Billions of dollars in corrupt pork barrelling can seem a little abstract, so using Vince O’Grady’s spreadsheet analysis, I’ve chosen an example of a frontline seat and those that adjoin it to demonstrate how much an Australian Electoral Commission boundary costs or benefits communities.
The Labor-held seat of Hunter in regional New South Wales abuts three National seats to its west and north.
It is a particularly rich green line that separates Hunter from the Nationals’ Calare, Lyne and New England.
Since the Coalition invented CDGs in 2014 through to and including the 2019 election year, only $108,000 in CDGs show up on the GrantConnect site for the good folk of Hunter.
Source: AEC map; TND graphic
If they just skipped across the electoral boundary to the west into Calare, they would have benefitted from a slice of $6.1 million.
If they moved north-east to Lyne on the coast, they would have picked up $14.9 million.
But to be really “lucky”, they should have moved north to Barnaby Joyce’s seat of New England to be showered with $28.9 million in CDGs.
(And it’s not just CDGs in New England. It seems if you can’t pick up a grant in those parts, you haven’t got your hand out.)
CDGs are not supposed to be purely regional grants – some of the biggest winners are rich Liberal-held city seats – but it is the National Party that has done by far the best out of the way this barrel has rolled.
In 2019, the 68 Labor seats averaged $836,000 in CDGs, Liberal seats $2.086 million, LNP seats in Queensland $2.473 million – and the 10 National Party seats scored an average of $6.712 million.
That contrast is stark on the ground.
Aside from the three National Party fiefdoms, Hunter adjoins five Labor and one Liberal-held electorates to the east and south.
A thin finger of Liberal-held Robertson touches Hunter’s southern boundary. Robertson has been awarded $3.5 million in CDGs.
Of the five Labor-held seats, Newcastle and Shortland have not received a cent over the six years. Paterson scored $110,000, Macquarie a more respectable $982,000 and Dobell an astonishing $9.45 million.
Swabs may be called for in Dobell, or perhaps it’s the exception that makes the rule.
Or maybe it’s purely coincidental that Dobell and Macquarie can’t be considered “safe” Labor seats any more – they were only held at the last election by margins of 1.5 and 0.19 per cent respectively.
No, given the way CDGs have been used, it’s probably not coincidental.
By comparison, Shortland, Newcastle, Paterson and Hunter went into the election with Labor enjoying margins of 10%, 13.8%, 10.7% and 12.5% from the 2016 election.
The Labor seat that received by far the most – Solomon in the Northern Territory, $32.6 million – was held by the Coalition until the 2016 election.
The second “luckiest” Labor seat over the past six years was Queensland’s Griffith with $23.47 million.
Labor only held the seat with a margin of 1.4% in 2016.
The third “luckiest” was Gilmore with $17.97 million — it was a Liberal seat won by Labor last year.
Also doing particularly well for a Labor seat has been Eden-Monaro with $16.7 million. I wonder why …
“The Community Development Grants Programme (CDG) provides funding for critical projects where the Australian government has identified the need for new or upgraded facilities. Projects range from new sporting facilities, to upgrading community centres and small-scale infrastructure projects.
“CDG projects have contributed to local economies, created jobs and boosted confidence within a region. Since 2013-2014 the government has provided funding of $2.5 billion, including for 455 projects from the 2016 election.”
The $105,000 for the Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme received nearly twice as many words.
Voters in Wentworth, Australia’s richest electorate, no doubt needed to have their confidence boosted by $31.3 million in CDGs.
To the $14.8 million over the scheme’s first six years, the GrantConnect site now adds $16.5 million towards the Sydney Swans and NSW Swifts constructing a development centre at Moore Park.
This latest grant appears to be another case of “topping up” a CDG.
It was going to be $15 million when it was announced by the trio of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, then-Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie and Liberal candidate David Sharma during the election campaign.
The seat at that stage was held by independent Dr Kerryn Phelps — she wasn’t invited to the announcement.
And the CDGs, environment grants and #sportsrorts are not the end of the Morrison Government’s pork barrel story.
Yes, of course there are more shoes to drop — but absolutely no sign of a federal integrity commission.
The above article was published in The New Daily today and is republished with permission.
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