Peak pork: The marginal seat where election promises add to $26,500 per voter

Chris Leibhardt from Torquay says politicians are splashing cash simply to buy votes. Picture: Jason South.
Chris Leibhardt from Torquay says politicians are splashing cash simply to buy votes. Picture: Jason South.

Voters in the marginal seat of Corangamite have been the target of perhaps the biggest pork-barrelling campaign in modern electoral history, showered with the equivalent of $26,500 each if they vote Liberal.

Forty-one separate proposals, from a $2 billion fast train linking the electorate to Melbourne to $1500 on safety equipment for the Bannockburn men's shed, are on offer from the Liberal Party's Sarah Henderson to the electorate's 111,000 voters.

In total, more than $3 billion worth of pledges have been made in a seat that, after a recent redistribution which effectively made it line-ball with the Labor Party, has encouraged pork-barrelling to a new level.

Scott Morrison with Liberal MP for Corangamite Sarah Henderson early in the election campaign, on hand for another promise. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer

Scott Morrison with Liberal MP for Corangamite Sarah Henderson early in the election campaign, on hand for another promise. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer

Labor has not been scant with its promises to the voters of Corangamite, with its candidate Libby Coker offering up 14 promises of her own. In total they would cost a much more modest $34 million, with the single largest pledge being $15 million to upgrade the Torquay community hospital.

An analysis of spending pledges in the nation's most marginal seats has uncovered a swarm of pre-election announcements by candidates with the Coalition and Labor parties now offering more than 1000 individual promises and policies.

More than 50 suburban railway carparks, thousands of kilometres of roads, several roundabouts, a string of toilets and change rooms at sporting ovals and toys for pre-schoolers are on offer to voters across the land.

Rockhampton in Queensland may be the beef capital of Australia, but local Liberal MP Michelle Landry, who holds the seat of Capricornia on a margin of just 0.6 per cent, is betting voters also like the smell of pork, making 18 separate spending pledges, outgunning her opponent Russell Robertson's 14 pledges.

Ms Landry's pledges include a 1,000-seat convention centre for the Keppel Bay Sailing Club, $3.9 million for the Beef Australia 2021 exposition in Rockhampton and $300,000 to build new pens at the Koorana Crocodile Farm.

In the Queensland seat of Forde, government MP Bert van Manen, has been visiting local communities with supersized cardboard cheques dishing out money from various government grants programs. He has made 29 spending pledges, compared to Labor's Des Hardman and his 12 pledges.

Incumbency delivers governments an advantage when it comes to pork barrelling, allowing them to make not only new spending promises, but deliver money from existing funds on the doorstep of elections.

In recent weeks, Mr van Manen has distributed $13,855 to the Beenleigh Scouts Group, $3,244 for the P&C at Highland Reserve State School and $6,029 for the Gold Coast Motocross Club.

In Melbourne, the Liberal MP and candidate for Dunkley, Chris Crewther has packaged up a confusing array of new and old spending pledges in a bid to lure votes in the key marginal seat.

An analysis of announcements on his Facebook page suggests 30 new pledges including $150,000 each for new basketball courts in Seaford and renovations to the 4th Frankston Scouts Hall and $4,000 for a 'state of the art' security system at the Mornington Men's Shed.

His Labor opponent, Peta Murphy who has made 16 pledges including $35 million for upgrade carparking at the Frankston railway station and $260,000 to upgrade the Frankston bowl's club.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison accused the Labor Party of going on a "spendathon" during his campaign launch at the weekend, but the Coalition has out-gunned the Opposition in most key marginal seats.

Bill Shorten with Fiona Phillips, the Labor candidate for Gilmore, which is one of the few seats where Labor has out-promised the Coalition. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer

Bill Shorten with Fiona Phillips, the Labor candidate for Gilmore, which is one of the few seats where Labor has out-promised the Coalition. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer

One spot where Labor has promised more is in the marginal NSW south coast seat of Gilmore where its candidate Fiona Phillips has made 15 pledges compared to her Liberal opponent Warren Mundine and his 11.

Labor matched and pledged to bring forward a Coalition promise to sink $100 million into upgrading the Princes Highway while both have promised money towards the Bundanon trust.

While Labor candidates have not made as many specific promises in most seats, they have used the opposition's Gonski school funding package to identify every public school across their electorate as a winner under a Bill Shorten government.

Almost all of these smaller scale promises, from both sides, have not been promoted to the national media, instead going up on candidates' social media sites.

- SMH/The Age

This story Peak pork: The marginal seat where election promises add to $26,500 per voter first appeared on The Age.