NEWSFLASH! In September I will join The Conversation as its Business and Economy Editor. I have been honoured to work at The Age for the past ten years, originally alongside the legendry Tim Colebatch, and for the past four years as economics editor in my own right.

At The Conversation, my job will be to make the best thinking from Australia's 40 univerisites accessible to the widest possible audience. That means you. From the new year I will also write a weekly column.

On this site are most of the important things I have written for Fairfax and the ABC over the past few decades. I recommend the Search function. The site is a record for you, as well as me.

I'll continue to post great things from The Conversation and other places here, and also on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Just when you thought NSW couldn't get more stupid...

it has handed over $30 million to the organisers of a V8 Supercar race


The new Premier Nathan Rees says the event will "contribute $A110 million to the state's economy between 2008 and 2013, at a cost to taxpayers of just $A30 million.

Does he read widely? (Unlike his Education Minister.)

If so, he'll know about the alleged economic "benefits" of V8 Supercar races.

To quote from myself:

In Canberra in 2000 a series of V8 car races was meant to bring the city $11 million to $13 million each year by creating a “vibrant city”.Our government kicked in $4.5 million in capital works and a $2.5 million per year subsidy, which climbed to $4.7 million.

Auditor General looked at the books. Mark Harrison, the consultant who prepared the report, was stunned.

Here’s what he told me
at the time: “The Cabinet submission couldn't even add up the numbers properly in its columns. It didn't discount future cash flows, which had the effect of exaggerating the net benefits of the project by more than a third. It involved double counting, and the benefits it did list were vastly exaggerated.”

He concluded that the event had actually cost the territory money. In his language, it brought “significant negative economic results”.

As I went on to outline (all this is really very well known):

Most of the people who go to these events are locals. If they spend money or time there, it is likely they are not spending money somewhere else.

Most of the non-locals come from other states. Even if their spending boosts the ACT’s economy, it doesn’t boost Australia’s.And if ever thousands (or millions) of visitors did come from overseas for a big event and spend like crazy, the main effect would be to push up Australia’s exchange rate and hotel room rates. And perhaps even interest rates.

It's not as if the NSW Premier can spare the money.

ACT Auditor-General’s Office, Performance Audit Report. V8 Car Races in Canberra, Costs and Benefits July 2002.

Peter Martin,
The Economics of Big Events, Insight, SBS TV, October 09, 2003.