18 February 2014



SUBJECT/S: Senator Seselja misleading on multicultural cuts

MARK PARTON: Now, we gave you the story yesterday of the Gungahlin Jets AFL Club who were robbed by thieves last week but they’re also, well they’re not saying it but I think everyone else is saying it, they’ve robbed by the Federal Government because they were promised this money, they were given a grant, got a letter from the federal government in August of last year to say ‘yes, you’ve won $60,000 to do A, B, and C’. They actually started with the work, new government’s taken over after the election and they’re not getting the money. And obviously it’s a great concern to the Gungahlin Jets. We spoke to Joe Cortesi who is the Chairman of the Jets yesterday.

JOE CORTESI [clip]: No, the only thing we’ve heard is an email back saying the Minister has made representation. We don’t know how fruitful that was or whether it’s just sitting on the table. That’s as far as we got.

PARTON: Joe Cortesi was talking to us about the Liberal Senator Zed Seselja who went out to the club to see what they were going to do with the money and to basically chat to them. He’s spoken to people in government but nothing’s changed. Zed Seselja joined us on the program yesterday. Here’s some of what he had to say.

ZED SESELJA [clip]: We were still disappointed. The situation here Mark is that Kate Lundy I think signed off on grants after the election was called. It was $16 million, hundreds of grants, but they hadn’t allocated any money and this was the fundamental problem with how this was put together. I did make representations after the election to see if we could find the money but Mark as you would know when you’ve got a government that spent too much the money just isn’t there. We’re going to be faced with deficit or debt.

PARTON: Okay so that was Zed Seselja banging on about it yesterday. And look, I think he makes a good point that I think this was genuine pork barrelling at work. The big question is: was the money actually allocated, when exactly was it signed off? Michelle Rowland the Member for Greenway, she’s Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and these were multicultural grants. I’ve got Michelle Rowland on the line right now. Hello.


PARTON: Now Zed Seselja says the money wasn’t allocated. You say it was.

ROWLAND: Well Zed Seselja is either lying or incompetent because he can have a look at last year’s Budget papers in the portfolio for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and there it is in black and white: the program expenses announced in April 2013. $15 million package of measures to empower local community to embrace the benefits of multiculturalism. The funding will be provided over two years starting in 2012-13. They’re all the figures there, Parto. And don’t just take it from the former Labor Government’s Budget papers, in the MYEFO that was released by this Government last year, so their updated economic statement, it expressly says -$11.5 million. The Government will achieve savings of $11.5 million by not proceeding with funding for the Building Multicultural Communities Program, announced in the 2013-14 Budget and extended in the 2013 Economic Statement. There it is in black and white.

PARTON: Okay. What the Coalition I guess is saying is that irrespective of the fact that it obviously did appear in the Budget in April/May, they’re saying that this was money that was basically spent to sure up marginal seats, not that Fraser is really a marginal seat is it? But indeed this was pork barrelling and they’ve made the decision not to spend the money. That’s clearly a decision that they’ve made, it’s not that the money wasn’t allocated is it?

ROWLAND: Well that’s right. And Zed Seselja, and yes I listened to the interview, the government didn’t allocate money he said. The money was just never there, promised something, didn’t allocate money for. That is all completely wrong. I’ll just very briefly talk about the notion of pork barrelling; you go through the list of how many hundreds of communities got these grants, they’re right around the country Parto. Right around Australia.

PARTON: Okay. He said in our chat yesterday that the Sports Minister Kate Lundy signed off on these after the election had been called.

ROWLAND: Well you can have a look at the Caretaker Conventions Guidelines, Parto, and if they think that Kate Lundy did something wrong then they should bring it. But it’s very clear she hasn’t. It’s very clear that that money was allocated. Government’s continue to function, even during election periods. This money was already allocated in the Budget, it wasn’t a new series of funding announcements. This was money that was already there. Governments spend money that is in their budgets irrespective of election periods.

PARTON: Michelle, thanks for coming on this morning.

ROWLAND: My pleasure.