Infrastructure scheme a barrel of pork, says opposition

A REPORT into a key plank of the government’s stimulus package has sparked a clash between Labor and the Coalition over whether administration of the $550 million infrastructure scheme amounts to pork-barrelling.The Australian National Audit Office report found the spending was evenly spread across seats held by the government and the opposition, but the proportion of applications approved was much higher in Labor-held seats.It also pointed to several cases of the government cutting corners in its attempt to distribute stimulus funds, and the fact that just a month ago two-thirds of the cash had yet to be spent, even though it was intended in part to ward off recession.The report looks at the Regional Local Community Infrastructure Program, which allowed local councils to apply for access to $550 million in funds for ”strategic” infrastructure projects to be spent from April last year.The report found that 42.1 per cent of project applications in Labor-held seats were approved, while only 18.4 per cent of projects in Coalition-held seats were approved.But local councils in Coalition seats were far more prolific in lodging applications, meaning that the total amount of funding provided a ”reasonable geographic spread” and was ”largely consistent with the proportion of electorates held by the major parties and independent members”, the report found.In total, the 55 per cent of seats held by Labor received 57 per cent of the funding, the 43 per cent of seats held by the Coalition received 37 per cent and the 2 per cent of independent-held seats gained 6 per cent.The report said that the awarding of funding disproportionately favoured Labor held seats when considered in terms of the projects’ ability to be quickly begun to achieve the economic stimulus objectives.The opposition said the report showed government spending was a pork-barrelling attempt to shore-up Labor electorates.”The Rudd-Gillard Government broke its own rules, funnelled money to Labor electorates and punished Australian families based on where they live,” the opposition spokesman on finance, Andrew Robb, said.The Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese, rejected claims of impropriety.”To ensure the program’s integrity, funding decisions were made based on departmental advice and following independent viability assessments of the proposals submitted.”
Nanjing Night Net