When your Premier says that pork-barrelling is normal you know that there’s a lot of it going on. When an inquiry labels a major grant program a “brazen pork-barrel scheme” you might think it’s getting out of control. So in an effort to shed some light into the depth of the barrel, we’ve pulled all the NSW Grants data we can get hold of into one database. That reflects $1,807,548,382 of grants poured into a barrel; sorry, I mean mean into useful projects.
There are two issues with grants – what they are for and where they are going. Generally speaking grants go to worthy projects, although there are exceptions.
But when you look at where they are going there’s no question that far too many are going to seats the government holds or want to hold. And I say ‘no question’ because our recent Premier has confirmed that many times.
Ultimately even many of the porked-up projects are doing good – but as the Chair of the inquiry into the Stronger Communities Fund noted “If there was a public benefit, that was by accident, not by design”.
The core issue is that we should have a transparent process to decide where the limited funds available go based on public merits of the competing projects. The lack of transparency is hardly a shock to anyone paying attention but ought to be a damning indictment of the way our democracy is running.
There’s a lot of data in this gadget and many ways of looking at it. We’ve tried several, and have ideas for others once we get some feedback, but in the end settled on something that lets the user explore the data in depth. There’s no simple way to do that, so this is very much a tool rather than a simplified view. Filters allow you to isolate LGAs, electorates or funds – or any combination of those. You can deep-dive into the pork barrel here.