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  • Audit necessary to find the funding fair go

    2019 - 09.27

    AUSTRALIA is supposed to be the land of the fair go.

    We’re supposed to be the nation that values, above all else, the idea that we’re mates, we’re equal, and when it comes to sharing our communal wealth around, fairness is the foundation principle on which that happens.

    Which is why the Federal Government’s $940 million community development grants program and the distribution of funds to communities across the country does not stand up well to scrutiny.

    A search of the 538 funded projects that appear on a list administered by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development shows that rather than being a nation of equals, we’re more a nation of winners and losers. The winners are marginal seats where the Coalition campaigned hard for votes at elections in 2013 and 2016.

    The losers are electorates like Hunter, Shortland and Newcastle, where Labor candidates were expected to win and the Coalition didn’t put much effort into election campaign promises.

    There is no other way of looking at the allocation of community development grants to neighbouring regions like the Hunter and the Central Coast since 2014.

    The largest grant to the Hunter is $110,000. The total amount allocated to the region in the past three years is $305,000.

    The Central Coast, on the other hand, where the Coalition campaigned very hard for the marginal seats of Dobell and Robertson in 2013 and 2016, received more than $12 million over the same period.

    So far this year, in the wake of election promises made in 2016 before the Federal election the Coalition barely won,the Central Coast has seen work start on nearly $4 million in projects. The Hunter has seen two projects funded, for $160,000 –a skate park and sports facilities.

    Labor’s regional spokesperson Stephen Jones has asked Australian Auditor-General Grant Hehir to audit the program, based on similar funding imbalances in seats across the country.

    Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon agrees. While no politician is keen to be seen as the one who would begrudge any community Federal funding, Ms Claydon is also aware that one of the quickest ways to erode public trust in the political process is for people to see proof that politics takes precedence over community need.

    An audit is timely and necessary.

    Issue: 38,590.

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