September 26, 2003


My take on the current NSW clubs-taxation-NRL debacle. In The Australian.

Incidentally, the average NRL game this year attracted about 14,500 people. Collingwood had a greater attendance at its final training session, which was broadcast live on Fox TV and Melbourne’s ABC radio.

Posted by Tim Blair at September 26, 2003 04:26 AM

The turnout for AFL training sessions and matches says a lot about what a boring place Melbourne is,with nothing to do, than it does about NRL and Sydney where life is just so much better. Anyway, Melbourne, dream on your provincialism!

Posted by: Freddyboy at September 26, 2003 at 08:15 AM

Good stuff Tim.

Posted by: Geoff Honnor at September 26, 2003 at 09:22 AM

...but what did the average AFL game attract?

Posted by: at September 26, 2003 at 10:00 AM

Tim, I think that is more of an indictment on the standard of Collingwood supporters. They wouldn't work in an iron lung and/or are completely unemployable. This means they have plenty of time to pop along to Collingwood Training sessions and come up with excuses why Brisbane is going to win the grand final, AGAIN.

Posted by: Todd at September 26, 2003 at 10:20 AM

Ryugby league is a crap game. Even Sydney's soccer competition outsells it, north sydney oval NEVER sold out for rugby league, but sells out every 2nd week for northern spirit soccer team.

Posted by: Red Engineer at September 26, 2003 at 10:32 AM

Great column, Tim. And you must be pleased that the NSW ALP's dependence on money from the clubs and pubs makes it machiavellian as well as principled to encourage Carr to bite the hand that feeds him.

I just hope you will get stuck into Brogden when he mysteriously starts expressing sympathy for current licensing laws and pokie-pushers in the lead-up to the next election!

Posted by: Mork at September 26, 2003 at 11:08 AM

Both parties have allowed themselves to be shoved around by the NSW clubs. That's why it's so good that Carr is finally making a direct run at them.

Posted by: tim at September 26, 2003 at 11:55 AM

I don't believe any of the crap the clubs are spewing out, but I don't support any new taxes - because "they can afford it"

The government in NSW is rhemeing us for billions, just for the honour of buying a house or a car, now they want more. Its the pot calling the kettle black to suggest that clubs spend their money wastefully - lets have a proper accounting of shit the government here wastes money on before we let them take one more cent from anyone.

Posted by: Gilly at September 26, 2003 at 11:58 AM

Pretty piss poor effort focussing on crowd numbers when the sport is played mostly for a TV audience.

Posted by: harry tuttle at September 26, 2003 at 12:11 PM

First sentence: "I left my restaurant table". You know what that means? LUNCH!!! You and ya facist, er, fashist, er fachist ... fuckit, oppressive, mates have been having LUNCH!!! And wine, too, ibetcha.

Posted by: little hawk at September 26, 2003 at 12:23 PM

Yes -- that was a deliberate line for the Big Hawk audience. And it was EXPENSIVE wine.

Posted by: tim at September 26, 2003 at 12:27 PM

Tim - I totally agree.

It's a protected industry, and like most protected industries, the owners make out like bandits at the expense of the rest of us, specifically in the form of higher drink prices and a crappy bar scene because as a result of licensing laws, it's not economic to set up anything other than a big pub with pokies.

Posted by: Mork at September 26, 2003 at 12:30 PM


The owners of the clubs who make out like bandits would be who?

Posted by: Gilly at September 26, 2003 at 12:36 PM

According to this, AFL crowds average 33,600 this year.

Posted by: tim at September 26, 2003 at 12:40 PM

Nice take on Latham. It appears that his form has not improved since that Sunday interview :)

At this rate we can call him Australia's version of Wesley "Mary, Help!" Clark.

Posted by: Rob at September 26, 2003 at 12:47 PM

I wouldn't know one end of a rugby stick from the other, but I rate that as one of your best ever columns.

Ps - If any bastard thinks he's going to stop me walking with a drink next time I'm in Sydney, he's got another think coming.

Posted by: Alan Anderson at September 26, 2003 at 12:47 PM


The guy actually took the glass off me, put it on a little tray, followed me upstairs, waited until I sat down, then handed it to me. Complete insanity.

