Independent Helen Haines calls on Albanese government legislate to end political pork barrelling

The Albanese government has been challenged to adopt a proposal to stamp out pork barrelling and ensure Commonwealth grants aren’t used for political gain.

Independent MP Helen Haines has tabled a Bill for tough new rules that all federal government grants, irrespective of their size, would have to meet publicly available criteria, be subject to meritorious selection, and be reviewed by a new parliamentary committee.

Ministers go against departmental advice when awarding a grant would be required to explain the reasoning behind their decision to parliament.

They would also need to provide updates on whether the grant programs are compliant with parliamentary rules.

Unveiling the private members bill, Dr Haines said the government needed to do more to prove it was strong on integrity.

“I’m laying down the gauntlet to this government today … it’s not a radical bill,” Dr Haines told reporters in Canberra on Monday
“It’s a clear bill that shines a light on to where grants are distributed.

“So I say to the government, here’s your chance to truly be a reformist government.

“Here’s your chance to really put a fork in the pork and stop pork barrelling once and for all.”

Citing the former Coalition government’s infamous community sport infrastructure program, branded ‘sports rorts’, and the controversial commuter car park scheme, Dr Haines said her legislation would act to prevent pork barrelling.

“The list [of pork barrelling examples] is sadly enormous. This year though, we have a chance to do something about it,” Dr Haines said.

“There is so much more to be done in Australia when it comes to restoring trust in our democracy, to restoring the trust of everyday Australians in their government and people getting a fair go.”

ACT independent senator David Pocock, who will press for the bill’s passage in the upper house, said much of Dr Haines’ proposal was remarkably similar to a separate bill introduced by Labor’s Katy Gallagher while in opposition.

“When it comes to granting, pork barrelling, what the major parties are doing is out of line,” Dr Pocock said.

“Should Labor not support [Dr Haines’ bill], I’ll be moving Senator Gallagher’s own private senators Bill … something that in opposition they believed in and I really hope that they take it up to deliver for Australians.”

Centre for Public Integrity director Geoffrey Watson SC said billions of dollars of taxpayer funds were at risk without further reforms.

“What this bill would do is make the decision making behind grants more transparent and the decision makers more accountable,” Mr Watson said.

“This is public money, non-politicians’”

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