Coalition accused of pork-barrelling grants in marginal seats

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The ways have been put again into the highlight after Mayo candidate Georgina Downer was additionally referred to the Auditor-Basic for handing out a taxpayer-funded cheque emblazoned together with her face and Liberal Social gathering branding to a neighborhood bowling membership.

Native Labor and impartial MPs say they’re being notified after they’ve been awarded and infrequently solely from social media posts.

Ms McGowan was sidelined in February by the Nationals candidate Mark Byatt, who introduced $three.1 million in Commonwealth grants round her voters with Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie earlier than Ms McGowan was instructed.

Nationals Building Better Regions Fund advertising. 

Nationals Constructing Higher Areas Fund promoting. Credit score:  

“By arranging for the unelected candidate to ‘announce’ these grants with out due course of and transparency, the federal government seems to have used taxpayer for their very own political functions,” she mentioned

The tactic seems to be a part of an nationwide Coalition marketing campaign to maximise the political mileage of the grants, a collection of latest candidate appearances exhibits.

In February, the Mullumbimby-Brunswick Valley Soccer Membership was awarded $200,000 by the Nationals candidate for the seat of Richmond, Matthew Fraser, and Senator McKenzie. The native MP, Labor’s Justine Elliot, mentioned she was solely notified two weeks later. The seat is held on a margin of seven per cent.

Every week later, Macquarie’s Wentworth Falls soccer membership was awarded $175,000 by Liberal candidate Sarah Richards and International Minister Marise Payne. The native Labor MP, Susan Templeman, mentioned she was inspired by Senator McKenzie to “communicate to the candidates to advise them of their profitable initiatives” days after the announcement was made. Ms Templeman holds the seat by 5 per cent.

The Liberal candidate for Hindmarsh, Jake Corridor-Evans, additionally introduced a “letter of notification” to the Semaphore bowling membership in February telling them they had been awarded a $65,000 grant. There have been no elected MPs current. Hindmarsh is held by Labor MP Steve Georganas by 1.9 per cent. 

Within the Northern Territory, Nation Liberal Social gathering candidate Kathy Ganley has been known as on to advise Division of Immigration integration grant winners they’ve been profitable. The native MP, Luke Gosling, had but to obtain a listing of those that had received. He holds the seat by simply 1.four per cent.

Senator McKenzie mentioned functions for these applications endure a rigorous, aggressive, merit-based evaluation.

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“It’s acceptable that as a minister, I’ve made these necessary bulletins on behalf of the federal government which can profit the neighborhood,” she mentioned.

She didn’t reply to questions on whether or not native MPs had been knowledgeable or if the federal government was focusing on marginal electorates with taxpayer money.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus mentioned the actions had been “nothing wanting a rort”.

“Unelected Liberal and Nationals candidates are being instructed about taxpayer-funded, authorities grants earlier than sitting MPs in order that they will ‘announce’ them as in the event that they had been items from the Liberal or Nationwide Events,” he mentioned.

Labor used related ways when it was in authorities with appearances by then minister Joel Fitzgibbon awarding $125,000 to beetroot processors within the marginal seat of Wright. Anthony Albanese additionally touted native street upgrades alongside unelected candidates.

Nearly 20 per cent of the taxpayer-funded $624 million allotted to Neighborhood Growth Grants underneath the Coalition since 2013 has gone to only 5 marginal seats, which maintain simply 2 per cent of the inhabitants.

Labor awarded 40 per cent of $568 million in grants to marginal seats they held earlier than they misplaced the 2013 election, six instances the speed of safer seats.

Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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