National Stronger Regions fund ‘used as pork barrel’

FAIRFAX Media has claimed Coalition-held seats with high levels of socio-economic advantage have been major beneficiaries of the National Stronger Regions Fund.

The $620 million fund was established in 2014 with “a particular focus on assisting disadvantaged regions to achieve growth”.

Fairfax reported that Labor-held seats like Blaxland, Watson and Fowler (in NSW) and Scullin, Calwell and Bruce (in Victoria) – where median incomes are around $400 a week – got nothing under the Stronger Regions Fund.

By contrast, the inner-Melbourne seat of Kooyong held by Liberal frontbencher Josh Frydenberg – where median incomes reach $770 a week – received $3.2 million for a community facility that will “expand the neighbourhood activity precinct and link directly to Greythorn Shopping Centre”.

Responding to questions from Fairfax, a spokesman for Regional Development Minister John McVeigh said an independent review in 2016 found funding decisions by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development were consistent with the competitive merit-based selection process.