Inquiry into Commonwealth grants administration

by Robyn Seth-Purdie and Bill Browne

Last year, the Australia Institute’s analysis of Commonwealth grants programs between 2013 and 2021 (the term of the most recent Coalition Government) found a clear skew towards Coalition seats at the expense of Labor seats, particularly safe Labor seats.

The constraints on government expenditure, including the Constitution, statutes, guidelines and ministerial standards, have been inadequate to ensure grants are always spent impartially and according to proper processes. This is despite the Independent Commission Against Corruption finding that ‘pork barrelling’ (allocating funds to targeted electors for political purposes) can constitute corrupt conduct in some circumstances.

This submission identifies red flags in grants administration, under four categories – unfair and ineffective distributions, poor processes, lack of transparency and lack of deterrence and remedies – and makes recommendations to address the problems found in each category.