Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet has announced a review of subsidy programs in NSW after his predecessor Gladys Berejiklian’s performance before the corruption watchdog put the government’s pig barrels back in the headlines.
- The review will focus on ensuring that the appropriations provide value for public money
- Former Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian admitted to ICAC that she “threw money” at government seats
- Documents show that 92 percent of renewable energy subsidies in schools were allocated to seats held by government MPs
However, Mr Perrottet denied that the move was an acknowledgment that there were errors in the way in which some of the grants investigated by the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) were awarded.
In her evidence to the ICAC, Ms Berejiklian said the government “threw money” at government seats to win them.
As prime minister, she had already admitted that more than $ 100 million in council subsidies approved before the 2019 state election was equivalent to pork barrels.
“It’s not something society likes, but it’s an accusation I want to bear,” she said at the time.
“It is not an illegal practice. Unfortunately, it happens from time to time by any government.”
Former Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro also did not back down from practice, saying earlier that he was proud of his nickname “Pork Barilaro”.
Sir. Perrottet was treasurer in the run-up to the state election in 2019 and signed for all the grants awarded.
But when asked directly whether the review was a concession, the grants were not awarded with the principles of transparency, honesty and accountability in mind, Mr Perrottet replied with a clear “no”.
He said he was committed to ensuring that the grant process was fair.
The Prime Minister also rejected the opposition’s claims that another government support scheme for renewable energy in schools represented pig barrels “to a dizzying extent”.
Documents show that 92 percent of the schools that were awarded grants as part of a pilot program for renewable energy were in government seats.
Opposition leader Chris Minns said it was another example of overt pork barrels.
“It’s a sign of a government putting their own needs ahead of the people of NSW,” Minns said.
“Everyone in this state pays taxes, they should expect to have public spending based on needs and not the political needs of the Liberal Party.”
But Mr Perrottet said the process of the subsidy scheme was not political.
“My understanding is that the program was run through the Ministry of Education and they provided advice to the NSW Government as to where their needs are.
“This is not about Labor seats, Left seats, the Green seats, it does not bother me.
“The most important thing is that public investment goes where the need is and creates benefits.”
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the schools that received the money “were selected by the Ministry of Education, based on their lack of access to a reliable electricity grid to operate larger cooling systems at the school”.
The review of the grant schemes will be led by the Department of Premier and Cabinet in partnership with the Productivity Commissioner, Peter Achterstraat.
It will focus on ensuring that the programs achieve value for public money, are robust in their planning and design, and adopt the key principles of transparency, accountability and fairness.
The final report will be delivered in April next year.