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Deputy Premier John Barilaro is absolutely right.
Politicians love to play Santa, dividing voters into naughty and nice lists and doling out the goodies accordingly.
But pork barrelling only works if you're on the nice list. For every constituent being showered with pressies, there's another waking up to a lump of coal.
The latest round of vote buying saw only $2.5 million out of the government's $177 million Bushfire Recovery Fund go to Labor or Greens seats.
This is more than missing out on a new car park or sporting ground at election time. The Central Coast, which suffered a $163 million hit to its economy from bushfires, got nothing.
The Blue Mountains, lost more than 100 buildings and faces a $65 million economic hole, but had $5.4 million worth of projects rejected.
We weren't completely overlooked in the Hunter - the Hunter Valley wine and Tourism Association in Cessnock secured a $585,000 grant.
Meanwhile, the Kempsey Shire Council secured $11 million in bushfire recovery funds for a skydiving facility designed long before the Black Summer darkened our skies. There's a very simple way to end the practice. Hand these decisions over to professional public servants. There is zero reason for politicians to be micromanaging spending.
Now it's easy to scoff at the idea of politicians ceding control of discretionary spending on projects, especially when it delivers them such obvious electoral advantage.
But there's plenty of precedent.
In 1996, treasurer Peter Costello gave up a huge chunk of power by formalising the independence of the Reserve Bank of Australia to set monetary policy.
It's been a roaring success. People may disagree with the decisions of the RBA on individual rate calls. But no-one seriously suggests that these decisions are based on anything other than best judgment and good faith.
IN THE NEWS:
Imagine the alternative? A treasurer's temptation to give everyone a little mortgage relief by diddling interest rates would be too tempting come election time. Certainly John Howard would have loved the option in 2007.
The RBA doesn't stand alone. Listing Hyde Park and the Botanic Gardens as heritage, protecting areas of natural beauty as national parks, limiting how much we can fish or take out of our waterways, banning political donations from property developers - these are all ways politicians have protected themselves and their successors from temptation.
Why not expand this? Who do you think is better suited to allocate $177 million in Bushfire Recovery Funds: former RFS commissioner and Resilience NSW boss Shane Fitzsimmons? Or a bunch of backroom party hacks poring over an electoral map?
Of course there will be those who argue politicians need to maintain control because they are the ones who are accountable to the people.
But it ignores how politicians cede this control all the time.
It's possible, for example, to imagine a world in which welfare payments were vetted through electorate offices. MPs could decide the kind of recipients in which areas deserved double payments, and who deserved half. We shudder at this idea because we recognise a rules-based order overseen by public servants delivers a fairer result.
NSW has robust accountability measures that ensure public oversight of public money.
Anyone who has ever read a report from the NSW Audit Office knows it doesn't pull any punches when it comes to assessing the work of their public sector colleagues. The Independent Commission Against Corruption is fearless in its mission. In recent years we've seen public sector leaders are much quicker to stand down than politicians, who are increasingly inclined to weather the scandal.
Imagine a public sector worker shredding documents about their decision on how to allocate $250 million in Stronger Communities grants. There's just not the motivation for them to do that.
We elect our politicians to make the big calls on education, health, and state services. Their true democratic power of government lies in pulling the big levers of state. We do not elect them for the wisdom in allocating relatively small amounts of money out of the public purse.
We want politicians in the driver's seat, not tinkering with the gears in the engine room of state. In the past year we've had this point emphatically highlighted.
It has been the public sector workers in NSW Health advising the government on social distancing and border closures. Can you imagine if it was left entirely up to those tussling in the "bear pit"?
Our world class check-in app probably wouldn't have seen the light of day, if it hadn't been for the canny bureaucrats of Service NSW.
Our response to COVID-19 has been strong because the people have faith public servants are making the right calls in their interest.
What glib apologists for pork-barrelling such as John Barilaro and his boss fail to recognise is that misallocating public resources chips away at our valuable social capital.