Anti-crime prevention funds mostly allocated to Coalition electorates
Looking into the eligibility criteria and selection process for the Safer Streets program: Auditor General Ian McPhee. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The Abbott government has been accused of "rampant pork
barrelling" over a $50 million crime prevention program that has so far
seen nearly 90 per cent of the money spent in Coalition electorates.
The Commonwealth Auditor-General is investigating management
of the fund, aimed at deterring anti-social behaviour and cleaning up
crime hot spots, it was announced in September.
Illustration: Matt Golding.
It has now emerged in figures released by the
Attorney-General's Department that of the 34 grants approved, 30 are in
Liberal and National seats.
Every one of the largest seven grants has gone to electorates with a sitting Coalition member.
And one of the biggest outlays – $550,000 for 33
closed-circuit TV cameras in the city of Stirling, Western Australia –
is in the electorate of Justice Minister Michael Keenan, the minister
responsible for the Safer Streets program.
The biggest single spend went to the Liberal-held marginal
seat of Herbert – held by just 2.2 per cent – where the Townsville City
Council has been given $1.3 million to install LED lighting along a
street in Thuringowa.
The City of Wagga Wagga in regional NSW has been allocated
$464,000 for CCTV cameras. Wagga Wagga is part of the bellwether seat of
Riverina, won back from Labor by the National Party last year.
In Victoria, $110,000 was provided for 18 CCTV cameras in
Lilydale and $110,000 for 12 CCTV cameras in Healesville – both in the
Liberal seat of Casey.
Auditor-General Ian McPhee is looking into the eligibility
criteria and selection process for Safer Streets after Labor's justice
spokesman David Feeney raised concerns.
He has also voiced concerns over the $314 million Community
Development Grants scheme, likening it to the Howard government's
notorious "regional rorts" program.
Mr Feeney said he wanted to know whether the program's aim was "safer streets or safer seats".
"The allocation of taxpayer funds increasingly appears politically motivated," he said.
Mr Feeney's office has requested detail on the approval's
process under Freedom of Information laws but was refused on the grounds
that it would "substantially and unreasonably divert resources" of the
Mr Feeney described the decision as "cynical attempt to cover up this rampant pork barrelling".
Mr Keenan's office has previously said it was normal practice for the Auditor-General to look into government spending programs.
The fund uses the proceeds of crime and was a Labor
initiative known as The National Crime Prevention Fund, but was rebadged
after the election as Safer Streets.
Figures show that $20 million of the $50 million fund has so far been allocated.
A spokeswoman for Mr Keenan said all applicants had met the
programs of expenditure guidelines laid out in the Proceeds of Crime Act