Michael Pascoe: ‘#Carporkrorts’ even worse than they appeared

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it does, Michael Pascoe writes.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it does, Michael Pascoe writes. Photo: Getty/TND

As has been the pattern with the Morrison government’s rorting of federal grants for electoral purposes, it turns out the “#carporkrorts” scandal is even worse than it first appeared.

Given the blatant nature of ‘carporks’ (that’s a mash of pork barrelling and car parks) as disclosed by the Auditor-General, that might be hard to imagine.

The scheme almost made #sportsrorts look semi-professional.

At least with #sportsrorts, there were applications of sorts for the grants, whereas the alleged commuter car parks announcements were so hastily contrived that 10 of the supposed car parks at train stations didn’t have train stations.

The Australian National Audit Office report highlighted the skewed nature of the announced car parks.

Sydney has worse congestion, but 64 per cent of projects were in Melbourne. Within Melbourne, most of the projects went to the south-east, when the north-west is more congested.

And the projects overwhelmingly favoured Liberal seats over Labor seats. In Victoria, the count was 22 in Liberal seats to eight in Labor electorates – 73 per cent to 27 per cent.

But a funny thing has happened since the 2019 election: Four of the eight projects in Melbourne Labor seats – half of them – have been dumped while only two of the 22 in Liberal seats are not proceeding.

Thus the score is worse than the ANAO counted in the scandal’s prime target state – a split of 83 per cent Liberal to 17 Labor.

And that’s despite there being 16 eligible Labor seats in Victoria for the projects and only 11 Liberal.

Car park rorts government funding

Alan Tudge and Member for Deakin Michael Sukkar announce funding for car park upgrades at Croydon station in Melbourne.

The even more lopsided nature of the pork barrelling came to light through government website delving by spreadsheet maestro Vince O’Grady and research analyst Cayte Hehir.

Mr O’Grady has been a regular source of grant dissection in these columns since #sportsrorts exploded 18 months ago. There’s been plenty to work on.

With fewer seats in Melbourne to load up, the Liberal electorates scored particularly heavily.

Sure, one of the five projects in Michael Sukkar’s seat of Deakin has been dropped, but that still leaves four in the electorate of the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer – the same number gracing Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong.

That’s two Victorian Liberal seats that each scored as many carpork projects as all the Labor seats combined.

Tim Wilson’s Goldstein also had four carporks, but lost one – he’d hardly notice. Mr Wilson chairs the House of Representatives economics committee.

When Finance Minister Simon Birmingham effectively raised a middle finger last week to anyone concerned about such rorted grants schemes, I opined that it was particularly galling when those theoretically trusted with the nation’s financial integrity are especially deep in the pork barrel.

As Bernard Keane suggested in Crikey, it’s no wonder Bridget McKenzie is back in Cabinet – her fault was being an amateur among professionals.

And speaking of sports, Mr O’Grady and Ms Hehir’s counting of the Female Facilities and Water Safety [FFWS] grants has uncovered a familiar tale.

Of the $136 million worth of FFWS grants published in the past three years, the money has flowed 75 per cent to the Coalition, 25 per cent to Labor seats.

Apparently women and girls in Labor seats are much better swimmers and don’t need many facilities.

Grants and rorts

Source: Vince O’Grady

And the seat with the most projects? Josh Frydenberg’s Kooyong with five, two more than any other electorate.

The total dollar count was higher in some other electorates, but none came close to the number of announcement opportunities.

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