Coalition marginal seats dine on grant pork

Analysis conducted by the Australia Institute indicates that $3.9 billion has been allocated under seven federal grants programs since the federal Coalition came to power in 2013, with the programs being ones where ministers had discretion over where money was allocated. Some $2.8 billion, or 71% of the money, has gone to government-held seats, while only $903 million has gone to Labor seats and just $232 million went to electorates held by independents or minor parties:

Marginal Coalition seats received on average $184 per person in discretionary grant funding from national grants programs and $194 per person from regional grants programs, while safe Labor seats received $39 per person from national grants programs and $51 per person from regional grants programs.

Key Findings:

  • This analysis considers seven grants programs which are subject to ministerial discretion, for which public data is available.
    • Four programs were national programs: Community Development Grants Programme, National Stronger Regions Fund, Female Facilities & Water Safety Stream and Environmental Restoration Fund
    • Three programs were broadly limited to regional and rural areas, or at least to regions outside of most capital cities: Building Better Regions Fund, Regional Growth Fund and Regional Jobs and Investment Package
  • $3.9 billion dollars has been distributed via these programs since 2013. $2.8 billion (71%) of the discretionary grant funding pool were funnelled into Coalition-held seats. Just $903 million (23%) went to Labor seats, and $232 million (6%) to seats held by independents or minor parties.
  • Across the four national programs, marginal Coalition seats received an average $184 per person, almost five times the $39 per person received by safe Labor seats. Electorates represented by independent/minor party candidates have also been clearly targeted, receiving $206 per person.
    • If every safe Labor seat had been funded as generously as marginal Coalition seats, they would have received an additional $928 million in total. If every marginal Labor seat had been funded as generously as marginal Coalition seats, they would have received an additional $316 million in total. If every safe Coalition seat had been funded as generously as marginal Coalition seats, they would have received an additional $626 million in total.
  • Across the three regional grants programs, marginal Coalition seats received almost four times as much funding ($194 per person) as those in safe Labor seats ($51 per person)

“It is worrying to see grants programs awarded via ministerial discretion favour marginal and target seats so heavily at the expense of other Australians,” said Bill Browne, senior researcher in the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Program.

“It seems a spectacular coincidence that 17 of the top 20 most funded electorates under the regional grants programs are current Coalition electorates, and even more so that all safe Coalition seats that received $25 million or more in Community Development Grants are held by National Party members.

The Australia Institute has also created a Data Dashboard, which allows users to search funding by type of grant.

The findings follow other Coalition grant scandals identified by the Auditor-General, including ‘sport rorts’ and ‘commuter car park rorts’.

It also highlights, yet again, why Australia needs a genuine anti-corruption commission at the federal level, which is currently being resisted by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

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