Eleven days before the election last May, Scott Morrison announced $15 million to extend a program to build regional study centres in country towns.
The project, Country Universities Centres, was initially proposed by Duncan Taylor, the brother of the federal energy minister, Angus Taylor, when Duncan’s wife, NSW Nationals state upper house MP Bronwyn Taylor, was parliamentary secretary to John Barilaro, the Nationals state leader and deputy premier.
Despite a cost-benefit analysis showing the project would be unlikely to deliver a positive benefit to the state, the NSW government handed over $16 million – $8 million in 2017-18 and another $8 million in 2019. The grants were awarded without tender.
Bronwyn Taylor has insisted she had nothing to do with the grants yet emails have revealed she was informed about it minutes after the decision was made which caused NSW Labor to ask the pertinent question in Senate estimates:
“You said you had no involvement but you were informed three weeks before the grant is announced. If you weren’t lobbying and engaging behind the scenes why were you told about it?”
The CUCs had previously received $5.1m funding in 2018 from the federal government, including $830,000 for a centre in Goulburn in the seat of Hume, the seat of Angus Taylor, whose wife, Louise Clegg, is on the board of the Goulburn CUC.
In New South Wales the centres have been largely located in seats that coincidentally are under pressure from minor parties, like the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, or independents.
The $15 million handed over during the federal election campaign was for five new centres, only one of which had been decided upon at the time. It just so happened to be in the seat of Indi where the Coalition were trying to wrest the seat back from the independents.
Once again, we see Coalition governments using public money to shore up their political fortunes and, once again, the Taylor family are the recipients of government largesse.
“From the time Angus Taylor entered parliament in September 2013, companies & organisations the Taylor family have managed, directed or are directly associated with have benefited from over $93,515,673 in federal & state government funds.”
It pays to have friends and relatives in high places.
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