December 28 2021
There has been a lot of publicity lately about pork-barrelling by the Liberal party prior to the last election.
This is based on some excellent research by Shane Wright and Katina Curtis of the SMH (16/12/21), who went through grants that were at Minister’s discretion. They were worth $2.8 billion; $1.9 billion went to Liberal electorates and $530 million to Labor. The numbers do not add up exactly as some grants were hard to classify, being given to organisations that spanned different electorates.
But if you take the money that has clear electorates, it is $1.9 v.$0.53 billion, which means that Liberal: Labor is 78% to 22%. But it is even worse than that because $58.5 million and $55.2 million (21% of Labor’s national total) went to Lyons and Corangamite, which were seats the Liberals hoped to win.
Lindsay, the NSW seat around Penrith got $23.1 million and was the only seat in NSW won by the Libs from Labor in the 2019 election. That number did not even count the $55 million in promised commuter car parks. The adjacent 3 Labor-held seats Chifley, McMahon and Werriwa with similar demographics got $5.9 million between them.
In Melbourne 4 Labor seats received less than $1million, while 3 vulnerable Liberal sears received an average of over $15 million each.
In my own electorate, which is safe Liberal against Labor, but had independent Ted Mack for some years, our local ‘moderate’ Trent Zimmermann still always votes on the Party line, just like the most rabid right wingers. He produces a lot of brochures with his ‘electoral allowance’ (which you paid for) and mentions many small organisations and the grants to them that he was responsible for. So even if we don’t like ‘pork-barrelling’ we can be glad that our local member is doing a great job. The idea is that we have a disconnect between criticising pork-barrelling at a general level, and voting Liberal at a local level; smart eh?
It si extremely likely that this degree of pork-barrelling determined the 2019 election, which the Liberals won by one seat, so we have corruption at a very significant level. It is interesting that the Nine Group, SMH and Age, have produced this material more than 2 years after the election and as we look to the next election. Had this been available immediately after the 2019 election perhaps Labor would have had another reason for their loss and not blamed it all on stating some policies, and then responding by having no policies that could be criticised since.
No doubt the same pork-barrel literature will keep coming in our electorate where the ‘Voices of North Sydney’ Independent, Kylea Tink may threaten Trent Zimmerman.
The only solution is to have a strong public service that is given transparent guidelines as to where money should be spent, and that their recommendations should be made public and not subject to any ministerial discretion. It won’t happen without a lot of public interest and pressure.