Welcome to this week's editorial,
If only there was an upcoming election every month.
You may have noticed that the region has been awash with visiting Ministers, Members of Parliament, Senators, Opposition Leaders and Shadow Ministers.
Everytime you turn around there is another announcement from the government of funding for this or that. But why now? Why are all these announcements happening right now? It’s election time.
The Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience has made quite an appearance availing Disaster grants to Mogo Flood affected homes and businesses. She popped up and handed the keys of a new vehicle and trailer to the local SES, announced some funding to go towards upgrading some other local emergency facilities and made a big announcement of funds to help out the RFS in Moruya extend their Operations Centre.
All very nice stuff but when you boil it all down the Minister isn’t actually paying for any of this from her own pocket. Instead she stands there as the figure head of a bureaucracy that has been put in charge of a large bucket of taxpayers money and, at their discretion, based on their algorithms of priority, the allocations are made in response to grant applications and lobbying.
By rights there should be a steady trickle of funds, each and every day, of little announcements that barely are heard. A new vehicle was purchased because it was identified as required. More nursing staff were employed because of the need, a new fire station was built to replace an old, a new hospital was built with better services because the old ones were no longer fit for purpose.
Even something as simple as a new bridge being built because the old one is failing or a new road section built because the old one was dangerous. A town by-pass, a new jetty, a toilet block, even a walking trail or a new pool. These are the day to day tasks of managing demands and expectations with the budget available. It happens seamlessly on a daily basis without politicians. Hopefully it happens based on need and equity.
Those in charge of the time line of new bridges and bypasses are faceless. They merely crunch the numbers for the politicians to then parrot off as being the ‘plan’.
But from time to time it happens because of political intervention. A politician influences the distribution of funds and before you know it there is an announcement made that upsets the applecart.
One might ask, with all of these announcements being made now from funds that have been in place for such works such as the Disaster Funds why has it taken so long for these announcements to take place?
The need for an upgrade to our Emergency Operations Centre, our ambulance station, our fire station, our SES sheds and our emergency communications has now been in place for nearly a decade yet now, during an election cycle, the announcement is made to look like a gift from a politician’s pocket.
The reason we vote for a local politician to represent us is clear. We hope that they can communicate our needs to the keepers of the big pile of money and even offer influence. If you have a local politician who is part of the ruling party then apparently you stand a better chance of accessing more money. But if your representative is from another ‘tribe’ then you will probably get little if anything.
One wonders, if the ruling party withholds funds for things such as Disaster payments, new emergency facilities and assets so they can announce them as a ‘generous gift’ during an election cycle then what other monies are they holding back on, waiting to be pressured or embarrassed to declare by way of another timely ‘announcement’? It is little more than a game—and we are but pawns to their Kings and Queens.