The American government spent millions of taxpayer dollars on lobster tail last year, and another $300,000 on premium cuts of beef, which might sound like flippant federal spending if you feel stingy about the cut taken from your paycheck every week or two. (The expenses are part of the ‘use it or lose it’ rush to maintain federal spending budgets; most of that food ends up served to members of the military.)
But at least we aren’t alone in terms of a confusing cash flow of government money: In New Zealand, the Department of Corrections dropped over a million Australian dollars—or about $666,500 USD—on slushie machines last year.
After record high temperatures in the summer of 2018, the department installed 193 slushie machines in prisons across the country, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. But before you think prisoners were slurping blue raspberry just like kids at 7-Eleven, it should be clarified that no, the slushie machines were meant to aid staff members, who work long shifts and wear 13-pound protective vests even on those brutal summer days.
Simon Bridges, leader of the country’s National Party, has since called the purchase “irresponsible” and “an extraordinary waste of taxpayers' money,” as reported by the Guardian . It’s also proof, he said, that the government doesn’t need to raise taxes because it “clearly [doesn’t] know how to spend what they’re already taking.”
But according to the Corrections Department, the purchase is misunderstood. “The idea of the slushies as confectionery or luxury treats is completely incorrect,” Willie Cochrane, an organizer with New Zealand’s Public Service Association, said in a statement. “They are a crushed ice mixture flavoured with electrolyte replacement mixtures.” The prisons needed so many slushie machines, he added, since staff aren’t often able to leave their wings.
The purchase was also backed up by Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis, who told Radio New Zealand that it was necessary to keep officers “cool, safe, and healthy” so that they can do their jobs in comfort. Unlike previous government spending that allegedly spent “hundreds of thousands on a single TV screen, reception desk, and hair straighteners,” Davis said, the slushie machines were about keeping staff cool and hydrated—which could, in turn, could lower tempers and tensions between officers and prisoners.
There is some scientific basis for their arguments: in 2012, for example, the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health published an article that suggested that the military use crushed ice to prevent heat stroke. According to the Herald, however, prisoners aren’t allowed to use the slushie machines, despite living in the same hot, tense environment.
Well, this sure does give another meaning to the term “slush fund.”