Clive Palmer might be mad, but he’s not stupid

Dugald Massey Roar Guru

By Dugald Massey, Dugald Massey is a Roar Guru

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20 Have your say

    One could say a lot about Clive Palmer’s recent behaviour. But instead I’ll regale you with a tale.

    This one’s about the bloke changing a flat tyre out the front of the mental asylum, when a gust of wind from a passing truck blows the hubcap containing the wheel nuts into the long grass next to the road. He spends hours searching for them, but to no avail.

    Realising he’s stuffed, he locks up and readies himself for the long walk back to town to get more wheel nuts. Suddenly, an inmate sticks his head up over the fence and suggests he take a nut off each of the other wheels instead.

    “What a good idea,” the driver says. “You’re too smart to be in the loony bin.”

    “Oh no,” the inmate says, “I’m mad as a cut snake. I’m not completely stupid though.”

    Which brings us to Palmer’s proposed football think tank that will “publish papers, hold press conferences, seek opinions, lobby the government, lobby the FFA for a better outcome for Australians and the game in Australia.”

    This sounds a pretty soft option next to a rebel national league but, well, Clive obviously isn’t completely stupid either.

    What do so-called “think tanks” do? They try to change minds. They collect data, conduct research and frame arguments based on the evidence they’ve gathered, and they lobby in the political and public arenas trying to pressure governments into behaving differently.

    So why would Clive Palmer want to be sinking money into a think tank that’s specialty is football?

    Is it because he wants governments to throw more money at football?

    I don’t think so.

    Palmer’s recent pronouncements indicate the opposite; that he wants FFA to be made more accountable. Failing that, he wants governments to stop throwing taxpayers’ money at football.

    And that in the end won’t be a particularly hard argument to sustain because football has left itself wide open to getting its head kicked in. If Palmer can gather up and table the truth about how grassroots football clubs make and spend their money, the results will be more damning than anything that goes on in the A-League.

    The last major fact-finding mission around football in Australia was David Crawford’s, and it was “independent”. That is, it was commissioned by a government that didn’t have an axe to grind either way; it just wanted to know what was going on out there without starting a war.

    Independent it may have been but Crawford’s findings were still unflattering. Criticism wasn’t confined to the national league; there was nary a compliment to found anywhere. As Crawford wrote, “the current structure of football in Australia is ineffective, does not work and needs changing.”

    Former NSL clubs suffering as they have under Lowy might have sounded like big changes to some, but tormenting so-called ethnic clubs wasn’t even in the Crawford report; that was all Lowy’s idea.

    The changes Crawford wanted imposed on football before government funding was restored were never implemented.

    Crawford only gathered information and gave advice. He wasn’t a lobbyist and he didn’t try to spin the information he’d gathered to get a particular result

    And that, one imagines, is what Palmer is talking about when he talks about “kicking harder”.

    Palmer’s think tank, if it ever gets up, won’t be as civilised as an independent authority. It’ll have an agenda, and an axe to grind.

    And it’s not hard to pick which bit of the game will cop a grinding first, judging by Palmer’s comments this week on the game’s seemingly inexplicable junior fees. He’s spotted the game’s soft underbelly already. He knows exactly where to kick hard.

    How hard would it be to survey fee-paying parents, crunch the numbers on roughly how much money junior participants are pumping into football and deduct from that one or two billion dollars annually. Then look at the capital works football clubs have invested in – roughly zero – to determine how much is being spent on football “services”. Then, you could to run that past the tax office to see how much of that income has been declared by its recipients?

    Not hard at all. Not when you’ve got millions to spend on research and spin doctors.

    That’s when Clive’s think tank shall ask governments and taxpayers and all fair-minded Australians: Should governments be pumping taxpayers’ money into an institutionalised black economy that’s tendency is to eschew paying taxes on its earnings?

    I’m sure Clive Palmer will have an opinion on it and a propensity for making that opinion heard very loudly.

    What are the odds of a government going into bat on behalf of “proven” tax cheats now that Mark Arbib has left the building?

    If Palmer gets his way – and he tends to because for all the apparent madness, he does actually do his homework – football may have to become less reliant on government income.

    Without football hanging off the Treasury’s coattails, there might even be room for the minerals and resources sector to score another small tax concession or two.

    Palmer may be mad, but he’s not completely stupid.

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 10:03am
      Michael said | March 2nd 2012 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      Maybe, but I doubt he has the attention span to do this once the glow from the camera lights has worn off.

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 10:25am
      philipcoates said | March 2nd 2012 @ 10:25am | ! Report

      What drugs are you taking? I’ve got to get some. How you could meander this article and Clive’s agenda to the conclusion that he is out to prove that the FFA are tax cheats is just mind boggling.

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 10:30am
      trevordelbridge said | March 2nd 2012 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      Really interesting article. It will certainly be interesting to see if the new association will bear the intended results.

      It will also be interesting to see whether or not he can help himself in starting up a rival competition.

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 11:00am
      Betty B said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:00am | ! Report

      I don’t doubt Clive’s ability to set up and maintain his ‘think tank’.
      I do doubt Clive’s ability to allow his think-tank, or anything that Clive funds for that mater, independent thought.
      That’s Clive’s problem.
      This initiative of Palmers will be a joke, ignored mostly by everyone.
      But the HAL does need people like Clive, and they need to learn how to deal with them.

    • Roar Guru

      March 2nd 2012 @ 11:30am
      The Cattery said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:30am | ! Report

      Sorry, none of it makes sense.

