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Estimates Reply – Street

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Tags: State Budget, Integrity, Transparency, Pork-Barrelling

Dr WOODRUFF - Chair, I am glad that the Government has finally let Tasmanians know how they spent money that went through no proper merit-based, independent, department process from the 2018 election. It is clear from the information that is coming out that conflict of interest was involved with the way taxpayers' money were handed out by the Liberal Party.

We have established through the questions we asked Mr Street in Sport and Recreation, was that on 3 April 2021 the Liberal Party established a body called the Local Communities Facilities Fund. It was a pork-barrelling fund. From that, according to the minister, 150 so-called 'funding commitments' were made during the tate election.

He said there was an assessment process in place during the election campaign. That assessment process, we now understand, was not done by government employees, it was done by the Liberal Party team, whoever they were, the behind the scenes members of the Liberal Party who decided where taxpayers' money was going to be promised during the election campaign. The minister said in Estimates questions that they were being done against established criteria. The minister could not tell me what the established criteria were. We asked the minister how many grant requests had been made to the local communities facilities fund between 26 March and 1 May and were refused. The minister said:

Projects were assessed by the Liberal Party and commitments made with the intent to deliver on them if elected. Given these assessments were done during caretaker period and by the Liberal Party, there is no information held by the Government to provide.

How convenient that taxpayers' money that was promised, for example, by Ms Ogilvie, to her daughter's rowing club -

Ms Ogilvie - You can leave the kids out of it, thanks.

Dr WOODRUFF - where there was $150 000 spent on a pontoon.

Ms Ogilvie - Leave the kids out of it. What is wrong with you, school girls.

Dr WOODRUFF - It was promised by a Liberal Party team that made the assessment, not public officials. The assessments were done without criteria except the criteria of which would best benefit the vote for the Liberal Party and their candidates who were standing at the election if communities were promised certain goodies.

The Government cannot provide information about the process because this was not a government process. This was a Liberal Party process about how they would spend taxpayers' money in a non-merit-based process outside of any established transparent processes. The minister made it clear that there was no departmental approval or merit-based assessment that was conducted.

We asked the minister for the list of projects. The minister has just tabled that for us - and about time. When I asked him in Estimates he told me that these had been approved in the 2021-22 budget that went to parliament last year. He was trying to shut down my question and say it was out of order for me to ask that question because it was to do with last year's budget. They were not listed in last year's budget and the minister was misleading the committee when he made that statement. There was no list of the individual projects that were committed to by the Liberal Party during the election period and that were subsequently funded by the Liberal Government after it got re-elected on the back of the pork barreling it had done.

The minister said all the commitments were publicly announced either through a media release or by social media and were approved through the budget process. I would like the minister to also table the announcements that have been made for each of those commitments that were promised during the election process. There were 150 funded.

The minister told us in Estimates that all of the commitments were publicly announced. He was not very clear about the facts when he tried to shut down our questions about providing a list of the projects that had been funded. I would like to see on behalf of Tasmanians the list of announcements made for each one of these projects. Where were they made? Was there a press release? Were 150 press releases put out by the Liberal Party during the election campaign? We do not remember them. Maybe there were for the big ones promised in the election.

They also could have been put out, according to the Liberal Party, through a media release or by social media. It is a very odd way to announce $150 000 for Ms Ogilvie's daughter's club through social media. I do not think the Integrity Commission will find that best practice. In fact, the Integrity Commission had quite a lot to say, Ms Ogilvie, about the same process that was used in the 2018 election. The Integrity Commission was very clear that in the 2018 election the Liberal Party had no process, competitive or otherwise, to determine whether funds that had been pledged were really needed or whether they were a good use of public money. They made the point for the 2018 election that the promises did not meet good practice grant management principles. They did not have objectives, they did not have selection criteria, they did not have an application process, they were not publicly advertised or competitive, they did not identify decision makers and they did not involve a public record of how or why recipients were chosen.

Let us see what they learnt from the 2018 election. Let us see whether the Liberals are good learners. If you look at what happened, they repeated the process in 2021. There were no objectives. The Government has not provided what the objectives were. We have not seen any selection criteria. According to Mr Street there were established criteria that the Liberal Party team used. Well, can you please table that as well, minister so that Tasmanians can see what the criteria were for that large amount of taxpayers' money handed out. There was no application process. The application process was the whim of the candidate and what they decided to fund.

Ms Ogilvie decided to spend $150 000 of taxpayers' money on her daughter's club. Mr Jaensch decided to fund the Emu Valley Rhododendron Gardens and give them $61 273 for irrigation. He also decided, as the patron of the Cradle Coast Outrigger Canoe Club, to give them $78 000 for new canoes. Mr Barnett, a patron of the Deloraine Bowls Club, gave them $25 000. Let us not forget the $1 million that went to the Launceston Football Club and the $500 000 that went to the Cradle Coast Authority, where Mr Jaensch was the chief executive before his election in 2014.

None of this was with any merits-based assessment, none of it was within the independent established criteria. It stinks. Tasmanians will not forget it and we have not finished.