Safer streets? Audit adds meat to pork-barrelling accusations

The handling of grants under the Safer Streets program by the Attorney-General’s Department has been sharply criticised by the independent Auditor-General, feeding claims the money’s main purpose was to bolster the electoral prospects of Coalition MPs.

Back in August last year, political historian Rob Carr suggested the federal government’s Safer Streets program was nothing more than pork-barrelling in electorates held by the Coalition, pointing out there was little research to support it.

Carr was writing in The Saturday Paper, which was recently described in Estimates as “articulately written” by the well-read Attorney-General George Brandis, whose department has now been sharply criticised for its administration of the program by the Australian National Audit Office.

The pork-barrelling accusation was also levelled by Labor MPs, particularly shadow justice minister David Feeney, who asked the ANAO in July 2014 to take a look at the program, which spent tens of millions mostly on closed circuit television and street lights in what were described as “crime hotspots” by the Coalition.

Feeney was concerned about the way the program was established, how projects were being selected and eligibility for the funding, suggesting the selection process lacked political neutrality. After making preliminary enquiries with the Attorney-General’s Department, Auditor-General Ian McPhee decided to audit.

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