House debates

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Grievance Debate

Commonwealth Grants

6:40 pm

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

They don't want these facts on the parliamentary record. Infrastructure Australia said they were not recommended for the infrastructure priority list. For Napoleon Road, they initially allocated $3.5 million towards the upgrade. Then Alan Tudge, the former member—this is one of those ones in Aston—said they were going to fund $50 million. Yet that's actually $220 million short of what would have been required to deliver the project. So they allocated $3½ million, they announced a fake promise of $50 million and they were going to need $270 million to deliver the project. Then there's the Dorset Road upgrade. They allocated $6.5 million. Tudge looks like he promised $80 million, although the department said, no, they actually only pencilled in $50 million. But it would require another $120 million to deliver the project. Fake promises. Even the ones they put through Infrastructure Australia were not recommended.

How were the $4.8 billion of projects chosen, you may well ask. No-one will ever know. The department gave evidence on Friday that they had no idea. It was done by ministers. Only some states and territories got asked—like New South Wales, a Liberal state. Other states and territories didn't get asked for input or advice.

Then there's the Regional Growth Fund, a $272.2 million slush fund. Full marks for trying, though. You did try and cover your tracks on this one. It was dressed up. They had process, they had guidelines and they had evaluations, but magically, 96 per cent went to coalition seats. The other four per cent went to Lingiari, a seat you were trying to win from us. You didn't win it. But magically, in another Deirdre Chambers moment, $261,181,392 versus $11 million—they say the department assessed it. Well, yes, the department did assess these and then it gave a list of 148 applications to the ministers and said, 'You choose.' Why did they choose one over the other? No-one will ever know. It's just a coincidence that 96 per cent of it went to Liberal seats. The fund was for major transformational projects to deliver long-term economic growth and create jobs in the regions. There were a whole lot of sporting facilities. There was even one in the Casey electorate, on the edge of Melbourne. In fact, most of the voters in Casey live in a metropolitan area. Some of the funding went into a metropolitan area, but that should not be a surprise, because, as the Auditor-General observed, over 3½ years, 26 per cent of their so-called regional development funding went to major capital city postcodes.

A government member interjecting

You're right, most of that you couldn't apply for, like the infamous North Sydney pool—apparently a regional development project. There was no requirement for benefit-cost ratios on this. The committee got the documents. It was a slush fund dressed up as a grants program. This cannot be normalised.

I'll close by reading a couple of quotes from submissions. Regional Development Australia Northern Territory said:

… BBRF became increasingly known for being a funding program marred by political influence.

A long-term government worker, now consultant, said:

The real point is that the last few years of the previous government was void of policy across almost every area of government. In my 43 years of working across 3 levels of government I had not before seen such a lack of policy depth across an entire government.

…   …   …

The sad side was that we didn't even try for Australian Government funding as the town is in the wrong location in the wrong electorate. How sad that in Australia, over the last few years, the location politically determines if children can have facilities … they also don't have the guts to stand up in front of the children and say because your town didn't vote for us, you are not getting a playground.

Shame on you. (Time expired)


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