Taxpayers contribute $553 per pilgrim

The courts have dismissed legal protests, but it remains the case that the 2008 World Youth Day was very expensive for the taxpayers of New South Wales. Reported spending by the New South Wales government was $86 million mostly on policing, traffic management, security and other crowd-related matters. The Federal Government contributed a further $42 million (largely in fulfilment of a promise made by the former Howard Government) . A state and federal package for the racing industry included at least $3.5 million to compensate for the use of Randwick racecourse.

Thus, direct costs to the taxpayer were about $131.5 million, offset by $10 million paid to the State for the use of venues. So, lets be generous and say the cost to the taxpayer was $120 million. (The Roman Catholic church spent a further $115 million on the event of its own money and raised about $75 million in pilgrim fees.)

400,000 people filled Randwick Racecourse for the Final Mass. About 125,000 people visited from overseas joining an estimated 100,000 registered Australian participants-that’s 225,000.

So, by my reckoning, the governments spent at least $120,000,000/225,000 = $533 per pilgrim. That is an extraordinary amount of money for taxpayer support of attendance at a sectarian religious event.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has welcomed the NSW Auditor-General’s decisions, at her request, to conduct a preliminary investigation into World Youth Day costs to ensure proper scrutiny of the government’s role in organising and funding the event. Ms Rhiannon reckons the NSW Government’s contribution is four times more than the contribution made by equivalent state governments to the past two World Youth Days in Toronto and Cologne, which attracted a greater number of pilgrims.