Game of Mates: Grey gifts

Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Game of Mates: How favours bleed the nation.
Get the book via Follow Cameron on Facebook and Twitter.
Come to the Brisbane book launch on 23rd May, 6pm at Avid Reader, West End (Details and RSVP link)

At its core, the underlying power that James co-opted when playing the Game of Mates in property and transportation was the discretion of the politicians and the bureaucrats to make rezoning decisions and determine the content of infrastructure contracts. James’ wealth in those sectors came from these discretionary decisions over the allocation of things that have large private value, but are not priced. They are ‘grey gifts’. And they are the currency of ‘grey corruption’. In a world with clearly defined rules and no political and bureaucratic discretion, there are no grey gifts. The Game is thus about ‘wriggle room’.

The reality is that politicians and top bureaucrats regularly make decisions that have private winners and losers; decisions that can make millionaires out of some and paupers out of others. Their power comes from being able to choose who gets the massive economic value of their grey gifts, all the while not having to bear any personal costs. Instead, Bruce bears the costs.

The problem is particularly large if there are frequent decisions that are not well observed by the electorate. Complex, hard-to-read, regulatory environments require politicians and top bureaucrats to rely on their judgement and discretion to interpret and enforce the rules. Which way they err can make millions of dollars of difference to the people and companies operating under those rules. In a sense, they control an ‘economic honeypot’.

And where there is honey, you attract flies. James and his ilk swarm about to get a taste of millions of dollars of on offer from grey gifts. In property, the value given away is the right to change the usage of land. Who gets the property right is decided with a great deal of discretion in the political and bureaucratic system, but outside that system that property right has a market value. In infrastructure, the tax receipts of current and future generations are put in the hands of private owners of infrastructure projects through negotiated and flexible contractual arrangements, the value of which is capitalised into the value of the PPP companies.

A great example of how easily grey gifts are given, and how hidden they can be in complex rules systems, played out in Queensland in 2016 during a review of planning laws. The State planning laws and regulations determine the processes by which major projects are approved for development, including the rules councils must comply with in their own planning system. It was proposed that instead of council officers assessing a developer’s application, developers would be able to nominate a private certifier to make the discretionary assessment of the merits of their application.

This put the developers totally in charge of development and thus bypassed councils: all the big players would befriend their own private certifiers, leaving only the very small developers (such as Bruce) facing any real problems in getting their planning applications approved. This tiny hidden rule could be worth tens of millions of dollars to those who can capitalise on it.

A simple test to help see whether a grey gift is being given is to ask whether the recipient would be willing to pay for the decision if they were made to. Would a developer pay a higher fee to choose their own assessor? Would they pay for rezoning? They would, because in places they are made to, they do.

Would a toll road owner pay to close alternative roadways that compete with it? When the answer is yes, you have identified a grey gift, and in doing so, identified a social environment ripe for the formation of a Game of Mates. And this same method of identification provides one of the first clues about how to combat the Game of Mates – charge the market value of grey gifts to those who benefit! Make James pay!



    ‘We’ coulda been a contender,instead of a bum which is what we are, let’s face it.

  2. Baruch Spinoza

    How this for a game of mates. Someone not paid a late fee ? A fine ? Or just owes you money ?

    Submit a request for funds to Peninsula Link along with their rego – when that person drives on the road just hit them up with a fine.

    When they say they weren’t speeding, send them a picture with a speed printed on it saying they were.

    No recourse, nothing you can do, and there is no evidence chain at all – nothing – just free money.

    The only possible recourse anyone has is to provide video evidence of their own spedo combined with secondary evidence proving this first evidence is being shot at the time and place the fine was issued….wtf ?

    You do have this impossible evidence or do intend to take the matter to court ? Fine. Well drop it.

    Thousands upon thousands of people get together and all swear they were not speeding, provide GPS tracking data that they were not speeding, and build apps to prove they were not speeding ?

    Create an Peninsula Link Camera spokesperson who will look into it. How do they look into it ? They ask Peninsula Link if their cameras are all ok ? Peninsula Link says the cameras are all ok, despite thousands and thousands of people saying otherwise. Case closed.

    Yes – Peninsula Link is just arbitrarily collecting money – some of it is handed over to the state – the rest is pocketed.

    Completely mind blowing.

