Senate debates

Monday, 9 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Prime Minister

5:19 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] This government and the Prime Minister have got form when it comes to being dodgy. I want to focus on rorts. We've had sports rorts. We've had the female facilities program, building swimming pools in North Sydney. We've had the community development grants going to favoured seats. Now we've got 'pork and ride'—car park corruption. I'm hoping that tomorrow the Senate is going to support my motion to set up an inquiry into the Urban Congestion Fund, including the car park rorts, because we need to get to the bottom of these murky, rotten, multilayered rorts.

The first layer of corruption with pork and ride is that it's very clear from sensible transport planning that building car parks at railway stations is a lousy way of tackling congestion. Good transport planning says that the only way to tackle congestion—to get folks off the road—is by improving and expanding public transport services, including improving bus services to stations, and improving active transport, including improving walking and cycling paths.

Then we've got the second layer of the car park corruption. It goes beyond this cock-and-bull story that, somehow, building car parks will solve congestion. There is the fact that, having decided to build car parks, they decided to build them—as the ANAO told us—in 20 marginal electorates. Going to the Prime Minister: what's worse is that it's clear this wasn't just a matter of individual ministers thinking up this strategy on their own; this was coordinated, systematic rorting across multiple programs. Given that many of these processes started shortly after Scott Morrison became Prime Minister, there is a smoking gun; his office was centrally involved in coordinating the rorts. What it looks and smells like is that his government started with a wish list of projects across multiple portfolios and then thought about how to jam them into whatever programs you could force them into.

Where has Prime Minister Morrison been on these rorts? He's nowhere to be seen. But the Australian public aren't fooled. They can see that this is corruption starting at the top—spending public money on the basis of where projects can win votes rather than on the basis of need and the proper analysis of where the money is best spent. The excuse that the other side did it too—a childish they-started-it—is no excuse. Things have got to change, and the has to start at the top, with the Prime Minister. There needs to be commitment to transparency and accountability. We need to see the colour-coded spread sheets, and there needs to be real consequences for this corrupt behaviour. We need a federal ICAC now. It's only by having an anticorruption watchdog with teeth that this type of behaviour is going to be able to be reined in.


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