Government to spend up … on Oprah!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

As the people of Australia face acute shortages in health, public transport, housing and welfare, the federal and NSW governments will spend about $3 million to get Oprah Winfrey — the US talk-show host and billionaire — to visit Australia. Wait a minute, WHAT?

Winfrey will fly to Australia in December — with 300 members of her audience — to shoot several episodes of her talk show. It has been reported that the federal government will chip in $1.5 million to the trip; the NSW government with throw in a further $1-2 million.

Aren't governments always talking about “cutting back on waste” and “reducing the deficit”? These are certainly the arguments we hear when we demand they spend more on our health, public transport, housing and welfare.

It's obviously a different story when Labor tourism minister Martin Ferguson wants to pay for an international holiday for Oprah and 300 of her mates. Clearly the billionaire celebrity can't afford the trip herself. According to the Forbes 2010 rich list, she is only worth US$2.4 billion.

ABC News said former federal tourism minister John Brown “has implored the media not to be ‘cynical about the cost’”.

"We spent hundreds of millions of dollars over 30 years without much effect, I must say that honestly”, he said.

So it's okay to spend millions of dollars on Oprah now because we've wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in the past? Is it any wonder governments are facing a political crisis?

Maybe we should promise not to be cynical about the cost if the government will promise that every single cent raised by Oprah's visit will be spent directly on health, public transport, housing and welfare?

Or maybe we should kick out these governments that put the holidays of billionaires before the interests of the people?

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From GLW issue 853