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Fears $100m resources fund could be seen as 'another sports rorts'

Business

The $100 million resources community infrastructure fund had the potential to be seen as another sports rorts issue, according to political commentator Paul Williams.

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Governance of the money was one of the reasons it took a year for the fund to be established with the mining sector less than keen to get caught in a potential political pork-barrelling scandal.

To address that, the money will be overseen by an advisory panel however the Treasurer can reject its advice but must provide a reason for doing so.

The resources sector will provide $70 million to the fund and in return will have royalties frozen for three years. The biggest companies, such as BHP and Glencore, will pay the biggest amount to the fund and the spending will not be limited to the coal regions with places like Mount Isa also in line for projects.

“In light of the recent sports rorts affair, there’s always potential a cynical electorate will see this body as pork-barrelling at best, and potentially corrupt at worst,” Griffith University’s Paul Williams said.

“After the Trad affairs, this is particularly salient for a post-Fitzgerald state especially sensitive to corruption.

“But this is Queensland: national “rules” don’t necessarily apply to voter perceptions.

“Given the state is heavily regionalised, it’s just as likely swinging regional voters in major centres like Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns – so often critical of Brisbane politicians allegedly favouring southeast Queensland in infrastructure, even though that’s not the case – will respond positively, especially in a post-COVID-19 environment where we’re all acclimatised to government support.

“In short, this has great vote-catching potential and can only add to Palaszczuk’s standing as a good (if not great) COVID-19 manager.”

The Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the Government process for project selection would be transparent.

Treasurer and Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Cameron Dick said the fund would deliver $100 million over three years towards projects targeted at improving economic and social infrastructure across Queensland’s resources communities.

“While COVID-19 has wrought terrible damage on the lives and businesses of Queenslanders, some of our traditional, regionally focused industries like mining and agriculture have spared us from even greater economic damage,” the Treasurer said.

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