Saturday, 4 December 2010

Australia has just wasted $45m

on a failed attempt to "win" the right to host the World Cup at some far distant time in the future. There was never any chance we would succeed and I am angry, very angry. The bid was arrogant and an embarrassment that should never have seen the light of day.
That money could have been spent on other, much more necessary things. If it had to be spent on sports related activities even then there are far more worthwhile things that it could have been spent on. We are, I believe, still going to waste an incredible some of money on "upgrading" the Adelaide Oval, home of cricket (in which I have some faint interest). The amount apparently required keeps rising, the last I heard it was heading well over the $700m mark and climbing. The locals do not want it but the Premier thinks he will be around to open the new stadium and that is all that matters.
Now, I know sport is important to many people and that public money will be spent on it. The problem, as I see it, is that more people use public libraries. Libraries are also important to people - and we spend less money on them. There are plans to spend even less money in the future. Nicola Morgan over on "Help I need a publisher" and others are, quite rightly, getting worked up about the potential closure of some libraries in the UK. You do NOT close libraries. They are the lifeblood of the community. Where the churches were once the (weekly) gathering place libraries have become a similar place for many non-church goers.
Libraries are no longer merely places where books are held captive on shelves and readers are reluctantly permitted to borrow them from a grim faced, bespectacled and elderly librarian who glared and put a finger to her lips to ensure silence.
I have talked about our local library on this blog before and I will no doubt do so again. It is worth reiterating, our library is the hub of the community. There are books (and large print books), magazines, newspapers, DVDs, CDs, talking books, computers, the inevitable photocopying machine, a Justice of the Peace service on Tuesdays, storytelling for small children and songs for babies, a parent group, a teen group, a gardening club, a knitting group and at least five "book groups". There are school term activities and holiday activities. Recently they hosted a book repair workshop. Our library is a busy place.
I am worried however by what appears on our new bookshelves. Over the past few years we have relied more heavily on "donations". Many of these are unwanted presents or books that having been read by one reader are passed on because they do not wish to keep them. Other books are clearly cheap "remainders". We get some of the standard popular fiction on the best-seller lists and we get some of the prize-winners. It can take time. We used to get a great deal more mainstream fiction, especially crime fiction. Money for that has long since been reduced to a trickle.
What is more the local library does not choose most of what is put on the shelves. That is done by a process known as "central buying". Libraries in South Australia are required to get books through a process whereby books are chosen and distributed by a central committee. There are restrictions on what they can buy. Some books will never reach library shelves in South Australia because of these restrictions. I was told recently that one book, already published in the UK, was "not going to be published". What the librarian meant was that the book was not going to be published in Australia - and therefore it would be unavailable in our library system.
If you ask why you will be told that this is designed to protect the Australian publishing industry and Australian writers. The reality is that it does not protect either group. It merely makes books (on which we already pay a tax when bought here) more expensive. Is it any wonder that more Australians are buying books from the Book Depository, Fishpond and Amazon - at the expense of our independent bookshops.
Having had a little rant about that I will now get back to the business of wasting $45m. At the price that libraries can buy books that is about four million books. That does not even translate into one book for each Australian. If the government and others who put that money into the failed bid were asked to spend another $45m on libraries they would shake their heads and say we cannot afford it. We can spend $700m plus dollars "upgrading" an oval for a very small percentage of the population to use but we "need to reduce" the money spent on libraries.
This makes no sense to me.


Nicole MacDonald said...

I feel your pain. Too many things I could point out here *sigh* on this side of the ditch..

BirthRight The Arrival, on Amazon 1.1.2011

Anonymous said...

It is unlikely the oval will be completed before the next election .... the current premier cannot count on being there to perform the opening!

Surely it is not too much to ask that a book is purchased and placed on our library shelves for each of us each year? I haven't made use of a library for a long time, and one of the reasons for not bothering is the choice of books. I find better choice in secondhand book shops and op shops! And I am lucky enough to be able to buy there, That may change!

Judy B

Anonymous said...

The bid would have failed however good it was - and it was appallingly bad and embarrassing - simply because it was arrogant. Australia has to learn it is a little nation of no strategic importance in world affairs. FIFA is never going to take a bid from us seriously. The money would have been better spent on boosting sport at a junior level - if it needed to be spent on sport at all. Sport is over-indulged in Australian society - at the expense of literature, libraries and the arts in general - at least in my not so humble opinion. Chris

Donna Hosie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
catdownunder said...

Not sure I can agree Donna - it was wasted because the Australians knew they had no chance of winning. They were told "don't bother" (by people in the know) when the idea was first raised and they should have taken notice of that advice.
I think Chris is right - it was arrogant.
That said, I think we would have been a better choice than the winners - but the UK would have been an even better choice.

Anonymous said...

The Australians were advised not to put in a bid but they went ahead anyway...pretty damn arrogant of us in the circumstances. Definitely a waste of money. We are not yet seen as a "soccer" nation. Given the distance fans would need to travel within the country as well as from abroad it is unlikely that the crowds would be high enough or that they ever will be.
Qatar is a "political" choice and sport is as much about politics as it is about the game.

Anonymous said...

Have to disagree with Donna - it would have cost us billions and would not have generated much income at all. Crowds would have been down. We could not have coped with the internal travel even if people could afford to pay for it.
It was a stupid idea. The Olympics were fine - held in one city. The plan here was for games all over the place. It was nonsense and bound to fail. As for the way it was presented...I cringed! Bob C-S

jeanfromcornwall said...

Oh, dear. I hadn't noticed that Australia was even bidding. I am just so relieved that we (UK) didn't get it. Bad enough that we are going to endure the Olympics - sport just brings me out in a rash.