The Race that Stops a Nation

I expect some of you will call me a wowser after this post, so to save you time, I’ll beat you to it. I’m a wowser.

Let’s pretend, just for a minute, that all the money spent on the Melbourne Cup (bets, clothes, booze, food etc) comes totally out of someone’s discretionary income. Let’s base this post on the assumption that every dollar of the $455.5 million dollars spent (based on last years figures) comes out of an individuals (or families) discretionary budget and won’t take a cracker out of the family budget for food, electricity or petrol for the fortnight. Let’s assume that all the money mum or dad spends today at the races was money they’d put aside, and the kids won’t be eating two minute noodles for the rest of the fortnight because they blew the pay packet on the race that stops the nation.

$455.5 million. A breakdown of that includes:

  • $166.3 million on tourism
  • $68.1 million on gambling
  • $53.2 million on fashion
  • $167.9 million on food and beverages.

That does not include money spent on TV and broadcasting rights.

 $455.5 million on a race that stops a nation. The Melbourne Cup is a great race to watch – it’s the crème of the crop of Australian (and international) horses. The whole Spring Racing Carnival is exciting – dressing up, chilling out, having a bit of fun, enjoying a punt and a drink.

$455.5 million. That’s a stack of dollars. All on a race that stops a nation.

Imagine if, instead of spending $68.1 million on gambling just this year at the races, we spent $34million.

Imagine if of that $34 million, we spent that on something that would re-start a nation?

What if we spent $1million of that helping women in a developing country, giving her business skills, vocational training and micro-loans, for her to start her own business. Do you know how many women that would help? About 21,000.

Perhaps we could give a lazy million towards buying families a trio of farm animals. These animals supply a family not only food for themselves, but provide a source of ongoing income to support themselves. Do you know how many families would be helped with a million dollars? Just over seven thousand. We could go a bit more extravagant and spend maybe four million dollars on buying a whole stable of animals- radically changing not just one family but everyone around them. How many families (not people, families) do you think $4million would help? Nearly 3300 families.

So we’ve spent $6 million of our $34 million and so far, helped about 21000 women start their own business and about 10,000 families with an ongoing source of nutrition and income.

So $28 million left. What to do?

Let’s talk water. Do you know how many clean water wells $2 million could buy? 1400. That’s 1400 communities (not just individuals, not just families, but whole communities) who would now have access to clean drinking water.

So water is good, so is eating, so is empowering women. What else can we support?

$3 million is a lot of money for education (but a slice of our current annual spending on education). How many teachers would that help train? Over 24,000. That’s a lot of teachers. That’s even more students being provided education for the future. Of course, all those students need classroom furniture. $3 million would provide furniture for over 6250 classrooms. Now those students need to eat, pencils, books and sporting equipment. $2 million would contribute to the educational needs of over 22,000 young school students.

Only 18 million left. Talk about struggle street.

I could keep going on how it could be spent, but I suspect you get the picture.

There was a collective outrage when the newly elected Australian Government cut it’s foreign aid spending. The pros and cons of Government spending on overseas aid has been hotly debated and a topic for another post. What I’m saying is that betting on just one race, once a year (not every race around Australia all year) generates at least $68 million. On an individual basis, it’s a maybe $10 for every adult over 18. How people spend their money is their choice. I’m a libertarian – I’d rather an individual chooses what charity or cause he supports, rather than the Government tax us and use the money as a vote-buying exercise to get on the UN Security Council (ok so that was a cynical punch).

Every year, my mum watches the Race that Stops the Nation. Every year, she cries. Not because she loves the beauty of horseracing, the thrill of the chase or the excitement of the win. It’s because every year, she looks at all those drunks pour out of the racetrack, weeing in the gardens, vomiting on the road and displaying the finest aspects of Australian culture. She sheds a tear because she wonders how many kids will have an inebriated parent who comes home, penniless to an empty cupboard.

This year, why don’t we make this Race that Stops a Nation a day that kickstarts another?

Image from

All figures have been derived from World Vision Australia.



  1. Rosemary Peteranec

    Don’t leave it here Pete … Send it to the newspaper! It’s worth making a statement about .. Just once a year!

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