Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, Stephen Jones MP, today labelled Minister for Regional Development, Senator the Hon Fiona Nash’s response to new analysis of the Community Development Grants rort as a smokescreen and a complete diversion.

The facts don’t lie. The Turnbull Government poured money into marginal and Coalition-held electorates in the lead up to the 2016 election.  

The figures are there on the Department’s website for all to see:

 The figures show:

  • More than $16 million into Barnaby Joyce’s backyard.
  • More than $20 million into the wealthy Sydney electorates of Wentworth and North Sydney.
  • More than $130 million into Coalition-held NSW electorates in the lead up to the 2016 election – whilst spending only $3.6 million in Labor-held electorates.

The object of the Community Development Program is to provide for the long term viability of local communities; clearly, the Minister has taken this to mean the long term viability of the Turnbull Government.

The Minister’s own Department confirmed projects are funded at the Minister’s discretion and without a competitive funding process.

Successive Minsters for Regional Development have used the Community Development Grants as a “slush fund” using millions of dollars of public money for their own political purposes.

The Minister’s feeble attempt to try and deflect these facts is hollow and transparent.

The Commonwealth Grant Guidelines tell Ministers that the ANAO has put an emphasis on the geographic distribution of grant activities as a measure of equitable distribution.

The Minister has blatantly disregarded this.

Last week in in Senate Question Time, the Minster described her decisions for this program as “balanced, well thought out and measured”.

Surely she’s joking.

This lack of respect for decent ministerial standards is all the more reason why the Prime Minister should ask the Deputy Leader of the National Party to step aside.