The first Bill to tackle grants reform in NSW is welcome, but fails to implement key recommendations promised during the Labor party’s election campaign.
The Government Sector Finance (Grants) Amendment Bill 2023, passing Parliament tonight, legislates only the second recommendation published in the ICAC Operation Jersey report into pork-barrelling in NSW.
The legislation reinforces a commitment to the Grants Assessment Guidelines and introduces a new clause that the “Minister must not approve expenditure on grants unless satisfied that the expenditure would be an efficient, effective, economic and ethical use of the money and that the expenditure represents value for money.” However, these slight changes go nowhere near upholding the dozens of recommendations provided by ICAC, the 2022 final report by the Public Accountability Committee and the final report in the review into Grants Administration in NSW by Premier and Cabinet.
Greens NSW Spokesperson for Treasury and Finance, Abigail Boyd said:
“There’s no doubt that this Bill from the new Labor Government is a refreshing change after a decade of rorts and scandals, but ending dodgy grants will take more than one short piece of legislation.
“A few small legislative changes will not come close to ending the culture of pork-barrelling, rorts and misspending of public money that has become the norm in NSW politics.
“The rulebook for grants administration in NSW will still be determined by the Government, without any input from Parliament. This ignores the very first recommendation by ICAC to end pork-barrelling.
“The government should consider themselves warned that, should they fail to uphold their promise and continue working on ensuring the integrity of the grants administration scheme, we have our own Bill that we are ready and willing to bring on.
“Years of pork-barrelling have produced years of investigations and recommendations. We must see the Government implement those recommendations or we risk a repeat of the biased spending that was prolific under the last Coalition Government.
“Exposing and ending pork-barrelling has always been core business for the Greens. For now, we are trusting this new Government to go further to uphold their election commitments in more comprehensive legislation before the end of the year.”