Labor to overhaul Howard’s ‘pork-barrelling’ tourism scheme


A national scheme giving grants of up to $500,000 to local tourism projects will be overhauled amid Rudd government claims it was used for pork-barrelling by the Howard government.

Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson yesterday said he had ordered his department to overhaul the Australian Tourism Development Program so that “innovative” projects with national significance would start to receive funding. “The changes to the (grants scheme) are about greater transparency and the promotion of long-term sustainable economic growth in the tourism sector for both regional and metropolitan Australia,” he said.

“The fact that 28 out of 35 projects awarded by the previous government under the ATDP went to Coalition seats clearly shows that there was no strategy for the program – it was just about pork-barrelling, no different from ‘regional rorts’.

“We want to facilitate projects of national tourism significance and showcase both innovative Australian tourism products and services.” Under the Howard government, 66 per cent of all grants had gone to Coalition electorates, while Labor electorates had received only 30 per cent. In the last financial year, about $4.7 million was allocated for projects.

“The changes will also encourage regional collaboration and investment in tourism infrastructure that will potentially assist multiple tourism ventures in an area,” Mr Ferguson said.

The Australian understands the Rudd Government believes most of the grants were far too local and did not achieve a lift in the overall tourism market.

For instance, the Hunter Wetlands Centre, in Newcastle, received $100,000 under the program to help redevelop its cafe and retail area. In addition, community and indigenous groups are building a bush tucker garden.

Another grant, of $75,000, was given to the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory to rebuild a fire-damaged mill that had been drawing 233 visitors a day.

The Tasmanian Meadowbank Estate winery received an $82,000 grant to create on its floor a wooden artwork telling the story of the area’s wine industry.