The Gillard Government approved a $20 million grant in this year’s budget without any application or analysis into its merits, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Simon Birmingham said today.
The absence of any rationale for the funding was revealed by departmental officials under questioning from Senator Birmingham in a Senate Estimates hearing this morning.
Provision of $20 million to Museum Victoria for protection and promotion of Melbourne’s World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building was so deeply buried on budget day, 8 May – on Page 270 of Budget Paper 2 – that it was announced in a Ministerial media release a full week later.
“The Government acknowledges the representations of Greens MP, Adam Bandt, in delivering this project.”
Tony Burke, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, media release, 15 May 2012
“Clearly, this money has only been provided because Adam Bandt and the Greens asked for it,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Officials in Mr Burke’s department today confirmed that there was no request or application for this funding or any other supporting correspondence, nor were they aware of providing any advice on any representation to the Government from Mr Bandt.
“Officials also confirmed that there is no contract yet in place and no expectation of any work being completed this financial year, despite the $20 million being provided, in full, this financial year 2011-12.
“This is a clear example of money shuffling as part of Labor’s desperate need to cook the books in order to create their false surplus in 2012-13,” Senator Birmingham said.
“This is all the more extraordinary given the original 2011-12 budget saw a $7 million net reduction in funding for heritage, yet now they find a spare $20 million despite Labor’s projected $44 billion deficit this year.
“If this project is worthy of this funding, why isn’t there the supporting documentation and why isn’t it being spent in an orderly manner when works are delivered over future years?”