News New push for Senate inquiry into car park ‘pork barrelling’

New push for Senate inquiry into car park ‘pork barrelling’

Car park inquiry
Alan Tudge has defended the car park program, but it could now be subject to a Senate inquiry. Photo: TND
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The Senate is being asked to open an inquiry into the government’s controversial car park funding program, in the wake of a scathing Auditor-General report and allegations of “pork barrelling” in the $4 billion Urban Congestion Fund.

The Greens believe they are close to securing majority Senate support for a full investigation into the program, with a vote likely on Tuesday.

“Australian taxpayers deserve to know how their money was spent, how far and wide the Coalition’s rorting goes, and which ministers were in on it,” Greens transport spokesperson Janet Rice told The New Daily.

It comes amid heightening scandal over the $660 million car park program, announced through the 2019 election, and the wider $4 billion Urban Congestion Fund that it sits within.

Alan Tudge, the urban infrastructure minister at the time, was accused of “running away” from questions on the controversy last week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to answer whether his office was involved in a spreadsheet of “top 20 marginals” to focus the funding on.

The Auditor-General’s department claimed Mr Tudge and Mr Morrison’s offices had made such a document, to plan grants before the 2019 poll.

car park
The government’s pre-election car park funding scheme heavily favoured Coalition seats. Photo: AAP

Car park claims ‘quite disturbing’

Labor shadow urban infrastructure minister Andrew Giles last week alleged the car park program “delivered almost nothing and treated this taxpayer money as an LNP slush fund”.

Senator Rice claimed the program was a “co-ordinated, systematic, multibillion-dollar Coalition scheme to buy votes”.

She will move a motion in the Senate on Tuesday, calling for the upper house’s Finance and Public Administration references committee to investigate the UCF and car park program.

Specifically, Senator Rice’s motion asks for the conduct of the offices of the Prime Minister, deputy PM and responsible ministers to be probed, and whether the government had “respected the caretaker conventions” by signing off on projects just before the election campaign began.

“It was clear from the ANAO’s damning testimony at the Senate hearing last month that the Morrison government’s rorting extends across multiple portfolios and funding programs,” Senator Rice claimed.

“We know there were more secret spreadsheets that went beyond the car park rorts to the entire $4.6 billion Urban Congestion Fund.

“We need a Senate inquiry into the Urban Congestion Fund to get to the bottom of the government’s pork barrelling and hold them to account.”

The Greens believe they will get majority support for their motion.

Labor is expected to back the push, while independent senator Rex Patrick confirmed he would back it.

“The Auditor-General’s findings are quite disturbing,” Senator Patrick told TND.

“It would be quite proper for the Senate to investigate this alleged rorting and pork barrelling.”

Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff is away from Parliament this week on personal leave.

Three other crucial deciding votes – Jacqui Lambie, and One Nation’s Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts – did not return TND‘s requests for comment.

‘You voted for it’

Mr Tudge, in his first public comments on the scandal since the Auditor-General’s report was released, defended the program.

“The Auditor-General also said they were all lawfully based, 33 of them were ticked off by the department for coming up for decision,” he told a Canberra press conference.

“We took those to the Australian people and the Australian people voted for them.”

Current Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher also backed the fund last week, saying there was “no question that the minister of the day had authority to make decisions in relation to community car parks”.