The Morrison Government’s drought shambles rolls on with Deputy Prime Minister McCormack today releasing eligibility criteria for the re-badged BBRF drought round so loose that it appears the Minister can make it up as he goes.
The new guidelines were released barely a week after a scathing Audit into the mismanagement of the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages, which found the Deputy Prime Minister sat on a Ministerial Panel that awarded grant funding to an ineligible project.
The Audit also found the Ministerial Panel rejected 28 percent of RJIP applications recommended by the Department, and approved 17 percent of RJIP applications not recommended by the Department without recording adequate reasons.
Last week, the Prime Minister and his Deputy announced that the $200 million Building Better Regional Fund Round 4 would be re-badged as a round for “drought-stricken communities” only.
Michael McCormack said at the time; “the communities elsewhere in regional Australia, which are going ok, they will understand.”
The eligibility criteria for ‘drought-affected location’ instructs potential applicants to provide evidence supporting the claim and lists four pieces of evidence that could be used.
The first two pieces are clear cut – is the project in an LGA eligible for the Australian Government’s Drought Communities Programme – Extension or a locality drought-declared by a state or territory.
The final two then appear to provide the Minister with unlimited discretion, suggesting organisations apply based on rainfall data or economic impact.
Shadow Minister Catherine King said it is clear that the Deputy Prime Minister has not done the work on this re-badged BBRF round.
“The Deputy Prime Minister needs to go away and do some more work on his ‘drought-affected location’ eligibility criteria,” Ms King said.
“What is the rainfall threshold? What is the employment impact criteria? What time periods apply?”
“Rural and regional Australians living through this extended drought need certainty from the Government.”
“I don’t want to see councils and community organisations spending thousands of dollars and countless hours preparing an application only for the Minister to arbitrarily rule them ineligible.”
Labor continues to offer to work with the Government to support our farmers and rural communities impacted by the drought.
However, the Government’s lack of transparency on its so-called drought stimulus package is cause for concern.