Thursday 28th of January 2021

you say pork barrelling, I say rort, corruption...


The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has conceded that $140m in grants to councils that were approved in the nine months before the last state election amounted to pork barrelling, but said there was nothing illegal about it.

“It’s not something the community likes ... but it’s an accusation I will wear,” she said. It’s not unique to our government,” Berejiklian said.

“It’s not an illegal practice. Unfortunately it does happen from time to time by every government,” she said.

Labor and the Greens seized on documents forensically recovered from databases, which they claim show Berejiklian was directly involved in the approval process. Berejiklian denies she was involved in the approval.

“I was consulted and I was provided advice, so were other ministers. But the Office of Local Government was responsible for getting the dollars to councils,” Berejiklian said.

The grants from the $252m Stronger Communities fund went overwhelmingly to Coalition-held seats and the documents show only Coalition MPs were consulted.

One undated, unsigned memo prepared by staffer Sarah Lau for the premier, recovered by computer experts, lists seven projects, all in Coalition seats. They were recommended by Coalition MPs.

“The PLO [parliamentary liaison officer] team has consulted with local members and has pulled together the list of open space projects in Table 1 for your approval,” the memo says.


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Note: I had to delete the previous post under this name as it had a few technical problems. All's good now.

doing the cleaning up...



From the Archives, 1994: Ros Kelly quits over 'sports rorts' affair

As it emerges that the Morrison government used a $100 million community sports program as a re-election slush fund, we revisit the political strife surrounding the Keating-era "sports rorts" affair.


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your sponge is dirty...

No, Premier, pork barrelling cannot be justified

It is difficult to be surprised by NSW politics given its scandal-plagued history. But Premier Gladys Berejiklian managed to do just that with her dispiriting attempt this week to justify pork barrelling – when public money is spent on projects of dubious value to win political support.

‘‘Governments in all positions make commitments to the community in order to curry favour,’’ she said on Thursday. ‘‘I think that’s part of the political process, whether we like it or not.

‘‘The term pork barrelling is common parlance ... it’s not something that I know that the community is comfortable with and if that’s the accusation made on this occasion ... well then I’m happy to accept that commentary.’’

She argued that pork barrelling was ‘‘not an illegal practice’’ and that every government indulged in it ‘‘from time to time’’.

The Herald is extremely disappointed by these comments. Pork barrelling is not acceptable and should have no place in a modern, well-managed state.

It may be that both major parties have resorted to pork barrelling in the past, but that is no justification for it.

The NSW Coalition government has styled itself as a prudent financial manager promoting a strong economy. But Berejiklian’s defence of pork barrelling is antithetical to that message. It is not just unfair, it is bad for the state’s economy.

Taxpayer resources must be allocated in a way that most effectively contributes to the wellbeing of the whole community. That includes the delivery of high-quality services across the state and investments that maximise the efficiency of the economy.

Instead, the Premier has justified skewing the use of public money for political advantage. NSW cannot afford to squander resources in that way.

The Berejiklian government has appointed a Productivity Commissioner to advise on ways to make the state economy more efficient. This month’s state budget also included an ambitious plan to make the tax system more efficient by phasing out stamp duty on property purchases. But what’s the point of initiatives to enhance the state’s productivity when the Premier is happy to allocate taxpayer money to advantage her own side of politics, rather than the best interests of the state?

Berejilkian’s defence of pork barrelling followed the release of copies of shredded documents at the centre of an inquiry into the Stronger Communities Grants Fund, which were recovered by her office. Coalition electorates received 95 per cent of grants from the $250 million fund prior to the last state election.

‘‘If the accusation is that the government favoured certain areas, well that’s an accusation we wear,’’ she said when questioned about the scheme on Thursday.

Maybe the Premier is hoping voters will appreciate her straight talk. Certainly, many of her political counterparts will privately agree. But does she really think the public will be happy to hear hundreds of millions were spent to serve a political purpose rather than the best interests of the state?

