By Evelyn Leckie –
MEMBER for McEwen Rob Mitchell has hit out against Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack for ‘another rort’ he believes has disadvantaged his electorate.
A day after former Sport Minister Bridget McKenzie resigned over the ‘sports rort’ saga, an investigation revealed Mr McCormack awarded 94 per cent of projects and 94 per cent of funds to Coalition seats or seats targeted by the Coalition under round three of the Building Better Regions Infrastructure Fund.
Mr Mitchell has cited the Macedon Ranges Sports Precinct as one of the projects that missed out on a grant through the fund.
“This is a huge slap in the face to the hardworking teams of community members behind projects like the Macedon Ranges Sports Precinct, who were encouraged to apply under round three but were rejected,” Mr Mitchell said.
“The Liberal-National Government should apologise to Macedon Ranges Shire Council and the community for deliberately misleading them and now actually focus on building community infrastructure and creating jobs in our community rather than focusing on their own personal interests.
“Sadly, while projects like the Macedon Ranges Sports Precinct are punted around like political footballs, our kids and communities are being left behind by this do-nothing Liberal and Nationals government, who are too busy fighting over their own jobs while failing to have a plan to deal with low wages and rising prices or creating jobs in regional Australia.”
In total, Michael McCormack awarded $167.6 million for 126 projects in 37 Coalition seats and $17.8 million for 30 projects in eight marginal Labor or Independent seats targeted by the Coalition.
Just 10 projects were awarded to five safe Labor or Independent seats worth $12.1 million, and 23 eligible regional and outer-urban seats, held by Labor at the election, missed out completely, including McEwen.
Thirteen eligible Coalition seats failed to secure a grant.
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Catherine King said it was clear there wasn’t a publicly-funded grants program the Federal Government wouldn’t use for its own political purposes.
“Regional communities call Building Better Regions a lottery – little did they know Scott Morrison and Michael McCormack loaded the dice against them,” Ms King said.
Mr McCormack defended the grants, telling Nine media the weight of regional seats explained the distribution of the money.
“Overall the Building Better Regions Fund goes to more Coalition seats, because we hold more regional seats. Labor doesn’t hold that many regional seats,” Mr McCormack said.
“As the Nationals leader, as Minister for Regional Development, I’ll always make sure that regional funding goes to regional areas. No one could point the finger at this project and say ‘it wasn’t worthy, it wasn’t fair’.”
Ms King said she has asked the Auditor-General to look into the grant distribution, who said he would consider an audit in the 2020-2021 work plan.