Given the next federal election needs to be held by mid-May 2022 at the latest, time is running out to ensure we don't see a repeat of the now well-publicised pork-barrelling that has cast such a pall over Scott Morrison's "I've always believed in miracles" win in 2019.
It now appears the $100 million sports rorts affair, which led to Bridget McKenzie's recently ended 516-day stint on the backbench, was just the tip of the iceberg. That scheme's scope and sheer political audacity pales into relative insignificance when compared to the government's manifestly politicised $660 million commuter car park fund.
It is now evident Mr Morrison's famous victory was not so much a miracle as a case of "God helps those who helps themselves". And, on this occasion, the Coalition helped itself to funds from an apparently unregulated $4.8 billion urban congestion fund in order to garner support in dozens of key marginal electorates.
While we will never know the exact impact the Coalition's egregious pork-barrelling had on the election outcome, it is fair to assume both sports rorts and the car park announcements contributed to the unexpected result.
Although pork-barrelling is not a new phenomenon, and is unfortunately regularly indulged in by all the major political parties when they have the good fortune to be in government, that doesn't mean it is justified or acceptable.
It is difficult to look past Alexis de Tocqueville's famous observation that: "the American Republic will endure, until politicians realise they can bribe the people with their own money". Any democratic government that abrogates its responsibility to manage public money openly, transparently, and in the best interests of the community has strayed into the moral vacuum usually occupied by Third-World dictators and the rulers of banana republics.
The many politicians, including former Labor minister Ros Kelly, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher, and Senator McKenzie, who appear to believe such practices are permissible on the grounds they are not illegal and decided by elected officials, are out of step with the majority of voters.
Voters are sick and tired of the arrogance, greed, and self-interest demonstrated by political parties who see nothing wrong in using public money to pursue their own electoral self-interest.
What is the moral difference between politicians misappropriating public money for their own personal benefit and politicians using grant funds as a piggy bank to help get themselves and their colleagues re-elected? Both are forms of malfeasance and undermine public confidence in good government.
While Labor's moral indignation over both sports rorts and the latest commuter car park slush fund seems a tad feigned and hypocritical, its government accountability spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, is right when she says such practices demonstrate the need for a federal ICAC.
While ever governments are allowed to investigate and pass judgment on their own indiscretions, as was the case with the as-yet-still-unreleased Gaetjens report into the $100 million sports rorts affair, they will invariably give themselves a clean bill of health.
It is in the interests of everybody, including the politicians themselves, for MPs and ministers to be removed from any direct involvement in the grant-approval process.
So long as they are allowed to determine where specific funds should go, the temptation to manipulate the system for their own electoral advantage will remain irresistible and worthy projects will be stripped of vital funding.
This needs to be stopped, and urgently.