What was the total of Commonwealth Government grants provided last year? Don’t know? Nor do I. You see, there is no consolidated listing of grants – one needs to go through each Commonwealth Government agency and department to sum the grants. A friend in Finance once did this for research grants (not arts grants) and came to $9 billion.
Here is one grant from the Australian National Preventative Health Agency
Tracy Comans, Griffith University $463,442
The cost-effectiveness and consumer acceptability of taxation strategies to reduce rates of overweight and obesity amongst children in Australia
Childhood obesity is a health issue with serious co-morbidities and is increasing in prevalence in Australia. Whilst this issue has been recognised for some time, it is still unclear what the best solution to tackle it is. This research seeks to find the acceptability and cost-effectiveness of taxation of junk foods in halting and reversing the problem of childhood obesity. This study is unique in that it will directly involve consumers in identifying what strategies are likely to be effective and what conditions will be acceptable to the public in the fight against childhood obesity. The challenge of how to effectively gain community perspectives is a crucial consideration in public policy at the moment, and is addressed by this study. To guide the feasibility and successful implementation of effective population based approaches in the prevention of obesity in Australia, it is essential to gather information about how consumers will respond to large scale, yet sensitive, reforms. The information gained from this study will be invaluable to governments in determining the most feasible and publically [sic] acceptable strategies for confronting this issue.
Now the Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has ruled out a ‘fat tax’ saying
We have decided to actively educate and encourage Australians to adopt and maintain a healthy diet rather than to legislate.
I can’t imagine a Coalition Government introducing such a tax, so one wonders about the efficacy for a $0.5 million grant. These types of studies – asking people what they think about a tax – depend on the questions asked and usually are quite leading questions. As Peter Dutton has said, the grant should be scrapped. Ms Comans must have better things to do than asking people whether they want to pay a fat tax.
More generally, though, I would like a Coalition government to greatly increase the transparency and accountability of government grants. In health, several agencies provide grants: the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, the Department of Health and Ageing, the Health Communities Initiative, Health Care and Social Assistance grants and others, not to mention also those grants from State governments.
Then we have grants for community, culture and the arts. Grants for the social sciences (including political science) and so forth. And of course those related to climate change.
Personally I think we could slash many of these grants. If anything, government grants have caused a significant decline in the quality of Australian art and literature. Governments grants can’t create a Beethoven or Da Vinci.
But at the very least, we should have a consolidated listing of grants across categories.