Ms Berejiklian’s attitude to pork barrelling raises troubling questions about much bigger spending decisions than the grants fund. Have political considerations, for instance, been put ahead of the state-wide interest when deciding on infrastructure projects worth tens of billions of dollars?

Berejiklian’s pork barrelling howler adds to a growing list of recent political missteps. Last week she failed to self-isolate after having a COVID test, in breach of her own government’s guidelines. Only last month the Premier revealed to the Independent Commission Against Corruption she had been in a secret ‘‘close personal relationship’’ with now disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

Berejiklian deserves credit for the way she handled the most testing of years – first the bushfire crisis and then the COVID-19 pandemic. The Heraldcommends her for her leadership, and her government for their hard work. However, her pitiful defence of this behaviour is a blow to her credibility and threatens to erode public confidence.

Back in 2011 the voters dumped the 16-year-old scandal-tainted Labor government in favour of the Coalition, which vowed to do things differently. Shortly before becoming premier that year Barry O’Farrell promised there would be ‘‘no more dodgy deals, incompetence and scandals’’.

Now his successor has chosen to justify pork barrelling, as important questions are raised about her government’s use of taxpayer money. Berejiklian’s comments suggest a worrying level of arrogance and complacency after the Coalition’s nine years in power. It is an attitude that, if not resolved, is unlikely to be rewarded at the ballot box.

NSW deserves much, much better.


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Read from top. Gladys should resign IN SHAME... but she won't. Only sociopaths would try to justify the dirt on their sponge.

yeah... take a break for ever...

'It's called being human': 'Exhausted' Berejiklian urged to take break after a week of unforced errors.

Senior Liberals are concerned that Gladys Berejiklian will continue to make missteps if she does not take a break, following a disastrous week for the Premier.

Several government colleagues have privately urged Ms Berejiklian to consider taking time off and believe the culmination of natural disasters, the pandemic and a personal scandal left her vulnerable to making several "unforced errors," which played out this week.

Ms Berejiklian confirmed she breached COVID-19 guidelines by not self-isolating on budget day, before delivering an extraordinary admission on Thursday that her government engages in pork barrelling.

One government minister, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described Ms Berejiklian as exhausted and said she needed to take time away from the office before making more mistakes.



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Please don't call these slip ups "mistakes"... They are definitely rorts and deliberate systemic fouls... Gladys should pack her bags and go on a holiday to Hawaii for a few years...

the pub-with-no-beer test...

Senior colleagues are asking the tired but hardworking Premier to take a break due to her recent errors of judgment ("Premier urged to take a rest after week of errors", November 28-29).

It is interesting that her colleagues feel a break is necessary only now that the Premier's "errors" are ones where she openly admits her government is corrupt, incompetent and unethical. It should be noted that the actual errors, the pork-barrelling and its cover-up, took place well before the Premier was tired. This is desperate spin from the Liberals. It certainly doesn't pass the pub test. 

Pam Timms, Suffolk Park

It seems the Premier is not delivering the required political spin with her usual Shane Warne-like efficiency. Some might think that her anonymous colleagues want her out of the public eye ASAP before she makes any more unforced errors. After all, who knows what other inconvenient truths there are for her to tell? 

Paul Attfield, Mount Colah

Premier, when you say you're "happy to wear the accusation" that your government favoured Coalition electorates when it handed out $250 million worth of grants, do you realise what that means for me and others who live in safe Labor seats? It means I don't matter, that you do not care about the kind of community I live in, even though the tax I pay has contributed to the Stronger Communities Fund.

The next time I hear you say that you're working for "the people of NSW" I'll know exactly which citizens you're referring to. 

Kerrie Wehbe, Blacktown 

In an odd way it was refreshing to hear an exhausted Premier admit her government has engaged in blatant pork-barrelling. I hope the Premier takes the anonymous minister's advice to rest. Where would it all end if our politicians suddenly started saying "the wrong thing" by 'fessing up to all their wrongdoings and complete lack of ethical standards? A slippery slope indeed. 

