Tasmanian Liberal Party MPs stepped up their use of a little-known community grants fund in the three months leading up to the last national election, with spending between January and March more than double the same time of year last, according to new figures.
- Spending by the Prime Minister’s discretionary fund was higher in the three months leading up to the May election than in the previous two quarters combined
- The opposition calls it a “liberal re-election slush fund”
- The Tasmanian government says the fund is a simple way to provide one-time financial support to community members, groups and causes that might otherwise not be eligible for a grant.
The spending prompted the opposition to label the Prime Minister’s discretionary fund a “Liberal reelection slush.”
The fund provides small grants of up to $ 10,000 to community groups or individuals.
In the first three months of 2021, grants totaling $ 92,154 were made from the fund to groups such as the Royal Hobart Regatta, the Wynyard Agricultural and Pastoral Society, the Tasmanian Rare Breeds Poultry Club, the Burnie Coastal Art Group and the Reconciliation Council of Tasmania.
This is more than the amount paid in the previous two quarters combined, which totaled $ 84,306, and more than double the $ 42,162 paid between January and March 2020.
Between April and June of last year, the value of grants awarded was higher, at $ 153,119.
Many of these grants were for COVID-19 preparedness.
Labor finance spokesman Dean Winter said he had concerns about the fund’s suitability.
“The timing is very curious and the Liberals have to explain what the process was for this money to be distributed in this way.
“When you see slush funds like this spending over $ 92,000 in this quarter, people would worry about the Prime Minister’s spending and wonder if this program is the best way to spend taxpayers’ money. . “
Labor questioned the use of the fund in recent hearings on the budget estimates and asked for a list of MPs who have applied for grants.
The breakdown reveals that more than a third of the amount spent between January and March of this year – $ 35,328 – was for 12 grants awarded as a result of requests made directly to the Prime Minister.
Of the 22 other grants, 19 were requested by Liberal MPs.
Ten Liberal MPs requested grants from the fund, Clark MHA Elise Archer asking the most – four grants totaling $ 18,256 – followed by Braddon MHA Roger Jaensch requesting two grants totaling $ 8,500 and Franklin’s Nic Street asking for three grants totaling $ 7,500.
Labor MLCs Josh Willie and Craig Farrell each requested a grant worth $ 3,000, while federal Labor MHR Brian Mitchell requested a grant of $ 1,700.
According to the prime minister’s ministry, grant amounts “can vary widely from quarter to quarter, including comparable reporting periods in different years.”
He said no candidate in the 2021 state election received any grants through the Prime Minister’s Discretionary Fund.
A government spokesperson said the fund was a simple way to provide one-time financial support to community members, groups and causes that might otherwise not be eligible for a grant.
The spokesperson said most of the grants were relatively small, with a total budget allocation for 2020-2021 of $ 335,000.
“Any Member of Parliament can apply for funding, including from Labor, and the amounts allocated may vary from year to year, quarter to quarter, depending on the specific projects that require funding.” , said the government spokesperson.