Man, it’s gotta be tough being a Queensland tourism executive. Between convincing everyone that there aren’t sewing needles in the bananas, or killer jellyfish in the oceans, and that the Great Barrier Reef is still very much alive and definitely not the only dead organism that can be seen from space, it seems like you can’t even enjoy a cheeky business trip to Burning Man without people kicking up a stink.
Two senior public servants from the Sunshine State are copping some backlash over the fact that they took themselves to the nine-day event in the middle of the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, at the expense of Australian taxpayers. John Drummond Montgomery, head of group executive events at Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ), and Rebecca Mantle, head of Events Operations, spent a sum total of $27,060 attending the festival of so-called “radical self-reliance”. For business reasons, of course.
John and Rebecca were reportedly doing research for an Australian equivalent of Burning Man that would be held in the desert of outback Queensland, according to the ABC. A spokeswoman for TEQ said Burning Man was a “benchmark for large-scale festivals held in remote locations”, and confirmed that “Two TEQ representatives went to examine aspects of the event delivery to inform an Outback event concept we are currently developing.”
Those aspects allegedly included event logistics, safety, and communications—as well as, presumably, having a skitz doof in desert goggles. And sure, great, Burning Man Down Under sounds like a hoot. But the thing that’s really rubbing sand into the eyes of many good hardworking Aussie taxpayers is the fact that $27,060 does seem like a lot to write-off as a business expense. Especially given that John, for one, is already sitting on a tidy salary of $317,000.
"Most Queenslanders would find this obscene, to spend almost $30,000 to attend a festival run by a private company, with no tangible benefits for the state," said Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander.
“[Premier] Annastacia Palaszczuk and her celebrity-chasing Tourism Minister are completely out of touch to think that this passes any kind of credibility test. This is a government of hubris—none of it passes the pub test.
“I don’t know about Burning Man, but it’s definitely burning taxpayers’ money.”