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'You get a car park!' Australian politics goes full Oprah

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You get a car park! You get a CCTV camera! You get a sports facility!

Australia’s federal politicians may lack the personal charisma of Oprah Winfrey, but they’ve clearly decided to give her technique a crack anyway.

However, taxpayers should beware politicians bearing gifts.


It was a younger and considerably less contrite Ken Henry who – as head of the federal Treasury heading into the 2007 election – warned Treasury minions about the risk of pre-election decision-making that was "frankly, bad".

Back then, a Coalition government on its last legs had just pledged a $2 billion Australian Water Fund, from which it began liberally scattering water projects across key electorates.

Replace "water projects" with "congestion-busting projects", and you’ve transported yourself forward a dozen years to this month's budget.

Illustration: Matt DavidsonCredit:

A casual glance at the election announcements of the major parties reveals one of the oldest tricks in the political book is seriously back in vogue.

Want to look like you are really doing something? First, announce a Fund!

Want to win key votes in marginal seats? Crack open the Fund and let it rain!

In 2005 the auditor-general famously ripped apart the Howard government’s Regional Partnerships Program – or "regional rorts" as it became known – for targeting projects in marginal electorates.

Our pollies........

© The Age