      1. Clive already has the ear of government, he doesn’t need a contrived think tank to get both ears.

      2. Clive wants his think tank to lobby government to withdraw a measly $8 million per annum paid to the FFA, or whatever it is? If someone was to get on a crusade about the quantum of Government hand-outs directed right around the nation, you would not have time to do anything else in your life.

      3. As was discussed recently on the Roar, in an article meant as an attack on the AFL, all sports bodies don’t pay either income tax or company tax, especically community based sporting clubs, although they are still subject to a range of ancillary taxes.

      • March 2nd 2012 @ 12:48pm
        Nathan of Perth said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

        Clive Palmer Mining Magnate wants to see hand-outs to the league withdrawn on the same weekend as Swan rips into the mining magnate class for try to rule in narrow self-interest at the expense of a majority, oh that is going to get a lot of traction in Canberra….

      • March 2nd 2012 @ 1:35pm
        Dugald Massey said | March 2nd 2012 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

        1. You could say the same of Lowy. Frank obviously has the ear of government so why bother pumping millions into the Lowy Institute trying to influence government policies?

        Governments respond to policy arguments, not outstretched hands at press conferences or social media. Lowy knows that, as do those funding the Australia Institute, the Sydney Institute and the Institute of Public Affairs – they generate the public discussions that ultimately effect the changes they’re after.

        Football’s argument for receiving cash from governments is that it’s an Olympic sport, which is pretty flimsy when the money isn’t actually quarantined to the under-23s. Will it stand up to heavy scrutiny from Clive’s think tank? I don’t know.

        2. Yep, there’s huge amounts of government money being splurged on all sorts of crazed ideas. Down here in Victoria we sling Bernie Ecclestone $50 million a year at the same time as kids with ABIs are stuck in nursing homes because the government says it can’t possibly afford the $500 bucks extra a month it costs to get them into appropriate accommodation.

        Football would be fine if it were Football versus Ecclestone. How football’s middle-class welfare arguments go against the needs of kids stuck in nursing homes is probably a different question.

        3. Yes, I saw that discussion and that’s why I don’t seek tax advice in The Roar’s comments section. Non-profit community sporting bodies are tax exempt but their disbursement are not. Referees aside, every cent that’s outlaid on the services of coaches, players and club “volunteers” is taxable income under the Tax Act and must be declared.

        Maybe it is all declared? Fair enough. As they say, if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about.

        So why are so many clubs running two sets of books and paying out money in brown paper bags rather than white envelopes with payslips. Why are they not issuing group certificates?

        I’ve been asking around for ten years and the answer is always the same: Everyone else is doing it, so you know …

        I can understand football supporters being upset at some fly-by making wild accusations as these about football’s business model, just like I understood it exactly twelve months ago when I informed Roar readers that some A-League club owners were so upset with FFA’s handling of their league that they were considering their positions. That too was dismissed with the standard “what drug’s he on” nonsense you see here.

        After 130 years of it, you get used to football diehards mindlessly mouthing off just before they walk smack bang into yet another closed door.

        • Roar Guru

          March 2nd 2012 @ 2:03pm
          The Cattery said | March 2nd 2012 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

          Your responses to to 1,2 and 3 are fair enough – but I still can’t quite see why a mining magnate would care so much that he would be prepared to spend millions of dollars on it – I still can’t follow the motivation as far as Palmer is concerned. I can’t believe that he would really care that much about a few mill going to the FFA, or that some amateur coaches get paid 10k to coach the senior team, or whatever the hell it is.

          Would CP really be worried about parents spending $200 per annum on their kids playing soccer rather than $120?

          I can’t join the dots – I can’t see why CP is doing all this – I’m yet to see a logical explanation anywhere. It’s starting to look more and more like a case of spite and a bit of fun and games for him.

          As one twitterer tweeted: Palmer might just be the best sporting troll ever.

          • March 2nd 2012 @ 6:15pm
            dasilva said | March 2nd 2012 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

            I think Clive Palmer just has a personal vendetta against Lowy and the FFA board and wants to continue publicly embarrassing them

            However I do think think that perhaps the likes of Archie Fraser has some sincerity about this and could potentially unlock some of these issues.

            • March 3rd 2012 @ 3:37am
              Lorry said | March 3rd 2012 @ 3:37am | ! Report

              What I don’t understand is why the government doesn’t requisition (or should I say repossess?!) Palmer’s mines, paying him out at a base rate…

              That way all Australians can enjoy the benefits and Palmer will have more than enough to set up his ‘think-tank’ if he so desires!!!

              • March 6th 2012 @ 5:18pm
                phutbol said | March 6th 2012 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

                Because we arent a police state. the Govt can do exactly that if they are willing to pay MARKET rate and the assets are for sale….

                The other thing is that govts are notoriously bad at running businesses.

              • March 6th 2012 @ 8:48pm
                Lorry said | March 6th 2012 @ 8:48pm | ! Report


                I was probably exaggerating with the requisition bit….
                and it is true that governments may not be great at running businesses (for profit).

                However, certainly with things like public transport, it does it at a cheaper cost… Since Melbourne privatised the trams in the 90s, prices have gone up significantly, more so than where public transport remains in the hands of the state.

                For something like a mine, though, in a RELATIVELY non-corrupt country like Australia, I can’t see how public ownership would not be beneficial to the citizens?

    • March 2nd 2012 @ 11:37am
      Ben C said | March 2nd 2012 @ 11:37am | ! Report

      When I was a kid and my dad used to take me to the Canberra Arrows, there used to be a common chant…..’WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH!’…This article reminds me of that. The error here is that you’re assuming that Clive is serious. The guy is a clown out to wreck the game as he doesn’t like not getting his own way. His ‘FA’ is a farce.

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