Liberal Party safety grants worth $1.5m disputed in estimates

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That grant was jointly announced by Wood and the Liberal candidate Ranj Perera – who had previously worked as Wood’s chief-of-staff – and was to pay for CCTV cameras, footpath lighting, security fences and a security system.

Wood said at the time the upgrades were designed to improve community safety and the word “safe” was used in the release. But he did not claim the grants were from the Safer Communities program.

Victorian senator Sarah Henderson and Manish Patel, the Liberal candidate for Corio, announced $500,000 for the security systems and community safety infrastructure for the Gurudwara Sikh temple in Geelong. Corio was a relatively safe Labor seat on a margin of 10.3 per cent.

In her media release, Henderson did name check the program, stating that “The Safer Communities funding enables schools, pre-schools, places of religious worship, community organisations and local councils to enhance their security through infrastructure and security guards”.

In Dobell, a seat held by Labor on a 1.5 per cent margin, Liberal candidate Michael Feneley promised $60,000 to pay for CCTV, security lighting, a fence and alarm system for the ‘Glen for Women’, a service providing grief, financial, relationship, gambling and trauma counselling for women.

Feneley also directly linked the grant to Safer Communities in his media release, stating: “The $60,000 provided by the Morrison Government as part of its Safer Communities fund will go towards 28 CCTV cameras, 15 security lights, one fence and gate item, one security and alarm system, one intercom and swipe access system, 11 security doors and 25 external blast walls or windows”.

The grants in Corio and Dobell were made just days before the May 21 election as the Morrison government was facing defeat.

Perera, Patel and Feneley all failed to win seats from Labor.

Some of the Safer Community grants announced by local Liberal MPs and candidates during the campaign – such as a $1.2 million grant to the Youth Development Foundation in the Queensland seat of Longman – had been vetted and approved by the Department.

The Safer Communities scheme, introduced in 2016, paid for CCTV cameras, security lights and systems, fences, footpath lighting and other security measures for community groups, religious organisations and others.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher scrapped the $50 million seventh round of the program in the October budget.

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In February 2022, the Australian National Audit Office issued a report critical of the first five rounds of the program, which noted it was “partly effective and partly consistent with the Commonwealth grant rules and guidelines”.

The ANAO stated that “funding decisions were not appropriately informed by departmental briefings and, for the majority of decisions, the basis for the decisions was not clearly recorded”.

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