Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has introduced a Private Members’ Bill to Parliament to reform how Commonwealth funding is managed to increase fairness, transparency and accountability.


The Accountability of Grants, Investment Mandates and Use of Public Resources Amendment (End Pork Barrelling) Bill 2024 seeks to end ‘pork barrelling’ by increasing transparency and accountability of Government spending of taxpayer money in grant programs.


Pork barrelling is the practice of directing government funds to projects in marginal electorates to win votes, 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.


“At election time, the major parties use taxpayer money to shore up votes in marginal seats. Rorting grants programs wastes money and destroys public trust in government processes.”


Dr Haines has worked closely with the Centre for Public Integrity to draft the Bill, which would:

• require all grants programs to have clear and publicly available selection criteria

• ensure robust reporting to the parliament to increase accountability

• create a parliamentary committee with oversight of grant administration and guideline compliance


“My Bill would require ministers to report to the Parliament when they have delivered money to their own electorates or gone against the advice of their department when awarding grants,” Dr Haines said.


“Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and by forcing Ministers to front up and explain themselves if they go against official advice, we are less likely to see dodgy decisions made on the eve of elections to win votes.”


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


“At its best, pork barrelling is maladministration, at its worst its corruption. The solutions I have put forward in this Bill are practical reporting measures that ensure that the Parliament, and the public, know how funding decisions are made, and why grants are awarded,” Dr Haines said.


“Pork barrelling is happening right now during the Dunkley by-election, and before long the Government and the Opposition will be campaigning for the next federal election. We need these simple and reasonable reforms now to help rebuild public trust in government spending and to ensure public money is invested wisely and effectively.


“As an Independent MP, I have worked hard to improve transparency and accountability in politics. Alongside my 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 how taxpayer money is spent.”


Dr Haines has been a leading voice for restoring integrity to politics, campaigning for the establishment of an anti-corruption commission with her Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill in 2021 and serves as the Deputy Chair of the parliamentary oversight committee for the newly established National Anti-Corruption Commission since July 2023.


As part of the campaign for the End Pork Barrelling Bill, Dr Haines will host an interactive community forum in Wodonga next month.


At the event, Dr Catherine Williams, Executive Director of the Centre for Public Integrity will outline the prevalence of pork barrelling and how the major parties use it for political benefit. While 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.


“When there are so many unmet areas of need in our community, the misuse of public money is a problem Australia simply can’t afford,” Dr Williams said.


“We are not talking about millions, we are talking about billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money allocated incorrectly, inadvisably and contrary to public interest. Why not bring the spending under control?” Mr Watson said.


The interactive community forum will be held at The Cube in 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/


Read more about the Bill here.

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