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Tasmania Still No Closer to Ditching Vote Buying

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Friday, 21 April 2023

Tags: Sport and Recreation, Electoral Reform, Corruption

Cassy O'Connor MP | Greens Leader

Today marks a year since the existence of the Liberals’ shonky and secretive election grants scheme, the Local Community Facilities Fund, was first publicly revealed.

Despite Sport and Rec Minister, Nic Street, promising to review grant arrangements to ensure integrity and the proper use of public monies, Tasmania is still no closer to reforming laws to ensure taxpayer money isn’t used to buy votes.

In the year since the LCFF was revealed, numerous scandalous and troubling revelations about the Liberals’ dodgy grant fund have come to light.

We now know more than 100 election grants were secretly funded by the Liberals without Parliamentary approval through a process designed for urgent, unforeseen spending.

Given the Minister for Sport’s 11 false statements to a Parliamentary Committee about this fact, this information would never have been revealed if the Greens had not doggedly pursued the matter through Right to Information requests and investigative work.

We know this Fund wasn’t just about pork barrelling, it was used to feather the Liberals’ own nests. Tasmanians were shocked to hear Madeleine Ogilvie MP announced a large grant for a rowing club where her daughter was a member, and we now know at least 10 Liberal MPs have personal interests in projects that received LCFF funding.

Investigating the LCFF has also uncovered the Member for Lyons Mark Shelton’s deep conflict of interest in securing $400,000 in public funds for his family’s pet project, the Bracknell Hall redevelopment.

Since the first article was published on the LCFF, we’ve shown statements made by the Premier, government ministers, and the government media office to be patently false.

We’ve also revealed multiple false statements in Budget Papers, including one claim that – wilfully or inadvertently – would mislead a reader into thinking the LCFF was not an election slush fund.

All this information is now public despite the Liberal party’s deliberate designs for secrecy. The LCFF was never announced during the election campaign, its projects never costed by Treasury (despite the Premier saying all his election promises were), and some projects were never even announced to the public.

If the Greens hadn’t obtained internal documents from a source close to the Liberal party, its highly likely Tasmanians would still be entirely in the dark about the Liberals’ shonky grant scheme.

Even now there are big unanswered questions about this dodgy grant fund. The Treasurer has refused to answer questions about whether any attempt was made to fund LCFF projects through a fund set aside for COVID-19 response. And the list of LCFF projects tabled in Parliament by Sport Minister Nic Street totalled only $14.9 million, despite Treasury Secretary Tony Ferrall saying in sworn testimony that his department was provided with a list totalling $20 million.

Despite promising to review government grant rules and saying “we should be doing everything we can to ensure that there’s integrity around the processes for committing money, both at elections and in grant programs”, we have heard nothing from Minister Street about reform.

Tasmanians have been disgusted by the Liberals’ blatantly disrespectful and wasteful use of taxpayer money. We simply cannot have a repeat of this blatant electoral bribery at the next election.

Nic Street must urgently outline his plans for grant reform. If he doesn't, we will have to assume he’s caved in to the darker, corrupted forces operating inside his party.