Politics

Future corruption watchdog would investigate Coalition’s alleged pork-barrelling of grants: Albanese | Australian politics

Anthony Albanese has “put the prime minister on notice” that Labor will establish an anti-corruption commission that will examine the alleged pork-barrelling of federal government grant programs.

On Wednesday, Nine newspapers reported an analysis of more than 19,000 grants across 11 programs had found Coalition seats received $1.9bn in three years while Labor electorates got less than $530m.

A similar analysis undertaken by the Australia Institute last month found 71% of $3.9bn in grant funding had gone to government-held electorates since the Coalition came to power in 2013.

Campaigning in Queensland in the marginal seat of Ryan, prime minister Scott Morrison defended the government against allegations of pork-barrelling, saying a large proportion of the grants had gone to electorates affected by drought.

He also said the “predictively selective analysis” had looked at just 11 programs out of 1700 administered by the commonwealth.

“Others may want to criticise us for the support we’ve given to drought- and flood-affected communities, but when I make a commitment I carry it through,” Morrison said.

“When we make a commitment we keep it, that’s what we do as a government.”

When asked about the amount of discretionary grant funding that the Nine analysis found went to Peter Dutton’s seat of Dickson in Queensland – $43.6m compared to the $900,000 that went to the nearby Labor-held seat of Lilley – Morrison dismissed the criticism.

“Dickson must have a very good local member,” Morrison said.

“They’re doing great jobs and they’re advocating for their communities and what Queenslanders can know is when I tell them that we’re going to get something done in their electorates, they’re getting it done.”

But Albanese, who was campaigning in the marginal Tasmanian seats of Bass and Braddon, said the discrepancies highlighted in the most recent analysis indicated the government had distorted the granting process and was “determined to brush it off”.

“The fact is that we’ve never seen before a prime minister who was so determined to treat honesty and integrity as an optional measure,” Albanese said.

“I put the prime minister on notice that a national anti-corruption commission will be able to look at the sports rorts program and these rorted programs of taxpayer funds.

“Taxpayers … deserve better than to have their funds, their taxpayer funds from their hard work, funnelled into marginal electorates on the basis of a political whim.”

Albanese also suggested that one of the key reasons independent candidates were running against incumbent government MPs was the “endemic” rorting that had undermined faith in our political system.

“No wonder there are so many independent candidates jumping up and running in safe Coalition seats, because there is real concern about the prime minister’s actions on this.”

The push for a national integrity commission is one of the key issues being pursued by independent candidates in inner city seats under the banner of the “Voices Of” movement.

Morrison, who has been under pressure from within his ranks to progress the government’s stalled legislation for a national integrity commission, dismissed the push by independents, saying they were a front for Labor.

“I’ve heard about the ‘Voices Of’ movement. It’s the voices of Labor at the end of the day because they’re only running against government candidates,” Morrison said.

“Their intention is to remove the government and put in Anthony Albanese. They’re the voices of Labor and if you vote for an independent from that movement, you may as well vote Labor.”

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