ABC Afternoon Briefing – Morrison Government pork barrelling

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development, Amanda Rishworth joins me now. Amanda, welcome.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Great to be with you.

KARVELAS: So Labor leader Anthony Albanese has called for an end to pork barrelling. But we know it happens actually across the political spectrum. It’s not technically illegal. So how are you going to end the practice?

RISHWORTH: Well firstly, I’d say that when you look at just how widespread this is, it’s very, very concerning. This isn’t just one grant program or two grant programs. This is significant and it’s right across the country. I think this is more than just a commitment before an election, this is systematic where it seems that the Prime Minister considers taxpayers’ money to be his own money, and used to really buy votes. So I think we need to have a very careful look at this, and make sure that taxpayers’ money gets distributed on need. That is critically important. And I think for so many Labor electorates out there, being accused by the Prime Minister of not being good MPs, well that’s not the problem here. The problem is actually the Prime Minister’s attitude to this all.

KARVELAS: Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan told Channel Nine that regional electorates that had received the largest amount of funding had often been impacted by drought. And given they tend to be more conservative populations, they happen to be Liberal and Nationals seats. Is that a fair point, that actually just demographics means that it’s leading to some of this?

RISHWORTH: Well demographically I think absolutely electorates affected by fire and drought should get extra assistance. Australians pulled together in natural disasters to actually fund this. But that’s not what the pattern shows, and it seems to be a convenient way to explain your way out of this. Because what it shows is that there are two seats, a Labor seat and a Liberal seat, next to each other in, say, inner-Sydney or inner-Adelaide, and they get vastly different amounts of money. And it’s consistent through the whole country. So I think this is pretty systemic and pretty significant, that cannot be just explained with the fact that rural and regional electorates have been doing it tough and have gotten more support. Really we see some inner-city Liberal seats getting much more than their neighbouring Labor seats, and that is really problematic.

KARVELAS: So under Labor, can you guarantee that if you were to win that the opposite case, for instance, Wentworth, would get just the same amount as Tanya Plibersek’s seat of Sydney?

RISHWORTH: Well of course you’ve got to look at need and you’ve got to look at the guidelines of those programs. But you can’t tell me Patricia that – my electorate of Kingston, which got over about $3 million, compared to the neighbouring seat of Boothby, a marginal Liberal seat that got $14 million. We need to look at need, we need to look at what the program guidelines are. But when we saw something like the Sports Rorts scandal, where the government just blatantly ignored the guidelines, in fact, women’s changing rooms were left off to fund men’s changing rooms, even though it was meant to be focused on women’s changing rooms, that’s where we’ve got a problem.

KARVELAS: So ultimately then Labor says the guidelines should change. Are we going to be clear about what those guidelines would look like?

RISHWORTH: Well the guidelines have been clear for many of these grants, and the government has chosen to ignore those guidelines. I gave Sports Rorts as an example, the Sports Commission ranked clubs and said these are the most deserving clubs, and the government got out of highlighter and said no we’re going to give it to these clubs. So I think we’ve got to actually see some consistency here if that’s based on need. If it’s based on drought, it shouldn’t go to inner-city Sydney, who haven’t been experiencing the worst effects of drought.

KARVELAS: We’re out of time, Amanda, thank you so much for joining us.

RISHWORTH: Thank you.

ENDS

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