McGowan calls for probe
CATHY McGowan (MHR, Indi) has called for the Auditor-General of the Australian National Audit Office, Grant Hehir, to investigate the process of Building Better Regions Fund grant announcements made for the electorate of Indi on Monday.
Her concerns were raised after the announcement on Monday by Senator Bridget McKenzie of $3.45 million from the fund destined for the Indi electorate without Ms McGowan being advised.
One of the announcements made on the day was held in Wangaratta where Senator McKenzie was joined by Coalition lower house candidates Mark Byatt (Nats) and Steven Martin (Libs).
“I am concerned about what appears to be the politicisation of taxpayer-funded grants and the impact on my communities,” Ms McGowan said.
“I understand local applicants to the Building Better Regions Fund received no formal notification about whether their grant applications had been successful and despite repeated requests, I am yet to receive a formal notification of the grant recipients.
“I am also concerned that taxpayer-funded grants are being used for party political purposes by the Federal Government.
“A photograph published on social media shows Monday’s announcements were used to promote the campaign of the National Party and Liberal Party candidates for Indi.”
Ms McGowan said the $3.4 million worth of Commonwealth grants for Indi were not gifts from individual MPs, political candidates or the government but highly competitive regional development and infrastructure grants, made by the Australian Government under the taxpayer-funded Building Better Regions Fund.
“By arranging for the unelected candidate to “announce” these grants without due process and transparency, the government appears to have used taxpayer dollars for their own political purposes,” Ms McGowan said.
“My office has been working since last year with many of the applicants with the appropriate correspondence and advocacy and it is in the interests of all involved for the Auditor-General to investigate this matter.”
Mr Byatt said he has been aware of and supportive of many of these issues for months and years, having previously been mayor of Wodonga and advocating for the North East with Regional Development Victoria.
Senator McKenzie said the government’s process for deciding BBRF grants has remained the same for all rounds, and she was confident there is no issue for the Australian National Audit Office.
“Many volunteers spend countless hours preparing applications to apply for government funding for projects,” she said.
“These applications have the support of many people including candidates, state MPs, local councillors and community leaders.”
Asked why Ms McGowan was not informed of the grants before their announcement on Monday, Senator McKenzie said as a Nationals Senator for Victoria and a federal minister it was appropriate for her to make the announcement on behalf of the government.
THE WAY WE WERE: Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie (right) and Cathy McGowan (MHR, Indi), pictured side-by-side at a funding announcement for mental health in Wangaratta in January, are not seeing eye to eye on the process of this week’s funding announcements in Indi