A "game-changer" for hundreds of thousands of Melbournians, screamed the press release from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge on the morning of April 29, 2019.
It was the third week of the federal election campaign and the Coalition trio were unveiling a $300 million plan to build commuter car parks next to stations along seven train lines in the Victorian capital.
The "park and ride" projects would encourage commuters to catch public transport, helping to remove some 13,000 cars from Melbourne's congested-roads.
More than two years on, the announcement has not changed the game as Mr Morrison had prophesied.
That's because the overwhelming majority of the promised parks haven't been built.
In fact, construction on just two of 47 projects planned across for across the country has been completed.
That was among the many findings from a scathing Auditor-General report published this week into the $660 million commuter car park fund, which formed a key part of the Coalition's 2019 election campaign.
The Coalition had set aside the car park funding in the federal budget, before Mr Morrison and his ministers selected projects in the months prior to the 2019 election - including 27 alone, worth a combined $389 million - on the day before the campaign officially started.
The report's conclusions were alarming, but not without precedent.
The auditor's observations of a flawed selection and assessment process and a blatant skewing of funds to Liberal-held and target seats had loud echoes of the "sports rorts" affair which engulfed the Morrison government in early 2020.
Fending off Labor's accusations that it has become addicted to rorting the public purse for political gain, the government has this week again insisted that it's right and reasonable for ministers to make decisions on where money is allocated.
They are the democratically elected government, after all.
But has it gone too far?
Shocked at this week's report, Geoffrey Watson SC, a long-time counsel assisting to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, said the time had come for a "root-and-branch" review of how programs such as the commuter car park fund were administered.
Pork-barrelling, as defined in the Oxford dictionary, is the use of government funds for projects designed to "please voters or legislators and win votes".
Imported from the United States, the phrase has long been synonymous with scandal on both sides of the political divide in Australia.
Keating Labor government minister Ros Kelly resigned in 1994 for her role in the original "sports rorts" scandal, which involved the use of an office whiteboard to help target grants to marginal Labor electorates.
The Canberra MP wrote in her letter of resignation that although there was no "impropriety, fraud or corruption" associated with the grant program she oversaw, the intense political and media pressure which had engulfed it was a distraction which could harm her government if allowed to continue.
More than a decade and a half later, the sequel to "sports rorts" - this time featuring the Nationals' Bridget McKenzie in the lead role - played out with similarities to the original.
But it had a different ending, one which political observers lamented as proof of a decline in standards of ministerial accountability.
Using a colour-coded spreadsheet rather than a whiteboard, Senator McKenzie's office was found to have run a parallel assessment process which saw meritorious community sports projects overlooked in favour of ones in Liberal or target seats.
Senator McKenzie ultimately resigned from cabinet, but only after Australia's top servant Phil Gaetjens found she had breached ministerial standards by failing to declare her membership of a gun club she awarded funding to.
The same investigation cleared Senator McKenzie - and, in turn, the government - of pork-barrelling the $100 million program.
Senator McKenzie has always maintained that no rules were broken and all projects were worthy.
"This is a highly successful program that's delivering real benefits on the ground to community sporting clubs, so that parents and kids can get out there and get active, adopt a healthy lifestyle, rather than actually having to do fundraising at Bunnings every Saturday," she said in the days before her resignation.
Senator McKenzie was on Friday afternoon scheduled to be sworn back in to Mr Morrison's cabinet, her support for Barnaby Joyce's leadership takeover rewarded with a return to the ministry.
Her exile on the backbench lasted 516 days.
'It's not an illegal practice'
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian dropped all pretence when she faced questions last November about her government's alleged pork-barrelling of a $252 million community grant fund ahead of the 2019 state election.
"It's not an illegal practice. Unfortunately it does happen from time to time by every government," she said.
While none of Ms Berejiklan's federal Liberal colleagues have been so bold as to admit to the practice, those accused of it have been far from apologetic.
After it was revealed in April that a secret panel of ministers had rejected departmental advice in approving millions of dollars worth of regional projects on the eve of the last federal election, then Nationals leader Michael McCormack argued it was "entirely appropriate" for politicians to have the final say.
Peter Dutton has reportedly defended his decision to cut funding from highly rated community safety projects to redirect money to projects of his choosing.
Under pressure following the release of the Auditor-General's report into the commuter car park fund, Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher insisted the government had done nothing wrong.
"The process we went through was that ministers, elected officials, made decisions about the delivery of infrastructure projects," Mr Fletcher said.
"The great majority of these projects we took to the 2019 election, and so we came to government with the authority of an election."
'This just can't go on'
Geoffrey Watson, a Sydney barrister and director at thinktank the Centre for Public Integrity, jokes that he's read more than a few audit reports in a long career fighting corruption and maladministration.
But none, he said, read quite like the 104-page report dropped by Auditor-General Grant Hehir late on Monday afternoon.
"I have never read an auditor-general's report in the terms that this one was expressed. It was scathing, it was really really strongly worded," he told The Canberra Times.
Mr Watson was most shocked by the finding that the transport and infrastructure department did not have a process in place to assess projects. He said that left a "giant pool" of funding to be dolled out as the ministers wished.
"This just can't go on ... the way that minister's discretion was exercised was just party political. It was partisan. It was just absolutely awful to read."
Mr Watson said that rather than limit the fix to the infrastructure department's internal processes, there should be a "root and branch" review of how multi-million dollar grant programs were run across government.
He called for limits on how far ministers could depart from their department's recommendations when approving funding. Under current rules, ministers have to alert the Finance Minister when departmental advice is ignored and provide a brief explanation.
Labor's government accountability spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said the latest grants scandal was proof of the need for a federal ICAC, which she argued would only be set up if Anthony Albanese won government.
"When a government so disregards the public interest, and replaces it with their own political party's interest, it shows arrogance and it shows contempt for the Australian people," she told The Canberra Times.
"They took taxpayer money and they turned into Liberal Party campaign money."
In a statement to The Canberra Times, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said grants programs were a "critical way in which federal funding is distributed to deliver localised services or respond to localised needs that have been identified within specific communities".
"It is long-standing practice by governments of all persuasions to use ministers as final decision-makers for some grants programs, as they engage very widely throughout the Australian community and can reach decisions informed by both official advice and a close understanding of localised needs," he said.
Senator Birmingham said the government was considering recommendations from a parliamentary committee about possible changes to the grant guidelines.
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