Round 6 of regions funding previously 'pork barrelled to high heaven'
Labor shadow minister Catherine King has taken a swipe at Barnaby Joyce’s BBRF (Building Better Regions Fund) allocations after the government’s announcement on Monday that BBRF's 6th round will feature a $250 million cash injection.
Speaking exclusively to Flow on Monday, Ms King was critical of how the BBRF has been distributed by Barnaby Joyce, implying that Joyce and the coalition have used the grant designed to support regional areas in a self-serving way:
“Well, this round six we in fact think is either a $250 million or half a billion dollar fund, this time around. This is the sixth round of the Building Better Regions Fund and as we know, this is a pretty controversial program that the Australian National Audit Office is having a look at.”
“And it's been, basically, pork-barrelled up to high heaven. We saw that over the previous rounds up to now. 90% of funding has gone to coalition held or targeted seats and even though the seats that are coloured red, the Labor-held electorates, we hold around a third of those that are eligible for this funding, so regions like my own in Ballarat, Bendigo, down in Geelong as well, we've only received 14% of the funding and we represent over a third of BBRF eligible sites.”
“So frankly, I think, given that we're on the eve of a federal election, we're sort of in this pre-caretaker mode at the moment, we're all expecting it to be called pretty quickly after the new year, you can just imagine what Barnaby Joyce is going to be doing with this money.”
Hear the full interview with Catherine King MP on the FlowNews24 podcast:
South Australian federal MP for the seat of Barker taking in the South East, Limestone Coast, Barossa, Murray Mallee and Riverland, Tony Pasin, supported the program, declaring in a statement:
“In Barker, the previous round of the Building Better Regions Fund resulted in 16 projects being allocated funding of $8.6 million.”
“Our Government has a strong track record of delivering projects that are important to regional Australians and I look forward to discussing new projects with local councils and community groups.”
The Labor federal member for Ballarat went on to suggest she expects further announcements to be made during the government’s re-election campaign.
“...(P)eople are being asked to submit over the January period. Again, it's a ministerial panel, which Barnaby Joyce sits on, that will make the decisions about this, and I imagine they'll be announced during the course of the election campaign. They might make the actual decision pre-caretaker, but frankly, they're election commitments from what I can see here.”
“I think it's, again, what we're seeing from the Joyce-Morrison Government that they're pretty shameless about this. They've decided they actually don't care, they don't care about accountability, they don't care what the Audit Office has to say. They're only interested in the electoral outcomes and that's great if you live in a state where you happen to get these brand-new basketball stadiums and aquatic centres and things like that.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said on Monday that the government continues to prioritise improving regional Australia.
"Regional Australians deserve the same services and opportunities that people in metropolitan cities have and the building better regions fund helps make this happen."
"That's why we've committed another $250 million for projects and initiatives that will transform communities, create new jobs and drive economic growth across regional Australia."
"This latest investment in new projects will build on the 298 fantastic regional projects that shared in $300 million in funding under the last round of the building better regions fund.”
In October, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party member Helen Dalton was scathing of the Round 5 BBRF distributions on Flow.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”