Australia’s Auditor-General has found more than a quarter of regional grants awarded by the Commonwealth since 2018 were awarded to recipients from major cities.

An analysis of more than 108,000 federal grants, worth more than $60 billion combined, allocated from January 2018 to June this year, was released last month by the Australian National Audit office (ANAO).

It said 27 per cent of regional development grants awarded during this period were delivered to recipients with postcodes in major cities.

Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain said this was another blow for regional areas that had to deal with so much during this time.

“It is frustrating to see that 3,682 ‘regional’ grants went to major cities, compared to only 309 projects in areas classified as ‘remote’ or ‘very remote’,” Ms McBain said.

In total, the ANAO said 6,668 regional and 433 rural grants were awarded, worth a combined $2.6 billion, with $624 million of that going to recipients in major cities.

“The Morrison-Joyce Government talks a big game when it comes to regional development, but it’s clear to me that they continually favour projects based in the major cities – and this report proves it.”

“Regional areas can’t continue to be left behind, this government needs to actually invest in them.

However, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the grants awarded to major city postcodes did not indicate that that was where the money was spent.

“Many grant applicants are organisations with a state-wide or national presence and therefore they may lodge grant applications using a capital city address,” he said.
“This does not necessarily reflect where the work and community benefit will occur.

“This report highlights that almost 60 per cent of grants were focused in health, aged care, Indigenous and disability services.”

But Ms McBain said the fact is these grants are targeted at regional areas for a reason.

“The money and support should be flowing to regional communities like Adelong, Cooma, Braidwood and Bombala – not to Surry Hills,” she said.

The ANAO analysis also found that more than 40 per cent of all government grants awarded since 2018 were granted through a “closed non-competitive process”.

“One of those closed round tenders resulted in $10 million of regional and remote funding going to the North Sydney Pool.”

“The city project was put first despite pools across this region desperately needing upgrades which we’ve seen through recent grant applications for Bega, Batlow and Khancoban pools,” Ms McBain said.

By Brianna O’Rourke