socialism (you can dress it up as a public private partnership if you want fine sounding gibberish) when it comes to sport, because they get to go off to their subsidized events, sniff the tang of gas in the air, and warble on about the true beauty of being on the world stage with our sporting champeens.

Proving once again that socialism is in the eye of the beholder, and isn't always a dirty word, at least if you call it something different and deliver sports action to the jocks. No talk then of the actual attendees paying full market price for their indulgence in their own pet enthusiasm.

When these dodos talk about arts funding, it's always about how the funding distorts the marketplace and inevitably leads to failed outcomes - like patrons being favored over the joe blows out in the sticks. Whenever they talk about slipping fast talking sports carpet baggers hard won taxpayer bucks, it's always about how it would be too dear to stage without a government handout (or too hard to steal it from the Victorians without some cash to tickle the trout our way). 

The result's been the most childish of state based rivalries, and you'd hope that sometime soon it stops. Childish rhetoric about NSW being number one reminds me of the days when such was the paranoia between states that they all had different gauge railway lines, a fine mess that took decades to sort out.

If you must, talk about Australia being number one, and then let's get on to talking about how we can either abolish the state system of government, or make it a more effective managerial system to manage a state's resources and infrastructure.

Whatever you do, don't tell me how we have to steal from Queensland or Victoria, by stealing from taxpayers to shovel funds down the throat of clever carpet baggers only too eager and anxious to exploit state rivalries and make out like bandits.

If you want an example that doesn't involve sport, look at the bidding wars for runaway Hollywood productions, designed to lure Hollywood producers into producing a show in the state by giving them rebates, holidays, benefits, perks and anything else the producers can claw back from state governments and taxpayers. And what do you get after these millions have been flung away? Maybe three to six months of shooting time for a largely Australian crew, but not a cent from the actual main game, which involves exploitation of the rights in the marketplace.

Truth to tell, I'm so over this kind of state rivalry. Let Victoria have its grand prix (in their negotiations with Bernie next time let them pay a hefty price for stealing it from South Australia), let the Queenslanders go on acting like try hard ratbags, and let the minor BAPH states hand over cash to persuade people sports carnivals are so much more fine than a roof over head, decent public transport and food on table. 

If Victorians wants to slobber over Tiger Woods, and pay the millions involved, fine, let them, but don't tell me this is the best way forward for a state government wanting to get NSW back in the game.

If NSW politicians manage to fix even half of the infrastructure problems this state faces, and we never get to see a Sydney Grand Prix or Tiger, then it's surely time for a great fireworks display on the harbor.

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