Hundreds of millions of dollars in the Abbott government's Community Development Grants scheme have been tipped into projects in Coalition-held marginal seats in what Labor says is a return to the bad old days of electoral pork barrelling under the Howard government.
An opposition analysis of funding allocations under the Commonwealth grants scheme has found community projects in Coalition electorates, many of them marginal seats, appear to have been more successful in attracting federal tax dollars to kick them along, than those projects in non-Coalition seats.
It suggests these projects have garnered more than $6 for every $1 disbursed from the program to projects in non government seats.
But the government rejects the claim, and says many of the projects had been selected by the previous government.
Labor has accused the Abbott government of reviving the notorious "regional rorts" program which was found by the Auditor-General in 2005 to be have been inappropriately run.
The opposition's analysis has been done by studying the federal government's $314 million scheme and establishing in which electorates the projects funded are located.
According to that assessment, it found that of $307 million allocated in the Community Development Grants program, $257 million had been directed to projects in Liberal or Nationals-held federal electorates, compared to $30 million in Labor held seats, and nearly $19 million in seats held by independents.
The opposition's shadow minister for regional development, Julie Collins, said the assessment also found that the scheme has sent money to projects "in the nation's 15 most-marginal seats"
The scheme scheduled to end in mid-2017 was established to directly fund community projects using Commonwealth grants between $2000 and $13 million.
However, the government completely rejected the assertion, arguing the program was a clean-up of the late Labor government's Regional Development Australia Fund, which had listed multiple projects but then failed to fund them.
The government website explaining the CDG scheme says: "The program will fund projects including the 2013 election commitments and some identified uncontracted projects from the Regional Development Australia Fund and Community Infrastructure Grants Program."
A spokesman for Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Warren Truss said the Labor version of events was wrong.
"The purpose of the Community Development Grants was to mop up the mess Labor left behind as a result of announcing, but failing to fund, projects under rounds two, three and four of the former Regional Development Australia Fund, as well as delivering on Coalition election commitments," he said.
"As such, most of the projects funded under the Community Development Grants were identified by the previous Labor government."
Ms Collins called on the government to justify the numbers.
"Prime Minister Tony Mr Abbott must explain this disparity, which looks like a throwback to the infamous regional rorts scandal of 2007, when an Auditor-General's report found the government had handed out money for pet projects in defiance of departmental advice and acceptable standards of public administration," she said.
"Grants were given to a Queensland pub to run 'Whacky Wednesdays' and 'stunt bikini babes' and to support a railway project that had already gone broke.
"It is becoming clear that Tony Abbott and the Coalition are back to their old tricks and have created the Community Development Grants (CDGs) to use as a slush fund."
Ms Collins, accused the Prime Minister of "telling the communities of Australia he will support them only if they return Coalition MPs".
"This is an outrageous use of taxpayer dollars, given there are communities all over Australia that would equally benefit from government investing in local projects.
Announcing the CDG in December, Mr Truss and assistant minister Jamie Briggs said they represented the delivery of its election commitments by "providing up to $342 million toward around 300 community projects across Australia".
"Many projects under the old RDAF ... had contracts ready to go but they were left in limbo by Labor before the election."