Scott Morrison fends off criticism of multibillion-dollar grants program

Analysis of nearly 20,000 grants over a three-year period showed taxpayer money given to Coalition-held seats more than tripled those handed to Labor electorates.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has fended off criticism against his government’s multibillion-dollar grants system, after extensive analysis revealed funding directed to Coalition-held seats far-outstripped taxpayer money delivered to Labor electorates.

The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age's investigation showed uneven funding through more than 19,000 grants had led to Liberal-held seats receiving up to three times more than those of Labor.

The analysis of grants over a three-year period revealed Coalition seats had received more than $1.9 billion, compared with Labor electorates getting just under $530 million.

When questioned about the analysis, Mr Morrison denied the system had been highly politicised.

“It's a predictively selective analysis of 11 [grant] programs out of 1,700 so I think people can form their own judgements about that,” he told reporters on Wednesday

“But what I do know is that when we make a commitment we keep it, that’s what we do as a government.”

The federal government has previously come under fire for its management of grant programs targeting , as well as a separate multimillion-dollar , funded under a different mechanism. 

In the latest analysis, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age said it examined 19,123 grants across 11 programs worth $2.8 billion in the 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial years.

This accounted for one in five grants made in that time period.

The findings showed Labor leader Anthony Albanese's electorate of Grayndler had received just $718,000, while a neighbour Liberal-held marginal seat of Reid received $14.8 million.

Mr Morrison’s home electorate of Cook received $8.2 million.

The analysis also identified that the largest number of grants by value and number had flowed to drought-affected and large electorates with a high proportion of small communities.

However, it showed Labor seats accounted for 15 of the 20 least-supported seats.

Mr Albanese said the analysis proved the government’s handling of the grants system amounted to “pork barrelling" that is "out of control”.

“They have completely corrupted the granting process and what we see is that these rorts need to stop,” he told reporters.

He added that the government’s determination to “brush off” these concerns meant there was the danger of a "frenzy” of this behaviour repeating in the lead up to the next election.

“Taxpayers don’t pay different rates of tax according to what electorate they are in," he said.

"But what we know is unless you are in a marginal, Liberal or National party seat you won’t receive the same support as those voters do."

Mr Morrison defended its management of the grants system and said it had been conducted on the basis of need.

“Others might want to criticise us for keeping our commitments - they might want to criticise us for the support we’ve given to drought-affected and flood-affected communities,” he said.

“But I can tell you when I make a commitment to do those things, I follow it through.”

Mr Albanese said the analysis demonstrated the need for a national anti-corruption commission.

“It is no wonder that there's no national anti-corruption commission because this government is rotten to the core,” he said.

The government promised to implement a Commonwealth Integrity Commission in 2018 but legislation underpinning the proposal has not been introduced to parliament.

3 min read
Published 15 December 2021 at 2:54pm
By Tom Stayner
Source: SBS News