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Thursday, 20 September 2012
Page: 7577

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (18:35): I rise to take note of the Australian National Audit Office report on the design and conduct of the first application round for the Regional Development Australia Fund. The audit was designed to assess the effectiveness of Regional Australia's management of the design and implement­ation of the Regional Development Australia Fund program. Thirty-five projects were given the green light, with a total of $150 million. Regional Australia's management of the design and implementation of the first RDAF funding round was effective but there were faults with the program and the process. For example, applications had to be lodged online via Regional Australia's portal, but there were issues with people being able to lodge those and therefore applications processed for the second round had changed.

A really worrying aspect is that 348 of the 553 applications were ineligible, that is 63 per cent, which is very high compared to other grant programs. The report rightly finds that the situation does not reflect well on the accessibility of the program. Australian Labor Party projects were more successful, strangely. The ALP-held electorates had an approval rating of 22 per cent. Coalition or Independent held seats had an approval rating of 14 per cent. This is partly due to the fact that the panel's recommendations to the minister included more ALP projects.

It notes the minister approved funding for the Geelong Football Club application for the Skilled Stadium redevelopment, even though the panel was of the view that the application was not ready to be funded. The application was in the lowest band and the only one of 41 in that band to get funding. The Regional Development Australia Fund for the Geelong Football Cub's Skilled Stadium is quite amazing. The Australian National Audit Office says there remains scope to improve the assessment of whether eligible applications represent value for money. There needs to be a cleaning up of the process to ensure there is transparency and accountability in future funding rounds, something this government is not very good at going on its track record. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.