27 October 2011
ALLEGATIONS of Australian Labor Party favouritism have surfaced, following the rejection of two key Gippsland projects by the Regional Development Australia Fund.
Gippsland Senator Bridget McKenzie questioned the distribution of about $1 billion by the RDAF in Senate estimate hearings last week, following the rejection of a key Latrobe City Council application.
The application, aimed at facilitating growth of the Latrobe Regional Airport, was deemed ineligible on the basis it did not include mandatory documentation.
Figures show of the 36 applicants approved, $140.5 million was distributed to Labor seats and $58.09 million to non Labor-Independent electorates.
“Rather than shoring up support for ALP seats, RDA should be focused on growing local economies in regional areas, irrespective who holds the seats,” Ms McKenzie said.
“RDA should stop playing politics and start delivering funding where it is needed and create jobs that will secure our future in regional Australia.”
The $6.24 million project was given the number one priority status for the region, which would potentially create an additional 150 direct jobs to the community.
Ms McKenzie said of the $36 million allocated in Victoria, four of the five funding packages were distributed to projects held by Labor seats.
Latrobe City Council chief executive Paul Buckley confirmed it was anticipated a further application for funding would be submitted next month, for the next round of funding.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester expressed his disappointment at the rejection of what was highlighted as a “crucial” project for the Valley.
“There needs to be more opportunities for smaller councils especially when larger municipalities are more advantaged when they submit more elaborate applications,” Mr Chester said.
“The project is a strong case for us to argue on behalf of the local community and I will push to see a greater level of commitment for the Gippsland region.”
The Express attempted to get a comment from the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, but was informed all RDA funding applications were considered confidential and assessed on their own merits.