  3. naturaltrust

    Will you be paying a voluntary tax ‘Grey Mates Tax’ to your mates at Macrobusiness for giving you advertorial space for several days, Cameron (Dog Boxes) Murray)? ( For those who are not yet aware ‘Dog Boxes’ is an affectionate title for persons who support Universal Land Tax for the purpose of increasing taxes on homes to force people to live in high rise ‘Dog Boxes’ apartments or homes without any yards.) Perhaps you should also share your Grey Mates Tax with all who read your advertorial.

    What an extraordinary motto you have.

    “Grey Gifts, sell them or tax them”. (Quoted from one of your self promotion videos at ).

    You assert that every potential product or asset should be taxed more or sold under government control.

    Joseph Stalin would have been delighted to have you on his staff.

    As many people know there is government and business corruption. Your suggestions about how to fix the ‘Grey Gifts’ corruption are hugely destructive.

    You even want to have everybody’s freehold property titles converted to 99 year leasehold titles so that governments can have even greater control over people’s homes and businesses.

    • NT,
      Did you get out the wrong side of the land tax this morning?

      Cameron Murray and the MB team are doing a lot more for the betterment of Australia (and being paid much less than your mates) than you and the vested interests you support.

      Land tax has a lot going for, even if you do not agree.

      Play the economic argument, not the man, it makes you look p*ss weak. Or perhaps ????

      • naturaltrust

        Apparently you think that advocating for Dog Box living is noble, ITAg. I don’t.

        If you do not already have one feel free to find your own Dog Box now and be a leader in the field.

        Be honest and noble and go forth into your own Dog Box, ITAg.

    • “For those who are not yet aware ‘Dog Boxes’ is an affectionate title for persons who support Universal Land Tax for the purpose of increasing taxes on homes to force people to live in high rise ‘Dog Boxes’ apartments or homes without any yards.”

      Think about it for a bit and that argument doesn’t make much sense.

      • naturaltrust

        Makes complete sense, (Dog Boxes) littleguy.

        Leith wants to tell you that Dog Boxes for all is his, and Cameron (Dog Boxes) Murray’s and your own, ambition:

        “Moreover, if land taxes are used to replace stamp duties, then it would further encourage households to ‘right-size’ into properties that best suit their needs, thus resulting in more efficient usage of the housing stock and boosting effective supply. (Leith (Dog Boxes) von Onselen.”

        Yes, as Leith (Dog Boxes)says above, massive expansion of the supply and demand for Dog Boxes and no front or back yard living is his goal.

      • It is a big leap to assume that “right size” automatically means dog boxes (protect corruption)naturaltrust.

  4. naturaltrust

     BTW…You should stop eating those McDonald’s french fries Cameron (Dog Boxes) Murray…they are high in carbs and unhealthy fats. Ask Leith (Dog Boxes) van Onselen. He knows about this health risk.

    You will present a good image to children and others if you do not openly display unhealthy eating habits. Big Food, Big Pharma and Big Medicine will surely be on your side if you keep this promotion of junk food running. Might be some good grey gifts available for you in that field!

    • NT – your causal relationship between ULT and dog boxes is only in your smallish mind.

      Obviously you live down at Officer South / Pakenham lakes in your own little mac mansion on its own 450 sq m of swamp.

      You are pathetic. Not everyone can live on the full suburban block when we allow illegal purchase and use of laundered funds by people with no interest in Australia apart from hiding their assets. Come out to Kingsway in Glen Waverley to see the fruits of your desires.

      It will be like the wonderfully useless Kelly O’D explaining to her new kids when they grow up why they have to rent their house off the Asian landlords who were allowed to flourish because Kelly’s useless enquiry which refused to acknowledge illegal activities of cashed up people from other countries who see tax paying as an unneeded option which allows purchasing more Australian houses. At least a ULT would capture some of their monet.

      • naturaltrust

        I see you are very hurt and need empathy, (Dog Boxes) ITAg.

        I will pray for you.

        I suggest you try a good 12 Step program such as AA or OA as these programs will help you to learn to be honest and rational with yourself.

  5. OK. I’ll bite. Copy ordered.

    I just hope it somehow goes towards bringing in an Urban Land Tax. I like the way it upsets the Little Land Lords.

  6. Tamash1MEMBER

    ULT cannot be avoided. Remove all other taxes and make ULT whatever it has to be.
    100,000 tax Lawyers and accountants would not be needed….tick.

    Property prices would adjust to reflect affordability of the tax to the homeowner.

    Simplifying the tax system benefits everyone, rich and poor.