John Watts, Gloucester

A few weeks ago, I was served a parking infringement notice. I expressed genuine remorse, pleaded guilty and promised to be more careful in reading the parking instructions. It was to no avail. I was asked to pay the fine. I paid and moved on. But for our Premier, for her repeated misdeeds, no punishment is being meted out.

Of course, she has support in high places. If she is considered to be a model politician, I have no doubt I am a model citizen. Just like her, I am "being human" too. 

Muthukrishnan Srinivasan Riverview

It is unclear to me what has caused greater outrage: the extent of the misuse of taxpayers' money or having the Premier speak the political truth. Surely she should be praised for plain truth speaking and other politicians should be encouraged to follow suit. Our parliamentary democracy would be all the better for it. 

Esther Scholem, Macquarie Park

There is no doubt the Premier needs a week off and I would recommend a week in Queensland. My big concern, however, is leaving the state in the hands of her deputy. The very thought of it leaves koalas quaking, platypus perspiring, big coal and gas firing up and brumbies breeding. 

Peter Hull, Hat Head


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"Politicians and diapers must be changed often and for the same reason." said Mark Twain...

the american tinned pork barrelling...


From The New York Times


Republicans and Democrats Need to Work Together. Earmarks Can Help.

Nothing greases the gears of government quite like pork.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

As the Trump presidency fades to black, it is time for Washington to get to work. In embracing Joe Biden, the American people cast a vote for civility, pragmatism and competence. Lawmakers now have a duty to hunker down and find ways to make progress on critical issues. But with both chambers of Congress narrowly divided and ideologically polarized, coming together on even the most modest deals could prove daunting.

One promising move under consideration: bringing back congressional earmarks.

Loosely speaking, earmarks are spending requests — or, depending on your definition, also limited tax or tariff benefits — inserted into bills at the behest of individual lawmakers for the benefit of specific entities in specific locations. Think: funding for a domestic violence crisis center in Alaska or for STEM programs in a rural school district in Colorado.

In the big picture, earmarks add up to little more than a rounding error, generally constituting not more than 1 percent of the federal budget. They are used to determine spending priorities, not spending levels, meaning they determine how the pie gets divided rather than how big it is.

As conceived, earmarks allow the people who presumably best understand a state or district — its elected officials — to direct federal dollars to where they are most needed. In practice, they also gets used for all kinds of daffy or ill-conceived projects. Remember the infamous Bridge to Nowhere? Classic earmarking. At its most vile, the process veers into organized bribery, as special interests pursue ethically questionable, and occasionally illegal, means to get lawmakers to champion their pet issues. In the mid-2000s, a handful of earmark-related scandals landed some prominent political players in prison. Earmarks became a tidy symbol of government waste and corruption.

In 2007, the Democratic-controlled House began reforming the practice, increasing transparency and accountability. Members were required to attach their names to requests and to certify that they had no financial interests in the projects. Beneficiaries were limited to nonprofit entities or public projects. In 2011, Republicans assumed control of the chamber and went even further, declaring a moratorium on earmarks.

This ban has made Congress less accountable and more dysfunctional. It is time to abandon the experiment.

Despite their bad reputation, earmarks are not inherently corrupt. Since America’s earliest days, they have proved a useful tool for building coalitions. (The first known instance of congressional earmarking dates to the Lighthouse Act of 1789.) Nothing greases the gears of government quite like pork. A lawmaker may not care for a larger bill per se, but the ability to slip in a little something for the voters back home can be a compelling motivator. “Without earmarks to offer, it’s hard to herd the cats,” John Boehner, the former House speaker, once observed.

It is this utility that many earmark opponents object to. They do not want costly legislation to be easier to pass. The budget watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste warns that “earmarks cause members to vote for excessively expensive spending bills that cost tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in exchange for a few earmarks worth a few million or sometimes just thousands of dollars.”

Considering the thicket of crises the nation is facing, big-ticket legislation, including another meaty round of coronavirus relief, is precisely what is needed.

