The Minister for Regional Development, Senator the Hon. Fiona Nash has failed to explain the unfairness in funding allocation from the $1 billion National Party slush fund known as the “Community Development Grants Program”.
Today in Senate Question Time, the Minster could not explain why electorates on the NSW Central Coast were showered with $12 million in grants but nothing for Labor electorates of Shortland or Newcastle and just $160,000 for the electorate of Hunter. She described her ministerial decisions for this program as “balanced, well thought out and measured”.
People living in the Greater Hunter area would not agree.
It is apparent from any analysis of where funds have been allocated that funding decisions are based on political considerations, to either electorates that the Coalition has hoped to win, or holds in regional Australia.
This is a grants program with a high level of Ministerial discretion in decision-making and no competitive grants process.
This is contrary to the Commonwealth Grant Guidelines that say a “competitive, merit-based selection processes should be used to allocate grants.”
Shadow Minister for Regional Services Stephen Jones MP wrote to the ANAO in May raising concerns about this program.
Today, a further letter of reference to the ANAO has been sent regarding the apparent anomalies regarding the awarding of grants to Central Coast Group Training which raises serious concerns about governance standards associated with the administration of the Community Development Grants Program by Minister Nash.
Given the Minister’s lack of regard for ministerial standards when it comes to the serious Constitutional questions around her eligibility to remain as a Senator and Cabinet Minister, the concerns raised today add urgency to my call for a proper investigation of the Community Development Grants Program by the ANAO – and for Minister Nash to refrain from further funding decisions until her citizenship status is clarified. .
This lack of adherence to Commonwealth Grant Guidelines is an insult to hard working regional Australians who are missing out on National Party largesse.