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  • Rikki Lambert

ALP not tickled pink by Building Better Regions funding furore

Minister McKenzie in Senate Estimates on Monday

A tense morning of Senate estimates hearings on Monday saw representing minister Bridget McKenzie refer to cabinet as 'fight club' while a Qld ALP senator pressed hard for the minister to admit she saw a controversial spreadsheet.

On FlowFM earlier in October, federal member for Mallee, the Victorian Nationals' Dr Anne Webster, said she had sighted a spreadsheet that graded potential Building Better Regions Fund recipients in her electorate green if they were eligible, or pink if they fell short of eligibility but could get over the line via MP advocacy.

Wayne and Rikki discussed and aired some of the exchanges between Senators Murray Watt and Bridget McKenzie on the Tuesday Morning Show on Flow:

Analysis of the past 5 rounds of BBRF funding via the ALP's Catherine King builds the case that the fund has potentially been rorted at worst, or been exceedingly generous to Coalition held seats at best.

Past probes into the recent Building Better Regions Fund only scraped the surface according to Labor MP Catherine King’s office after releasing an analysis today on the full five rounds of the BBRF.

Within the Flow family electorates, the Liberal-held federal seats of Barker, SA received $71 million and Grey $56m, whereas the independently held seat of Mayo received just $33m.

The NSW seats of Farrer, held by Liberal environment minister Sussan Ley, received $77m, the Victorian Nationals' Dr Anne Webster's seat of Mallee scored $67m and former transport, infrastructure and regional development minister and former Nationals leader Michael McCormack's NSW seat of Riverina gained $59m.

By contrast, Ms King's Victorian seat of Ballarat received $25m, $23.5m of which was for one Sports and Events centre.

Labor currently holds more than a third of the seats that are eligible for the BBRF, though the analysis found only 14 per cent of its electorates have benefitted from the scheme.

Ms King was scathing of Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce:

"For almost four years now, Minister Joyce and his mates have dished out more than a billion in funding to serve little more than their own political interest. This fund isn’t about developing the regions, it’s about nothing more than serving the political interests of Minister Joyce and his Nationals mates. This isn’t Minister Joyce’s money, it’s Australian taxpayers’ money."
"They talk a big game about supporting the regions, but deep down they’re only in it for themselves. You simply can’t trust the Morrison-Joyce Government."

The Nationals' leader said earlier this month said he “didn’t care” that $300m of regional grants had been labelled “pork-barrelling” by Labor.


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