Of course, the earmark ban didn’t really ban earmarks. Pork spending simply became stealthier, with some members falling back on similar, more convoluted moves such as “phonemarking” or “lettermarking.” Worse, non-earmark earmarks are not subject to the same transparency requirements, making them harder to track. So much for increased accountability.

There are also questions of constitutional authority. When Congress declines to specify how the money it appropriates is spent, the executive branch is happy to fill the void. Curtailing congressional earmarks “simply shifts that power more explicitly to a president and a cadre of unelected bureaucrats,” according to John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Presidential Pork.” “Eliminating earmarking is a serious abdication of power by Congress which empowers a branch of government beyond what the Founders intended,” he has argued.

This argument should have special appeal for Republican lawmakers, who like to complain that unelected bureaucrats and unaccountable regulators have too much authority.

Since 2011, clusters of lawmakers have periodically flirted with restoring earmarks, only to abandon the efforts. The practice remains easy to demagogue, especially with mistrust of government running high. In the wake of this month’s election, House Democrats are approaching the issue with renewed energy. In a recent interview with Roll Call, Steny Hoyer, the majority leader, said that once the new chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee is chosen, she would begin asking members to submit “congressional initiatives for their districts and their states.”

Members in both chambers should facilitate this process — working to ensure that the new system has maximum transparency and sufficient oversight, of course. Earmarks are not a magic cure-all for today’s hyperpolarized politics. They are unlikely to, for instance, convince conservatives to support the Green New Deal or members of the progressive “Squad” to back corporate tax breaks. But restoring positive incentives for lawmakers to embrace negotiation and compromise could provide at least some counterbalance to the partisan forces fueling rigidity and gridlock.



The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email:




Is this a shared pork-barrelling approved by both parties? That's a novelty... Read from top. This ecumenical Democrat/Republican offer is a bit rich after the hammering of Trump by the NYT, with many fake issues... Opinions never cease to amaze...


wagga wagga band waggon...

The New South Wales Government agreed to bankroll a building development from a fund overseen by Premier Gladys Berejiklian that Daryl Maguire and his business partners later attempted to profit from.

Key points:

  • A sporting association championed by Daryl Maguire was given a $5.5m grant for facilities in Wagga Wagga
  • Premier Gladys Berejikilian oversaw the fund that earmarked the grant while she was in a secret relationship with Mr Maguire
  • Senior Liberal Party figure John Larter says the Premier's position is now "untenable" 

7.30 can reveal the Premier oversaw a fund that reserved $5.5 million in grant funding for the Australian Clay Target Association's clubhouse and convention centre in Wagga Wagga.

Mr Maguire had been publicly calling for a convention centre in Wagga Wagga since 2005, and after the grant was announced he received strong endorsements for playing a critical role in its delivery.

He later attempted to secretly gain a small commission from the clubhouse development, according to an admission from his business partner Phil Elliott to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

7.30 is not suggesting the Premier was aware Mr Maguire attempted to financially profit from the development.

The revelations raise further questions about the Premier's role in facilitating grants within Mr Maguire's electorate.



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giving pork-barrelling moneys ahead of time...

A New South Wales inquiry into the allocation of more than $252m of local government grants has heard the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced $255,000 for a council in the seat of Wagga Wagga during the 2018 byelection, months before the application was lodged and processed.

The inquiry on Wednesday was also told there was no paperwork available regarding the grants scheme from either the Office of Local Government or the deputy premier’s office. It has previously been revealed paperwork and records from the premier’s office were shredded and deleted.


The chair of the upper house committee looking into the controversial program, NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge, has called on Berejiklian to appear before the committee and explain the allocation process.

In relation to the Wagga Wagga grant, Shoebridge said the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac) had specifically warned against ministers announcing funding ahead of an assessment by bureaucrats because it placed enormous pressure on them to approve the pre-announced funding.


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Sack Gladys or let her sack herself. Read from top.