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  • Rikki Lambert

No more Building Better Regions as Labor rinses 'rorted' spending

BBRF round 6 no longer up in the air - it's been punted at the Rorts' End

The Albanese government has pledged to replace the controversial Building Better Regions Fund with two new spending programs, with the federal minister backing up comments made on Flow in opposition that the Coalition's program was being rorted.

Member for Ballarat and federal transport and infrastructure minister Catherine King told Flow in opposition they held grave concerns about the appropriateness of spending under the fund, and upon taking government in May flagged on Flow that BBRF round 6 might be scrapped.

Shadow assistant transport and infrastructure minister Tony Pasin said it was a huge blow to regional organisations in his electorate of Barker alone, including round 6 applicants the Mount Gambier Saleyards, Murray Bridge Regional Sports Stadium and Calperum station accommodation upgrades in the Riverland:

"It’s an incredibly disrespectful way to treat our regional communities, it’s a real kick in the guts but hardly surprising after all the ALP are past masters of short-changing country constituents in favour of those living in our cities"

Labor minister King pledged there would be 'plenty' of regional funding in Tuesday night's budget, telling social media followers on Thursday:

"The National Party funnelled money into their own seats with their own political purposes to get themselves re-elected. Regional Australia deserves much better.
"The Albanese Government is committed to investments that grow our regional economies, that help industries develop and that actually helps the liveability of our regions."

Dominic O'Sullivan, professor of political science from Charles Sturt University, told AAP that the government's audit was partly of The Nationals' making, after former leader Barnaby Joyce made a deal on net zero emissions targets in exchange for regional spending.

"The government has said this will be a difficult budget. There are high levels of debt and spending commitments it took to the election.
"The money is not coming from increased tax. One of the target areas is clearly the deal Barnaby Joyce did with the Liberals."

National Party leader David Littleproud replaced Barnaby Joyce prior to the May election that saw the Coalition lose office, and defended the BBRF program:

“It is incredibly hypocritical of Labor to accuse The Nationals of pork-barrelling when we already know this Budget is all about helping the re-election campaign of Victorian Premier Dan Andrews.
“It’s hardly startling that most of the money for a regional program went to Nationals-held seats. It’s a regional fund and we are the party that represents regional Australia."

Flow revealed exclusively in 2021 that a spreadsheet was being circulated to Nationals MPs that gave them an opportunity to promote an ineligible project to improve its chances of receiving BBRF funding - an opportunity Ms King said was never made available to Labor MPs.

The Coalition has claimed there were audit concerns over Labor's last regional funding arrangements, just as audit alarm over BBRF led to its axing in the 2022/23 budget, Labor's first in 9 years.


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