RADIO INTERVIEW – 2CC with Leon Delaney
Tuesday 19 October 2021
SUBJECT: Regional grant funding
LEON DELANEY, PRESENTER: First off on the line is the federal Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain. Kristy, good afternoon.
KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Hi Leon, how are you?
DELANEY: Not too bad. Thanks for joining us today. Well you're up in arms, I guess is the expression about the finding that the Australian National Audit Office has revealed a significant proportion of regional grants have gone to places that are not necessarily regional. Not by a long stretch? What are we talking about here?
MCBAIN: Well, the Australian National Audit Office have done an analysis and about 55% of grants that are meant to be targeted to regional rural and remote communities have gone to our cities. That's over 3,500 projects have been funded in our capital cities, and there's only about 300 that have gone to remote or their remote areas. So naturally, I was a little bit annoyed. You know, when North Sydney is considered a regional pool and get $10 million. And yet the Bega War Memorial Pool is rejected from a funding application, you can see why it frustrates people.
DELANEY: Well, I have a bit of a chuckle when you're talking about North Sydney. But of course, it is quite serious that if we were talking yesterday, with Michael Pascoe from the New Daily about opportunity cost, and he was talking about the Building Better Regions funding as well. And this is what he's talking about, if you spend the money in location A, it means you're not spending it in location B, it's not like it's a win-win situation, is it?
MCBAIN: No, that's right. And if you're not spending it in location B, which in this case was, for example, the Bega War Memorial Pool, by the time the next funding application rolls around, those costs escalate. In the meantime, you've got a pool, that’s 65 years old, that is in desperate need of funding. And yet the North Sydney Pool was funded through a non-competitive, closed, tender process. So very frustrating for people who spent a long time working on those grant applications.
DELANEY: Now, this program, the Building Better Regions Grants program, it's just a name is it not? Ministers have discretion as to where they are going to spend the money, don't they? Is it just that we've misunderstood the name?
MCBAIN: I think the more frustrating part is, again, there was a spreadsheet involved and, and Nationals members were able to go and lobby for their project if it didn't meet the funding criteria, and the same opportunity wasn't afforded to myself or, or other regional members, whether they be independent, or members of the Labor Party.
DELANEY: Okay. So obviously, there's been a lot of talk not only about the findings of the Australian National Audit Office in this regard, but about grant decisions in general, and the need that many people say we have for some sort of integrity commission at the Commonwealth level. And there's obviously a bit of a debate about whether or not we do need that integrity commission, but it's just the sort of thing that the integrity commission would be able to and would be empowered to address.
MCBAIN: Of course, the use of taxpayers money should be done so with the utmost transparency, and we haven't seen that and that's why we need a federal integrity commission with teeth. And on that note, I've got to jump into the chamber for a vote.
DELANEY: Well, we knew that was going to happen thanks very much agenda today. By now Kristy McBain Member for Eden-Monaro