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Byron Shire
September 22, 2023

A closer peek at Franklin’s pre-election promise failure

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NSW Nationals MLC, Ben Franklin is now President of the NSW Legislative Council. Photo David Lowe.

NSW Nationals MLC, Ben Franklin, has avoided taking responsibility for an unfulfilled $6M funding promise he made just prior to his party losing the state election in March. 

As reported last week, the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital (BBWH) faces possible closure, after a NSW government panel deemed the facility did not demonstrate ‘value for money’ in its funding application.

This is despite the panel recognising the hospital’s ‘expertise and experience in the provision of veterinary and rehabilitation services for injured native animals.’ 

The decision was supported by NSW environment minister, Penny Sharpe (Labor) ‘at arms length.’

Sharpe’s office told The Echo at the time that the NSW Labor government never promised the funding, and instead says it supports action on dwindling koala numbers. 

Yet it is unclear what other government assistance is afforded to other native and endangered animals on the North Coast.

Franklin, who is now President of the NSW Legislative Council (upper house), told The Echo, ‘Prior to making the announcement, I was advised that the funding had been secured through the Expenditure Review Committee (ERC).’  

‘However, as I advised on the day of the announcement, several administrative steps remained to be taken before the funds were to be made available’. 

He added, ‘I’m disappointed that the incoming government hasn’t taken these steps.’

Missing admin steps

Yet in his February 6, 2023 press release, there is no mention of any remaining  ‘administrative steps.’

Foundation veterinarian at Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital Dr Bree Talbot was instead quoted as saying the certainty of NSW government funding can help grow their ‘capacity to deliver the highest standard of care to more wildlife’.

The Echo asked Nationals candidate for Ballina, Josh Booyens, ‘Given you were the candidate and part of this announcement, do you think all candidates should ensure election funding promises, such as this, are “signed off on”, so that the public’s trust can be maintained?’

He replied, ‘Being a candidate, I was removed from the machinations of the bureaucracy, and wasn’t aware these additional steps hadn’t yet been completed until the day. Up to that morning, I was under the impression the funding was signed off.’

He says he and his campaign team ‘fought tooth and nail to finalise this funding before the government went into caretaker mode.’ 

‘Sadly, the bureaucracy won.’ 

Booyens added BBWH’s economic impact study ‘makes for compelling reading, and [shows] exactly why the BBWH is more than deserving of the funding.’

‘This episode makes the case as to why ministers, who are on the ground, should have the power (supported by accountable, transparent, and published reasoning) to override the decisions of faceless bureaucrats who have never set foot in our region. Unfortunately, it’s the only way regional NSW and organisations like BBWH will get their fair share of funding.’

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  1. Clutching at straws, Hans.

    I await your similar article on the failures of Tamara Smith.

    However, I won’t hold my breath.

    Just a silly story.


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