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  • Rikki Lambert

NSW Labor attacks tourism grants program 'rorts'

NSW ALP Opposition leader Chris Minns

The NSW Labor Opposition have attacked grants given under a program to help tourism operators has been rorted by the state government, with more than two-thirds of funds going to coalition seats.

The opposition claims almost 68 per cent of Refresh and Renew Grants program funding was funnelled coalition seats.

The scheme supported tourism businesses to improve facilities and gave out grants up to $10,000 over 2020 and 2021.

Labor says 70 of the 103 grants went to businesses in coalition electorates, whereas the Liberals and Nationals combined hold 56 per cent of all seats, Labor 38 per cent and the rest held by the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party, Greens or independents.

The grants were for regional operators, and whilst Labor claims more than half of those eligible were in electorates held by Labor and crossbenchers, all but three of the thirty-six Labor-held electorates are situated either in metropolitan Sydney, Illawarra or the Central Coast.

Guidelines require grants have to be awarded based on an "objective assessment basis", with one grant awarded to a cafe owned by the director of Destination North Coast, a government-appointed position. 

The grant was given to the director after being "favourably assessed" by Destination North Coast, and beat 141 other applicants out for the $10,000.

Labor says it has seen documents showing staff were "aware of the conflict" before awarding the grant.

Labor has proposed a bill which would politicians to explain, in writing, why they have deviated from bureaucratic advice when deciding to award a grant. Labor leader Chris Minns said:

"Yet again the NSW government has been caught treating public funds like its own piggy bank."
"Thousands of eligible small businesses outside of coalition electorates have missed out on a fair share of grant funding."
"(Premier) Dominic Perrottet needs to put the community ahead of his political party and mates. He should back Labor's bill and end the grant rorts in NSW."

The government has also been criticised after analysis found 75 per cent of ClubGRANTS funds were funnelled to coalition seats, and 95 per cent $252m Stronger Communities Funds grants to coalition-held or marginal electorates.


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