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  • Rikki Lambert

Dalton’s ‘slush fund’ concerns over Building Better Regions controversy

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party member Helen Dalton has slammed the latest Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) distributions while speaking exclusively to Flow.

Dalton has accused the leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, of prioritising party politics ahead of ensuring BBRF allocations were distributed fairly and based “all on need.”

The member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly lamented the existing model in place for distributing BBRF funds and highlighted the need for a reformed model, suggesting the current BBRF distribution model is open to being corruptly misused by politicians.

“A lot of these projects that are being pushed, 90 per cent of the building better regions fund (BBRF) have gone to a coalition seat so other seats are missing out, so that’s not fair.”
“We really do need a new way of distributing grant money so that it’s not open for corruption or pork-barrelling.”
“We know that Barnaby Joyce sits on this panel and they really have the captain’s pick of what’s going on, so you can’t tell me that it’s independent and they do use it as their kind of slush fund and that’s not fair.”

Dalton emphasised the importance of even and fair funding distributions for regional Australia and stated that as it stands currently, the BBRF is being tainted by self-serving politics.

“For us in my electorate we are desperate for a lot of these projects but we also want a fair way of distributing the funds – it’s not Liberal Party funds, it’s our funds and no one should be missing out, it should be all on need.”
“It needs to be independently judged too, these projects, and while I’m sure the project is incredibly worthy, the statistics speak for themselves.”
“When the Coalition are divvying up the spoils it’s mostly going to Coalition seats or seats that the Coalition is targeting and that needs to change.”

Earlier this week, FlowNews24 broke the news that Coalition MPs had a separate 'rating' system disclosed to them about the eligibility of their BBRF applicants, enabling them to push for more grants to be allocated in their electorate.

Federal Labor Opposition infrastructure spokeswoman Catherine King spoke on Flow and raised questions over the fairness of the latest round of distribution announcements for the BBRF:

"This is an absolute scandal. Coalition MPs were given the opportunity to lobby for projects that did not fully meet the eligibility criteria, while other parts of the country were left in the dark."
"This is supposed to be an independent grants program, but instead we find that Barnaby Joyce and his Nationals mates have their fingerprints all over it.”

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese referenced the controversy over the BBRF latest funding round on Twitter, saying:

Meanwhile, National Party minister for regionalisation Bridget McKenzie on ABC Radio National on Wednesday denied any assertions that only voters in Coalition-held electorates would see favourable outcomes regarding infrastructure upgrades.

She told the program she was “proud … to spend regional funds in regions”, before resurfacing Labor’s handling of similar projects in past governments.

The Victorian senator also confirmed the extent to which the latest $300 million BBRF funding round was “completely oversubscribed”, with $1.7bn of applications. Nationals MP for the federal electorate of Mallee in Victoria, Dr Anne Webster, and the Liberal member for the neighbouring electorate of Barker in SA, Tony Pasin, had earlier asserted on Flow similar magnitudes of 5 to 8 times respectively.

McKenzie went on to reaffirm that all funding for projects was “valid”.

“Decisions have to be made and – that’s how it goes.”

In her full interview with Flow, Helen Dalton talks about whether she might run federally in the seat of Farrer against the Liberals' environment minister Sussan Ley, and gives her thoughts on the resignation of now former NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian:


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