NSW premier admits to pork barrelling: “like it or not”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has admitted handing $252 million in controversial grants to coalition-held seats in the lead up to the 2019 state election amounts to pork barrelling.

Gladys Berejiklian said grants went to 95 per cent Coalition-held seats, because “there are more Coalition seats than any other.”

The Coalition holds 48 seats out of 93, which nearly half, not 95%.

She insisted in her address to the media that using taxpayer money to help the Coalition win seats was not an issue.

“Governments in all positions make commitments to the community in order to curry favour. I think that’s part of the political process whether we like it or not,” she said.

“The term pork barrelling is common parlance … and it’s not something that I know that the community is comfortable with and if that’s the accusation made on this occasion … well then I’m happy to accept that commentary.”

“It’s not an illegal practice. Unfortunately it does happen from time to time by every government. I don’t know any political party that at some stage hasn’t made commitments to the electorate,” she said.

“That is what our process rightly or wrongly is part of … it’s not, unfortunately, unique or uncommon to my government.”

Sarah Lau, one of Ms Berejiklian’s senior policy officers, told a NSW parliamentary inquiry in October that documents detailing grants were shredded and electronic copies deleted.

Six grants were awarded to projects in the electorate of Wagga Wagga in 2017 when the Premier was in a relationship with the then Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire who admitted to an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry that he used his parliament house office for private business and received “thousands of dollars of cash” for “a scheme involving the obtaining of Australian visas for Chinese nationals”.