Nationals Page MP Kevin Hogan has been accused of being part of a ‘pork barreling’ exercise with agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce following revelations at yesterday’s Senate Estimates hearing.
Shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon claimed the exercise could see up to $13.8 million earmarked for research and development directed to Mr Hogan’s Page electorate.
He levelled the accusation after it was revealed minister Joyce had commissioned Mr Hogan to undertake a review of a White Paper that allocated $13.8 million to the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC) to develop training programs to help farmers form cooperatives.
Around $200,000 was released to RIRDC to produce a scoping study for the work ahead.
But Mr Fitzgibbon said that, ‘apparently not satisfied with the results, in October last year the Minister appointed Page MP Kevin Hogan to undertake the same task.’
‘Officials confirmed that following Kevin Hogan’s report there had been a “deviation” from the White Paper proposal, and refused to deny that the $13.8 million would be spent in Page,’ Mr Fitzgibbon said.
‘The department refused to table Kevin Hogan’s option paper,’ he added.
But, according to Mr Hogan, work on the paper is not yet complete.
‘Work is continuing to develop the best delivery model for the co-operatives pilot programme, with a focus on creating a lasting legacy for farmers,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘No decision has been made by the minister on a grantee to deliver the programme.’
Mr Hogan said he was ‘asked by Barnaby Joyce to conduct stakeholder consultation over a draft framework developed by RIRDIC which I submitted to the minister just before Christmas.’
‘The programme design is being finalised, with an announcement expected in the first half of 2016.
‘The design phase was extended to fully draw on the experience of farmers and farming groups.’
Mr Hogan said the minister would make the ultimate decision on where the money is spent.