So little justification exists in support of a $20 million heritage grant that departmental officials still refuse to confirm even whether there was any application, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Simon Birmingham said today.
The absence of any documented rationale or request for the $20 million, provided to Museum Victoria for protection and promotion of Melbourne’s World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building, was revealed at Senate Budget Estimates in May.
Departmental officials at that time took on notice the question as to whether or not there had been any application, and answered in July only that:
“The provision of funding for the Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building was determined through the budget process.”
Written answer to question on notice 105, DSEWPaC, provided 25 July 2012
“Extraordinarily, while the funding was announced in the 8 May 2012 budget papers for 2012-13, it was confirmed today that the full $20 million was transferred before 30 June 2012 – last financial year 2011-12,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Despite the attention and scrutiny through May’s Budget Estimates, officials were still unable – or too fearful – today to confirm whether any application for the funding was received.
“I’m not sure I’m in a position at the moment, Senator, to provide you with any further information. I literally don’t have any further information other than that that was provided on notice as a matter considered through the budget process.”
Dr Paul Grimes, Secretary, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), Senate Estimates, 16 October 2012
Senator Conroy then interjected to prevent officials from any opportunity to provide a more satisfactory answer or field further questions.
“Buildings important to our history deserve attention and preservation but, if this project is worthy of more federal funding than any other heritage project currently funded, why is there no supporting documentation or anything requiring the money to be spent in orderly fashion over the forward estimates?”
“The answer might be in Minister Burke’s 15 May media release:
“The Government acknowledges the representations of Greens MP, Adam Bandt, in delivering this project.”
“Labor is more interested in political fixes and cash splashes to those keeping the Gillard Government in power than it is in being prudent with taxpayers’ money.”