The federal government’s Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) has been rorted, with projects in Labor electorates given preference over those in Coalition seats, federal member for Wannon Dan Tehan claims.
The RDAF was set up last year by the federal government to replace the former Coalition government’s Regional Partnerships program, which Labor had claimed was rorted to favour Coalition seats.
However, Mr Tehan said Labor appeared to be guilty of the same scam of which it had accused the Coalition.
He said projects such as a $4.5 million upgrade of the Condah-Hotspur Road in his Liberal electorate had missed out, while the Geelong Football Club in a Labor electorate got a $10 million grant, even though it was against the fund’s own guidelines.
Mr Tehan said a recent report by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) on the first round of funding from the RDAF had confirmed that Labor seats had benefited more than others.
It had also shown Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean ignored his own guidelines for RDAF grants when approving the $10 million grant to the Geelong Football Club.
“More than 60 applications were ranked above the Geelong football stadium, but Minister Crean approved this funding anyway, going against his very own guidelines,” Mr Tehan said.
“Furthermore, it was $10 million in funding — a huge amount — which would have easily funded two or three other community projects like the Condah-Hotspur Road upgrade, which was refused funding.”
Mr Tehan said the Auditor-General found that projects in Labor electorates were approved 22 per cent of the time compared to only 14 per cent of the time in Coalition electorates.
“This gap is in fact larger because the majority of regional seats are held by the Coalition,” he said.
The ANAO report found the overall design and implementation of RDAF was effective. However, it criticised Mr Crean over the grant to Geelong.
It said Mr Crean had not explained why the $10 million grant was more meritorious than the other 40 projects that were ranked equally, or the 76 projects that were ranked more highly.
Mr Crean said the ANAO had made three recommendations to enhance the program in future rounds and he had asked his department to implement them.
The recommendations called for a numerical rating scale on the merits of RDAF applications, a clearer value-for-money assessment of applications and improved documents to inform the minister’s decisions.
The Wannon electorate did receive one RDAF grant for $1 million for a project to upgrade the Lake Hamilton foreshore.