Technically, you're in breach of the law in such places if you stand up to make a toast.

Posted by: tim at September 26, 2003 at 12:51 PM

That's Sydney for you, mad place. Interesting about Latham, I get the feeling they're going to try to push him as the next big thing but no-one seems to be taking to him that I know.

Posted by: Jake D at September 26, 2003 at 12:59 PM

Gilly - the clubs are owned by the members, whose membership benefits are effectively subsidized by the rest of the community.

Posted by: Mork at September 26, 2003 at 01:05 PM

No wonder the clubs don't want to lose any more funds to taxes if they've got flunkies following guys around the place carrying trays of drinks.

Sounds a bit like the hotel lobby in Victoria vis-a-vis BYO ('bring your own drinks') restaurants several decades ago but as usual NSW is about twenty years off the pace.

Posted by: ilibcc at September 26, 2003 at 01:09 PM

I always thought their membership benefits were subsidised by pokie profits.

Don't get me wrong here - I'm not defending any of the ridiculous claims clubs are making - and liquor licencing laws in this state are bazaar - but I do not support any new taxes.

Posted by: Gilly at September 26, 2003 at 01:14 PM

Yes, more people attend AFL matches than RL matches. I have also noticed that far more people eat at McDonald's than restaurants that offer interesting, tasty, nutritious meals.

Posted by: Tom at September 26, 2003 at 01:18 PM

False analogy, Tom. Here's a better one:

More people breathe air instead of ammonia.

Posted by: tim at September 26, 2003 at 01:20 PM

good column. i have great difficulty understanding why it's good that gamblers subsidise rugby league, but bad if they were to subsidise schools and hospitals and the police and so forth [or at least, subsidise them more than they do already].

but it's my understanding that "the protectionist impulse" does not run deeper in sydney than in other Australian capitals.

Posted by: adam at September 26, 2003 at 01:53 PM

Gilly - I hope someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that the current position is that clubs' poker machine profits are taxed at a rate considerably below the normal income tax rate. If you think of poker machines as a business that the clubs operate in order to generate profits that benefit their members, then there is effectively a subsidy there from the rest of the community (because in economic terms, a subsidy and a concessional tax rate are basically the same thing).

Increasing the tax on poker machine profits to somewhere closer to the income tax rate reduces the implicit subsidy.

More broadly, the entire amalgam of barriers to entry, regulations that favor incumbents using a certain business model (in the case of hotels) and tax concessions (in the case of clubs) distorts a market that should be left to the normal interactions of supply and demand.

Posted by: Mork at September 26, 2003 at 01:57 PM

A complete non sequitur I know, but Hugo Young died yesterday. Shame. He always presented left wing arguments in a way that made them sound resonable, even compelling.

Posted by: Pig Head Sucker at September 26, 2003 at 02:47 PM

Paddy McGuiness' piece in the SMH last Tuesday was a much more balanced presentation than yours, Tim. As he points, so accurately:

"Why shouldn't the low-income club users enjoy luxurious facilities and 24-hour service paid for out of the money they throw at the machines? That is to say, when the Government proposes to increase the tax on club poker-machines, it is taking money from the poor, and condemning them to lower standards of service and accommodation, to lighten the tax burden on the middle classes.

Meanwhile the inner urban dwellers have plenty of access to other entertainment venues (pubs, cinemas, cafes, and so on), so they rarely use clubs. Indeed, they sneer at them.

So it is not at all surprising that the Left faction of the NSW Labor Party, largely constituted of the greedy middle class, should support higher taxes on the clubs. The extra take will pay for their cheap health services and other goodies, like turning Callan Park into a free leisure facility for themselves."

For Mork's information the NSW proposal has nothing to do with income tax. All clubs and non-profit organisation pay income tax on their trading net profit derived from non-members. Net profit provided from members activities are income tax exempt. Thus interest on investment is taxable, subscriptions and bar trade profit from members is not. Clubs use statistical formulae to determine how much of each activity is split between members and non-members, including gambling profit. The poker machine tax is not income tax but a State government tax based on gross profit from gambling. My understanding is that gross profit on gambling is the amount put in by the players less winnings by players. If you've ever played a poker machine you will know that if you start with say $100 and keep playing you will shortly lose the whole $100, but you may in fact have played a total of $300 after "re-investing" your progressive "winnings" (except in the unlikely event you win a jackpot!). The taxable profit to the club would be $100, not the whole turnover of $300. (I know this is not very clear - a bit like rocket science really!).

