Government Sector Finance Amendment (Government Grants) Bill 2021

18th November 2021

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (16:04): I admit that I have not had a good look at the Government Sector Finance Amendment (Government Grants) Bill 2021 and I have not had a conversation with the member for Barwon. I knew about the bill and I believe its principles are quite simple. I cannot see how any member would not support the principles and essence of the bill. It is attempting to bring honesty to a process that expends taxpayer monies in communities through the grants system. The bill is attempting to change the present paradigm. Members would be denying reality if they said it was not necessary. It would be nice if politics was more transparent, but the bill presents an opportunity to start that process.

I note the contribution of the member for Balmain in which he said he would like to see a commitment from Opposition members now that they will adopt this process when they are next in office. It would be good for everybody. In reflecting on the bill, whether it is about grants or major announcements, I remember in the lead-up to the first election that the member for Orange contested—other than the by-election when he became the member for Orange—the Premier at the time visited the electorate and announced an amount of money. The member for Orange may be able to assist me, but I think it was an amount approaching $30 million.

Mr Philip Donato: It was $25 million.

Mr GREG PIPER: Yes, $25 million was going to be provided for a sporting centre on the basis that the people of Orange supported the Government's candidate. I have a high regard for the former Premier, but at the time I could not believe what I was hearing. I wondered who was advising the Premier to make such a political play. I remember sending a text message to the member for Orange, saying that he should thank the Government because it had just given him another 3 to 5 per cent of votes. As was said earlier, the people in our electorates are not stupid. They do not like that a member that they have elected disrespects this process. It does not matter who is in Government. They want the Government of the day to respect the people who are been appointed to represent its electorates. If they tire of a member and move them on, that is another thing.

Government moneys, the resources of the people of New South Wales, should not be used in a partisan political manner. I cannot see anything wrong with the bill, other than it should not have come from a minor party on the crossbench. I do not disrespect the member for Barwon or the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, for introducing the bill. It should be how an honest Government operates. I have been a member in this House since 2007. I was a member of this House under a Labor-led Government, and this situation is not unique. I was appalled by how that Labor Government treated me. It played out on a regular basis, proving that no-one should attempt to take the high moral ground. I have often said, tongue-in-cheek, that if we want to completely divorce partisan politics from the process of allocating public funds and grants in New South Wales, then we will have to select a group of independent members who do not have a say about their own electorate but have oversight of others.

I do not know how we can take politicians completely out of the process, but we have to do better than what is occurring now. Part of the problem is that people are sick and tired and jaded with the way in which politics plays out. If the community is not immediately aware of a situation, the media certainly is. It would be good if the Government adopted the bill. Whether or not the bill is defeated today, it should be seen as a template and framework for it to improve the situation. It is a simple bill that is responding to a situation that probably requires a more complicated response. It is easy to support a bill that carves out one particular area that is blatantly rorted from time to time. I commend the bill, and I thank the member for Barwon for introducing it to the House.

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