Janelle Saffin MP, State Member for Lismore.
I read with interest Mia Armitage’s front page article in last week’s Echo ‘Electorates miss out on bushfire slush fund’, and would like to add my perspective as one of the growing number of MPs who have been calling out the Berejiklian-Barilaro government on this scandal.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s credibility has taken another beating after he defended as ‘investment in the regions’ the alleged rorting of joint NSW-Federal government bushfire relief funding to favour electorates with Nationals/Liberal Members of Parliament.
An investigation by Michael West Media found that 99 per cent of a $177-million stream of Local Economic Recovery (LER) funding for 71 projects last November flooded into Nationals/Liberal-held seats in New South Wales. NSW Labor seats, like mine, were given just one per cent of the funding.
This LER funding was never advertised. Instead, the Berejiklian-Barilaro government identified ‘known priority community and industry recovery projects’ and the Morrison-McCormack government agreed to them, following what they claimed to be ‘local and industry consultation’.
Public money should not be used as a private slush fund for any government. People expect transparency and a level playing field for all potential applicants.
Grant programs need to be widely promoted, have clear guidelines, eligibility and assessment criteria, and an acquittal process.
While I don’t begrudge any of the 71 grant recipients (two Kyogle-based timber companies received a total of $2 million in the Electorate of Lismore), us locals didn’t get a chance to promote other worthy projects for bushfire-affected communities in Kyogle, Lismore City, Tenterfield, and Tweed shires.
The Berejiklian-Barilaro government needs to start governing for all, not just the few. It is not good governance to dole out public money using secretive processes. This is what authoritarian regimes do, not democratically elected governments, and John Barilaro should know better.