I have long been a skeptic when it comes to governments and companies hiding behind confidentiality clauses to evade public scrutiny of government purchases, for example through public-private partnership agreements.
While it is theoretically possible that a government could negotiate a lower price if kept confidential, in practice confidentiality is used because to inflate payments to the private sector from the taxpayer. If the government got a good price, do you think they wouldn’t be boasting about it?
We now discover that license payments to Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Grand Prix amount to around $170 million in the five years to 2015. No wonder it has been kept confidential by four premiers.
It is unacceptable that such contracts be hidden from public scrutiny. Only full transparency can provide some discipline on governments to adopt prudent expenditure policies. Governments should also be required to provide a full and transparent cost-benefit analysis to justify decisions to subsidise such events. If such analysis shows a net cost, then the government should provide a justification for funding a project where the costs exceed the benefits.
What has Bernie Ecclestone ever done for Australia?