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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Labor accuses Tony Abbott of using community grants as a slush fund | World news | theguardian.com

Labor accuses Tony Abbott of using community grants as a slush fund | World news | theguardian.com




Labor accuses Tony Abbott of using community grants as a slush fund




The opposition says 80% of the grants have gone to marginal Coalition electorates to fulfil promises from 2013 election




Julie Collins
The opposition spokeswoman for regional development, Julie Collins. Photograph: Gary Schafer/AAP







A $300m “community development grants program” is actually a
government “slush fund” because 80% of the grants have gone to marginal
electorates that the Coalition was targeting in the 2013 poll, the Labor
party claims.



$257m of the $307m fund went to Coalition electorates, including 230
projects in the 15 most marginal seats at the centre of last year’s
election battle. Only $30m went to Labor-held seats.



The funding was redirected from the former government’s regional
development Australia fund to election announcements, mostly in city
electorates.



The opposition spokeswoman for regional development, Julie Collins,
demanded the government explain the disparity, saying the scheme looked
like the “regional rorts” scheme run by the former Howard government.



In a report released shortly before the 2007 election the auditor
general found that 77% of grants in that scheme’s first three years had
gone to Coalition electorates, and that negative department assessments
of funding promised during election campaigns had regularly been
overturned, most often when they were in Coalition-held electorates.



Labor then set up its own “Better Regions” program and wrote new
guidelines that allowed ministers to overturn negative departmental
assessments, if they justified the decision in writing to the finance
minister. Most of its funding then went to Labor-held marginals.



The new Coalition government’s community infrastructure grant program
was set up specifically to fund the government’s election promises, and
also a few selected projects that had been promised by the former
government.



Among the projects funded are sporting grounds, footpaths, recreation
centres, surf lifesaving clubs, museums, airport upgrades, canteens,
new lighting and parklands.



Guidelines for the program say funding will be subject to a value
with public money assessment by the department of infrastructure and
regional development.



“An assessment against this appraisal criterion is intended to
identify and consider the complexity of the project, risks associated
with its delivery and ongoing management and the capability of the
funding proponent to deliver and maintain the project,” the guidelines
state.



“Community infrastructure that stacks up should be considered for
government funding, but the key criteria for funding should not be the
political affiliation of the local member,” Collins said.



“Tony Abbott is telling the communities of Australia he will support
them only if they return Coalition MPs … this is hypocrisy at the
highest level given the harsh and severe cuts the Abbott government has
made in its budget.”





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