This whole thing has a strong whiff of wowserism about it. Tut tut, the lower classes indulging in gambling, drinking and eating cheap "all you can eat" buffet-style club meals - things that keep them drunk, poor and fat. We jogging, vegetarian, correct thinking, Tim Costello-adoring people have a duty to save them, and we damned well will, between our chardonnays and lattes, of course. And the cheeky bastards want to drink, eat and play in palatial comfortable premises with nice furniture that are built with the money they put into these immoral machines, places like our lot have at our Intercontinental Hotels, Rockpool restaurants and Stamford hotels. Let 'em know their place and use bingo halls with laminex tables and chairs and sawdust floors!

Posted by: Ron Mead at September 26, 2003 at 03:02 PM

Still doesn't explain the waiter running up and down the stairs with someone's drink on a tray.

Posted by: ilibcc at September 26, 2003 at 03:11 PM

I've got no problem with club users enjoying luxurious facilities, etc. My issue is with the club movement as a whole, which lobbies to restrict drinking and gaming laws for venues other than clubs.

They seek a type of entertainment aparthied. As for wowserism ... it isn't wowserish to want GREATER drinking and gambling freedoms, is it? Yet that is what the clubs object to, because greater availability of such things will cut into their trade.

Posted by: tim at September 26, 2003 at 03:18 PM

Re the waiter -- that was at a restaurant, not a club. The law against standing and drinking applies to most non-club or hotel premises. You want to stand and drink? Got to do it in a club.

Posted by: tim at September 26, 2003 at 03:21 PM

Ron - the point of mentioning income tax is that it is the baseline against which you need to measure the extent to which the clubs receive (distortionary) tax breaks. I appreciate the additional detail, which I wasn't aware of, but I think my point still stands: the proposed change is not a "new tax" but a reduction of part of the tax concessions that clubs receive.

And, with all due respect, McGuiness' argument is complete bullshit. For one thing, he assumes (well, why wouldn't he, he's never met one) that allworking class Australians are club members but that no-one else is.

If that were the case, then I guess you could argue that it's a straight wealth redistribution from rich to poor (which, I guess he's saying, is a good thing) to subsizide thei amusement.

But if you're part of the class that is supposed to benefit, but you don't like clubs, then your still paying your part of the subsidiy, but getting no benefit, which doesn't seem very fair. The point is that this is distortionary, because it provides benefits for one particular form of leisure only. If you have different tastes - bad luck for you.

As for his complaint about the tax paying for "cheap health services", well, I would have thought that doing that was a more appropriate function of government activity than providing subsised leisure.

Posted by: Mork at September 26, 2003 at 03:25 PM

Didn't the government collect more than 1.8 billion on top of what they anticipated they would earn from property stamp duty last financial year?

Thats enough to pay for the entire Police Force and leave half a billion over to get a whole heap of kids out of demountables.

When they get rid of ridiculous schemes like the back to school allowance, and start to spend the money they are already taking from us responsibly, then I might agree a new tax is required - until then, they can get bent.

Posted by: Gilly at September 26, 2003 at 03:49 PM

'Waiter, what is that fly doing in my drink?'

'I believe it is doing the breaststroke, sir.'

Posted by: pooh at September 26, 2003 at 03:57 PM

Hey isn't it the case that Muslim people are not supposed to drink/gamble. You could say that the sweetheart deals/laws given to the clubs discriminates against them!

By redirecting taxpayer funding to the clubs the government could be part of a shadowy zionist scheme!

Another conspiracy uncovered by the internet yay!! You missed your chance Tim.

Posted by: Rob at September 26, 2003 at 04:28 PM

Mork: now apply the same reasoning to the ABC.

Posted by: Gary at September 26, 2003 at 05:36 PM

I do, Gary.

Posted by: Mork at September 26, 2003 at 05:44 PM


The real reason Tim supported war with Iraq - it's all about booooze! "alcohol [is] banned except in private homes"

Posted by: Andjam at September 27, 2003 at 12:03 AM