20 December 2013

INTERVIEW – 2CC Radio with Mark Parton

SUBJECTS: Coalition cutting the Building Multicultural Communities Program

MARK PARTON: Earlier this morning we caught up with Joe Cortesi from the Gungahlin Jets Football Club, and we remember going back before the election that they were awarded this grant of $66,000 and there was a lot of celebration about it but since the change of government they’ve been given the indication that the money is no longer theirs and it’s a bit of a kick in the guts to them because as far as they were concerned it was signed, sealed and delivered. At this stage that funding is up in the air. Have a listen, here’s some of what Joe told us earlier.


JOE CORTESE: The club threw its own funding and an AFL grant at a building called appreciate this cause we’re the jets, a hanger which is a 10 by 8 farm shed and it’s sitting out at Amaroo. And now what the funding… grant is to put furniture and a few sort of luxuries in there; line it, flooring, a bit of heating so when you come out to Amaroo you can have a bit of comfort.

PARTON: And the tick of approval was given. I can imagine there was mighty… I guess everyone was cockahoot when that came through.

CORTESE:   Yes, we certainly were. A bit cockahoot but also certainty for the future. 

PARTON: Yeah, that’s good. You didn’t believe for a single moment that that could be taken away?

CORTESE:   No. We thought this was… there was two we went for. We knew the sporting [inaudible], we thought that might be a bit iffy and we accepted that when it came through but this one was in the bag.


PARTON:  All right. We’ll leave that there. That’s Joe Cortese who joined us earlier. We’ve got Michelle Rowland on the line, the Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism and Citizenship. Good morning, Michelle.

MICHELLE ROWLAND: Good morning, Mark.

PARTON: You can understand why they’re a little bit miffed at this, can’t you?

ROWLAND: Absolutely and unfortunately the Gungahlin Jets aren’t the only ones. This is one of a number of organisations around Australia who had their grants approved and bear in mind these were fully funded in the last Budget. Not only did they receive a letter saying ‘your grant has been approved’, but a list of all the approved grants was actually tabled only recently in Parliament.

PARTON: Okay so are we talking about the new government basically saying ‘Oh well, Labor used this money to try and buy votes. It didn’t quite work for you and we’re not in a mind to spend the money in the way that it was granted’?

ROWLAND: The official reason they’re giving, and I’ve asked questions without notice in Parliament on this, is that the government decided to review its priorities. But, I can think of no better priority for social inclusion than some of these smaller projects such as the Gungahlin Jets.

PARTON: We all saw Joe Hockey front the National Press Club earlier in the week talk about the dire position that we’re in and that everything’s on the table in terms of spending. Is this a part of that new push and a part of that new fiscal conservatism which is going to reach into every aspect of the way government does things?

ROWLAND: Certainly this line item of being a cessation of a program was included in the MYEFO statement the other day. But I actually think it’s a real false economy, Mark. I live in Blacktown which is a very diverse area and the money that you put in at grassroots level for social inclusion actually ends up reaping the rewards in the long term. I’ve spoken to kids who have been part of good programs. I’ve asked them how they got involved, what has this done for them, and I’ve actually had it said to my face: “Lady, if this was a year ago I would have been out the back stealing your car and now my life has been turned around.”

PARTON: Wow. There’s not many more powerful messages than that is there? 

ROWLAND: Correct.

PARTON: So I guess part of the question here is when it comes to a government grant: when is it actually signed, sealed, delivered? Is it when it hits your bank account?

ROWLAND: Look, this is a very good question because one would have thought that there is certainly an honest belief and a very well founded belief that if you get a letter saying your grant has been approved and you’ve gone through a competitive application process like the Gungahlin Jets would have, then I think you’ve got every right.

I’ve even heard some people suggesting, who had these grants approved and haven’t seen the money, they’re thinking about legal action. So I think it’s a sad day when people can have this sort of good faith, and by the way spend a lot of time and money putting together these applications which is not an easy task, anyone will tell you, they don’t get reimbursed for any of that, to make plans and to spend your own money, I think it is a really sad day for Australian communities.

PARTON: Joe told us that he had been dealing with Zed Seseljia from the government, the new Liberal Senator here and the indication that he’d been given from Zed was actually quite positive in terms of them getting their hands on the money. I don’t know. With respect to Zed, do you think they’re being led up the garden path?

ROWLAND: Well Mark, if we have this so-called ‘budget emergency’, and that’s the reason why these grants have suddenly been withdrawn, then why is a Senator choosing to advocate for this project? I’d love for this project to see their money get realised but I’d also love the very many projects around Australia to get realised too.

PARTON: Michelle, thanks for your time on it this morning. Have a Merry Christmas.

ROWLAND: Merry Christmas to you and your listeners, Mark.

PARTON: Michelle Rowland from the Opposition. This is Talking Canberra.