I was saddened by the closure of Canberra’s Smoque restaurant which saw 25 staff and numerous suppliers probably out-of-pocket – rarely do such people receive anything like dollar for dollar owed. Then I read of a Federal government financial bailout of South Australia’s Arrium steelworks to save the jobs of several thousand workers and suppliers.
And I wondered, what is the difference?
It is numbers. About 25 to thousands. No, no argument that a waiter can more easily obtain another job compared to a steelworker but the demands of politics.
Whatever went wrong with either business they were both private activities and should not expect to be bailed out by the Australian taxpayer.
This strange double standard applies not only to propping up private organisations employing thousands (why 12 submarines when we cannot man our existing fleet?) but has moved to the non-business arena.
Governments financially support the building of expensive sports stadia, where professional well-paid teams compete. If this is not enough the ACT government for example has paid millions for the Greater Western Sydney football team to play at Manuka Oval a few times a year.
The money paid to professional – the word is important – sporting or cultural bodies raises the question of why these organisations do not have sufficient popular support, including in some cases lucrative community clubs, to fund their own activities?
If they require government help, why should they continue to exist?
It is not enough to argue like any government that financial assistance either keeps people in employment or provides an important social outlet through sport and culture.
The claim the unemployed would go on welfare, ultimately costing Australia more, overlooks retraining opportunities, redundancy payouts and that the bailout might fail with more money being wasted even to perhaps the propping up of an outdated industry.
The sporting and cultural largesse is even less justifiable, relying upon questionable guestimates of profit to the State/Territory for hosting the event.
Why don’t governments in bailing out a private business, yes of any size, or supporting sporting and cultural activities do so only as a loan payable by a fixed date? This would present a responsible challenge rather than an irresponsible open cheque.
It is obvious the existing situation is discriminatory, benefiting only large organisations with large numbers of potential voters. It is further discriminatory in not requiring financial assistance to be a loan and not a grant if compared to say, government housing tenants who whatever their financial circumstances are required to pay back a percentage of their income in rent.
Politicians constantly remind us they govern for all Australians, yet they selectively bail out large workforces and financially support popular sporting and cultural bodies, leaving others struggling to fend for themselves.
A few thousand in Whyalla is important to themselves, their families and the city but 500 small businesses across the country employing four people each have a similar effect upon families and regions. Sport and culture should not even count.