Commuter car park scheme back in spotlight as audit office appears before estimates
A controversial car park scheme is back in the spotlight after officials from the audit office revealed the then-minister had his staff organise meetings to shore up locations as election commitments as early as September 2018.
Appearing before a Senate estimates hearing late on Monday evening, officials were quizzed about the $660 million scheme. A probe into the fund by the Australian National Audit Office found the allocation of projects to be “not demonstrably merit-based”.
ANAO executive director Brian Boyd told the parliamentary hearing the then-Minister Alan Tudge asked his staff to organise meetings on particular named marginal seats.
From there, his staff then developed a “to-do list” for those seats.
“In broadly mid-September of 2018, the Minister asked the staff to start organising meetings with particular nine marginals,” Mr Boyd said.
“The staff then developed what was essentially a key tasks lists, of things that are going to do.”
“And the way this program was delivered was the way they got the was, by looking to certain electorates
“This isn't us, interpreting between the lines, this is all of the things we’re seeing at the various points be it.
“The tracking sheet was always organised by electorate.”
The tracking sheet, referred to as the top 20 marginals by the Minister’s office and listed by electorate, was a Word document that ended with a total of 29 marginal seats.
The Senate has previously passed a motion requiring the government to table the documents shared between the Prime Minister’s Office and Mr Tudge’s office.
Instead, the government argued such documents could not be found, and there was a public interest immunity claim preventing their release.
Greens Senator Janet Rice asked the audit office to provide further information about the documents, including those that were not outlined in the final report but auditor-general Grant Hehir was reluctant to answer.
He told estimates he was “uncomfortable” with providing further details and took further questions on notice.
“I'm starting to get uncomfortable about where we’re heading,” Mr Hehir said.
“We‘re actually describing documents which weren’t in the report, and I’d prefer to be able to consider those questions on notice rather than us going through.”
Originally published as Commuter car park scheme back in spotlight as audit office appears before estimates
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