Labor and Liberals Unite to Continue Opacity and Pork-Barrelling
25 May 2023
Labor has opposed a Teal move to have infrastructure proposals publically available. The lack of transparency has allowed the pork-barrelling that was rife in the Liberal administration, but it has also continued under Labor.
One would have hoped that Labor would support the move, as most of the Labor electorates, being less well-off are more likely to justify more spending. But they have teamed up with the Liberals to defeat the move. Very disappointing. Labor seems happy just to clear the Liberals very low bar.
Dutton and PM unite to block teal demands
Chief political correspondent SMH 25 May 2023
A bid to tighten safeguards on major road and rail projects has been blocked in federal parliament after Labor and the Coalition joined forces against moves by teal independents to reveal more about the $120 billion cost.
Calling for more scrutiny of the mammoth spending, the independent MPs sought changes to stamp out pork barrelling and force governments to reveal the costs and benefits of new proposals before sinking taxpayer funds into the projects.
But their bid was lost when the major parties used their numbers to defeat the moves, which included an amendment copied from a proposal from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese when he was in opposition nine years ago.
The debate heightened tensions between Labor and the crossbench over integrity in government and the priority for vast projects including the rail line to the Western Sydney Airport, the Melbourne Airport Rail, the Inland Rail and competing road-building proposals in every state.
Independent MP Allegra Spender wanted the government to accept changes that would prevent the peak agency for big projects, Infrastructure Australia, approving proposals that could not show the benefits outweighed the cost.
‘‘This is, you would think, an uncontroversial amendment, one which simply requires public money be used prudently and one which was previously proposed by the Prime Minister himself,’’ Spender said.
‘‘It is only controversial because it takes away the power of the government to make investment decisions which are positive politically but negative economically.’’
Another amendment put to parliament yesterday would require Infrastructure Australia to release its regular audits of the priority list so the public could learn more about costs and benefits of projects.
Spender gained support from Greens leader Adam Bandt and his fellow MPs as well as all other crossbenchers in the lower house
But the amendments were defeated when Infrastructure Minister Catherine King gained Coalition support, sending a signal that the government would also have the numbers in the Senate to defeat any similar amendments. The government passed its draft law in its original form.
King defended the decision to reject the amendments because some information was too sensitive to be released.
Coalition infrastructure spokeswoman Bridget McKenzie wanted an amendment to increase rural representation at the peak agency but did not support the push from the teals.
‘‘Other proposals would have increased costs, decreased investment, and reduced the ability of governments to initiate projects – which is surely fundamental to a democracy,’’ she said.
Kylea Tink, the member for North Sydney, warned that defeating the amendments would mean the Labor government was ‘‘no less likely’’ than the Coalition to engage in pork-barrelling.
Dai Le, who represents Fowler in western Sydney, said voters should not be surprised that Labor promised greater transparency before the election but voted against it after gaining power.
‘‘The two parties are the same – they go to an election, make a promise to make a change, and when they’re in government they don’t do it. They keep the status quo,’’ she said. ‘‘As a result of that, our society, our communities, pay the price for the lack of infrastructure planning.’’