ABC federal politics reporter Jane Norman appeared almost stunned at the very possibility of it all.
That possibility being that pork-barreling by governments could possibly, maybe, if it was practised at unheard of levels in Australian political history, almost be described as being, well, close to naughty! The very idea, hey?
This all came about a few days ago when she was interviewing Stephen Charles AO QC, former Victorian Court of Appeal judge and presently director of the Centre for Public Integrity.
Here’s what Ms Norman asked him: “Are you saying that the practice of pork-barreling could be, sort of, verging into corrupt territory?”
What did the young’uns used to say? Well, dur!
Ms Norman has covered politics for a long time. She must know that the federal Morrison and NSW Berejiklian governments used pork-barreling to an unprecedented gold-standard level allowing each to just fall over the line at their elections in 2019.
She must also know that pork-barreling – the disgraceful and wanton misuse of public monies for politicians’ own personal benefit – ie: to get reelected to the rich leather seats of power and the pay packets that come with that – is probably about the most rotten, corrupt, thing a government can possibly do.
Ms Norman has to know the full details of the sports grants rorts saga that has turned out to be one of the lesser pork-barrels of the Morrison government before the last election.
Here was a federal community grants program that some clever people – presumably public servants – drafted in a way that hopefully would prevent a minister from overruling countless hours of assessment by the right people to ensure the right sporting organisations who put in the hard yards to get their submissions pitch-perfect got their fair share of public funds.
We at the MGH might call that process open, decent, fair governance.
Ms Norman must know – has to know – that one of Australia’s finest legal and constitution experts, Professor Anne Twomey, has called how Bridget McKenzie and Scott Morrison rorted that scheme for their own personal benefit as very likely a criminal action. At least one other senior legal eagle has agreed.
Other rorted grants programs that have come to light since the 2019 federal election – a railway station carpark, anyone? – have made the sports rorts saga look like quite a minor felony in the scope-and-dollar-value-scheme of things, in the sense that it at least tried to give the impression that grants seekers throughout the nation had at least a chance to apply for them through structured, advertised processes and specified timeframes for preparing submissions.
And that any community group anywhere in the nation, if they put in the long hours to research and meet the criteria for approval and had scored highly in every respect of their submission, had the best possible chance to get the cash needed to build much-needed female change rooms or some such thing.
Ms Norman must know in her head and her heart just how badly various grants programs have been cynically corrupted over recent years and yet she comes up with “Are you saying that the practice of pork-barreling could be, sort of, verging into corrupt territory?”
Verging, smerging! Does the ABC still have a shipping news reporter? The Bug’s Media Glass House thinks Ms Norman would be perfect for it. She’s capable enough to also handle the tide times as well. All under the proper supervision, of course.