The Australian National Audit Office’s report released today into the Regional Development Australia Fund, confirms that good community regional projects in regional Australia have a better chance of receiving funding from the Labor party if they are in a Labor electorates or associated with a major football club.
Under the Regional Development Australia Fund, which was promised to the independents, vital projects in regional Australia were ignored in favour of high profile projects in major cities. Projects like the daycare centre at Ballarat and the Broken Hill stock transit centre had no chance.
My advice to them is: move to a Labor seat and sponsor a major footy team.
The Auditor-General’s most damning finding is that Minister Crean approved $10 million of “regional development” funding to the Geelong Football Stadium even though that project was not recommended for funding by the selection panel. More than 60 applications were ranked above the football stadium but Minister Crean approved this funding anyway before even considering the merits of other projects also not recommended for funding. Indeed, as it happened, another project in Geelong was ranked higher than the Geelong Football Stadium and it did not receive funding. (see paragraph 5.32 and 5.50)
The Auditor-General also found that projects in Labor electorates were approved 22 per cent of the time compared to only 14 per cent of the time in Coalition electorates. (see paragraph 39) The comparison is even starker than this given that the majority of regional seats are actually held by the Coalition. Overall, two-thirds of the funding went to the one-third of the seats that Labor or independents hold in regional Australia.
After all this the Minister failed to comply with his own government’s guidelines. Even though the Department told Minister Crean that he had to report to the Finance Minister any projects he funded which were not recommended by the panel, he failed to do so. Minister Crean approved 14 projects not recommended for funding by the panel and failed to notify the Finance Minister until July 2012, well after the Auditor-General had started his report. (see paragraph 37).
The full ANAO report is available here.