As a Townsvillian by birth, I am happy that Townsville will host the first 2021 State of Origin game, but I’m also appalled that Queensland taxpayers have to pay (reportedly) up to $8 million to the NRL so Townsville can host the game (see this Brisbane Times report). This provides another excellent example of Queensland Government financial mismanagement for me to discuss at the Australasian Study of Parliament Group seminar at Parliament House, Brisbane on Monday 14th of June. The NSW Government was right not to pay “silly money” to host the Origin game, as reported by the Courier-Mail today.
Here’s what the Queensland Government’s independent economic adviser the Queensland Competition Authority had to say about interstate bidding wars for major events such as Origin games in its 2015 Industry Assistance Review (p. 107):
…interstate bidding wars for major events are highly likely to be zero sum games. Major events, secured at significant taxpayer expense, primarily expand a state’s tourism sector at the cost of other industries within the state and the rest of Australia.
When a government overbids and overinvests to secure the right for a major event to be hosted in its jurisdiction, it may largely dissipate any potential benefits from the event. Therefore, increased cooperation between state and territory governments in attracting major events may be beneficial for the community, especially if it reduces the likelihood of governments entering expensive bidding wars to secure major events.
The high costs of bidding wars have been previously recognised by most state and territory governments. In 2003, the Interstate Investment Cooperation Agreement was signed by all state and territory governments (except Queensland), whereby the governments agreed to end unnecessary bidding wars to attract investment, including major events. However, this agreement lapsed in 2011…Another cross-jurisdictional agreement between all state and territory governments is worthy of further consideration to increase cooperation and end costly bidding wars.
Instead of spending $8 million on a one-night Origin game, wouldn’t it have been better for the Queensland Government to have spent that money on local schools or tackling what appears to be out-of-control youth crime in Townsville? Certainly there are many areas of need in Townsville as the local economy has struggled for years, as evidenced by declining property prices (Hat tip to Marcus Smith for highlighting this).* The $8 million paid to the NRL to attract the Origin game could be much better spent on areas of genuine need.
*On Townsville house prices, Pete Faulkner has made me aware that Townsville house prices have recovered since 2018 (when the .id data in the chart above finish) and are now higher than they were in 2014. I’ll aim to have a closer look at these figures in a future post.
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