Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines will host an interactive community forum on March 6 in Wodonga as part of a campaign to End Pork Barrelling.


Pork barrelling is when government funds are directed to projects in marginal electorates to winvotes, without regard to evidence of the project’s merit.


“Taxpayer money should be spent on the needs of communities not the wants of the major parties,” Dr Haines said.


“Funding decisions should be evidence-based, with grants awarded on merit and need.”


Prominent examples of pork barrelling include the Sports Rorts, Commuter Car Park Rorts and the misuse of the Community Battery for Household Solar program.


“As an Independent MP, I have worked hard to improve integrity and accountability in politics. Alongside our community I successfully campaigned for a federal integrity commission, which is now in place. I am continuing that work through this Bill to bring accountability to spending taxpayer money,” Dr Haines said.


“This event will bring experts and the community together to talk about how to fix the current system.


“Australians know when they’re getting pork barrelled, they know they are getting ripped off, it lacks integrity and they’re sick of it. Rorting grants programs wastes money and destroys public trust in government processes. We need to clean this up before the next election.”


At the event, Dr Catherine Williams of the Centre for Public Integrity will outline the prevalence of pork barrelling and how the major parties use it for political benefit. The community is invited to outline their expectations for fair and just administration of grant programs. Geoffrey Watson SC will host a ‘hypothetical’ panel discussion that will demonstrate how a lack of transparency and accountability has led to wasted public money and distrust in government.


“I welcome the community to join the interactive forum to hear from these respected speakers and to learn about how we can improve the integrity of grants administration,” Dr Haines said.


“Community groups can miss out on money, not because their grant application wasn’t good enough, but because the responsible minister uses discretion to give the money to someone else, against the advice of their own department and without the need to inform the Parliament.


“Commonwealth funding is often relied upon by volunteer-led organisations, not-for-profits, small businesses and local governments to support local communities, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas. The Parliament, and the public, should have full transparency about how funding decisions are made, and why grants are awarded.”


Dr Helen Haines will introduce her Accountability of Grants, Investment Mandates and Use of Public Resources Amendment (End Pork Barrelling) Bill 2024 in the House of Representatives on Monday 26 February 2024. The Private Members’ Bill advocates for increased transparency and accountability of Government spending of public money, including improved parliamentary oversight of grants programs.


Dr Haines has been a prominent campaigner for restoring integrity to politics, calling for the establishment of an anti-corruption commission with her Australian Federal Integrity Commission Billin October 2021. She has subsequently served as the Deputy Chair of the parliamentary oversight committee for the newly established National Anti-Corruption Commission since July 2023.


The interactive community forum will be held at The Cube, Wodonga, from 7pm on Wednesday 6 March 2024. The event will also be live streamed.


To register to attend in person or online, go to www.helenhaines.org/end-pork-barrelling-interactive-community-forum/.

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