AAP FactCheck

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Is the NSW government guilty of pork-barrelling for granting arts funding to help secure coalition seats?

By Louise Evans, James Lane & Tiffanie Turnbull

The Statement

"It's a classic case of pork-barrelling."

Independent candidate for Tamworth and local councillor Mark Rodda accuses the NSW government of using taxpayers money to fund “unworthy" arts projects in coalition electorates. March 14, 2019.

The Analysis

NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin and Nationals leader John Barilaro approved over $3 million in grants in coalition-held seats for 13 regional arts projects judged ineligible by an expert panel.

Independent candidate for Tamworth and local councillor Mark Rodda said the funding process was unfair and “an appalling way to manage taxpayers' funds prior to an election". [1]

AAP FactCheck examined Mr Rodda’s claim it was "a classic case of pork-barrelling".

According to the Macquarie Dictionary pork-barrelling is a colloquial expression for “a government appropriation, bill or policy which supplies funds for local improvements designed to ingratiate legislators with their constituents”.

A NSW Government Planning and Environment document obtained by the ABC under freedom of information, and shared by the national broadcaster with AAP FactCheck, shows how funding applications for Regional Cultural Fund (RCF) grants were assessed and allocated. The document consists of 199 pages. [2]

Page 10 of the document states the NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin had identified 13 applications that were “not recommended” by the RCF panel for funding. The document states the minister then sought advice on whether to allocate funding to these 13 applications and asked “what conditions would be needed to ensure the applications met the objective of the RCF panel”. [2]

Page 82 of the document identifies 13 applications “not recommended” for funding and shows they were all for projects in NSW coalition-held seats. [2]

In May 31, 2018 when round one of RCF grants were announced, 68 projects shared $48 million worth of funding, included 13 that had not been recommended for funding by the panel. [3]

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Mr Harwin and National Party whip and Myall Lakes MP Stephen Bromhead announced the round one RCF recipients at the Manning Entertainment Centre in Taree which is in the NSW seat of Myall Lakes. The Manning Entertainment Centre was one of the 13 applications “not recommended” but it received the most funding with two grants totalling $1,570,959. [4]

Here’s the 13 “not recommended” projects which received funding, listed from the largest to smallest grants together with which electoral seat they came from and who holds the seat [2] [5].

1: Stephen Bromhead, Nationals, Party whip; Myall Lakes MP: Mid Coast Council, Manning Entertainment Centre studio theatre space. ($1,550 000)

2: John Barilaro, Nationals, Party Leader; Deputy Premier; Minister for Regional New South Wales; Skills; Small Business; Monaro MP: Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council, Bicentennial Hall refurbishment. ($999,000)

3: Thomas George, Nationals, Deputy Speaker; Lismore MP: Kyogle and District Historical Society Inc., Kyogle History Museum. ($130,000)

4: Pru Goward, Liberals, Minister for Family and Community Services; Social Housing; Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault; Goulburn MP: Berrima District Historical & Family History Society Inc., Berrima District Museum Masterplan project. ($113,324)

5: Kevin Humphries, Nationals, Barwon MP: Binnaway Rail Heritage and Preservation Group Inc, Open-air museum. ($80,212)

6: Stephen Bromhead, Nationals, Party whip; Myall Lakes MP: Taree Film Society Inc., Projector upgrade. ($58,802)

7: Stephen Bromhead, Nationals; Myall Lakes MP: Great Lakes Art Society, Gallery renovation. ($49,513)

8: Daryl Maguire, Nationals, Wagga Wagga MP (at time of grant announcement in May 2018): Batlow Development League, Building upgrades. ($44,393)

9: Melinda Pavey, Nationals, Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight; Oxley MP: Nambucca Community and Arts Centre Committee of Management, Centre upgrades. ($40,534)

10: John Barilaro, Nationals, Party Leader; Monaro MP: Queanbeyan Palerang Council, Finders Keepers shop front. ($40,000)

11: Stephen Bromhead, Nationals; Myall Lakes MP: Mid Coast Council, Manning Entertainment Centre studio theatre space. ($20,959)

12: Adam Marshall, Nationals, Minister for Tourism and Major Events; Assistant Minister for Skills; Northern Tablelands MP: Uralla Shire Council, Aboriginal Cultural Display. ($16,196)

13: Troy Grant, Nationals, Dubbo MP: Arts Council of Gulgong Inc., Exhibition panels. ($14,441)

The biggest winners among the 13 were the National Party whip Stephen Bromhead’s seat of Myall Lakes, which received four grants totalling $1,679,274, and the Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s seat of Monaro, which got two grants totalling $1,039,000. [2] [5]

Tamworth candidate and councillor Mr Rodda told AAP FactCheck: “What Mr Harwin did is pure pork-barrelling in coalition seats to sandbag and protect the government incumbents at this election. It is completely unfair to the councils and organisations elsewhere who do the right thing to plan their projects only to have the minister pull the rug from underneath those groups.”

AAP FactCheck concludes Mr Rodda claim the NSW government is guilty of pork-barrelling is true and that his use of the term pork-barrelling is in line with the Macquarie Dictionary definition.

The Verdict

  • True - The checkable claims are all true.

The References

1: 'John Barilaro, Don Harwin overruled expert advice on regional arts funding, documents reveal’. By Michaela Boland and Greg Miskelly. ABC. March 14, 2019: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-14/nsw-ministers-accused-of-pork-barrelling-over-regional-arts-fund/10898154

2: ‘Regional Cultural Fund (RCF)’, NSW Government Planning and Environment document obtained under freedom of information by the ABC and shared with AAP FactCheck.

3: ‘Regional Cultural Fund delivers millions to fuel a further 56 cultural infrastructure projects’. Create NSW, NSW Government: https://www.create.nsw.gov.au/news-and-publications/news/regional-cultural-fund-delivers-millions-to-fuel-a-further-56-cultural-infrastructure-projects/

4: ‘NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian visits Taree to announce funding for arts and culture projects’. Manning River Times. June 1, 2018: https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/5440507/funding-boost-for-local-arts-and-culture/

5: ‘Regional Cultural Fund Round One Recipients’. Create NSW, NSW Government: https://www.create.nsw.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Regional-Cultural-Fund-Round-One-Recipients.pdf

Revision History

  • First published March 15, 2019 18:40 AEDT