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Regional rorts exposed.

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Shadow Minister for Regional Development

6 October 2005


Today’s report by the Senate regional funding inquiry is a damning indictment of the Howard Government’s abuse of public resources for political ends.

The Senate report chronicles the granting of tens of millions of dollars under the Regional Partnerships and Sustainable Regions programs based on shoddy and, in some cases, shonky, assessment procedures.

Senior government figures including John Howard, John Anderson, De-Anne Kelly, Jim Lloyd and Ian Campbell ought to hang their heads in shame for their key role in the administration of these programs.

So out of touch has this government become after nine long years in office that it operated a secret set of shadow guidelines enabling it to fund favoured projects ahead of the 2004 election.

These secret guidelines were not exposed until after the election and are subject to scathing commentary in the Senate report.

So comprehensive has been the government’s abuse of regional funding that many approved projects - including Beaudesert Rail, Tumbi Creek, A2 Milk, and Gunnedah Grains to Ethanol - have become bywords for rorting.

The recommendations of local advisory committees have been systematically ignored by the Howard Government in the pursuit of narrow political objectives.

Many worthwhile projects have been funded but many good projects have fallen victim to the rorted elements of the Howard Government’s regional schemes.

At a time when Australia’s regions are crying out for leadership from the Commonwealth to address a skills and infrastructure crisis, the Howard Government has squandered millions of dollars on short term pork barrelling.

The recommendations in the Senate report provide a sound basis for addressing the deficiencies in the Regional Partnerships and Sustainable Regions programs.

Minister for Transport and Regional Services Warren Truss has acknowledged the government’s failed administration of these programs but the best he has done so far is ask Australians to “watch this space”.

Regional Australians have waited far too long for the Howard Government to promote genuine regional development. The government must act now to clean up the rorts.

Contact: Mathew Jose 0438 773 842