The Australian National Audit Office has named the Modern Manufacturing Initiative as one of its potential audits for this exercise.
The MMI program, set up in October 2020, offered $1.3 billion in grants in three streams, called translation, collaboration, and integration. Unlike other grant programs, the guidelines for the collaboration stream stated: “The Prime Minister decides which applications are successful.
The list of 17 projects, reviewed by the herald and ageincluded aid for six Coalition safe seats with projects in O’Connor, Gippsland, Fairfax, Fadden, Durack and two projects in Flynn – a target seat for Labor at the start of the election campaign.
This included $33 million for a food manufacturing district in the Fairfax headquarters on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, announced at a March 24 press conference where local MP Ted O’Brien hailed the “really big slice money” for jobs. It also included $52 million for Gilmour Space Technologies at Fadden headquarters on the Gold Coast, with a March 25 press release quoting local MP Stuart Robert on the jobs boost.
Grants also went to two seats held by the Liberals but targeted by Labour. Morrison visited the Chisholm electorate on April 4 to announce $23 million for the Australian precision medicine company at Monash University alongside Liberal MP Gladys Liu, who lost the seat to the Labor challenger Carina Garland.
A $61 million pledge for cancer research and the Australian Center for Genomic Cancer Medicine, now known as Omico, was unveiled on March 17 at the Garvan Institute in the electorate of Wentworth with Liberal MP Dave Sharma, who lost the seat to independent Allegra Spender.
The collaborative stream also included projects in several seats held by Labor but targeted by the Liberals. Three days before the election, the government announced a grant to the Eden-Monaro headquarters for the Australian Satellite Manufacturing Hub with Liberal candidate Jerry Nockles. Part of the project is based in Jerrabomberra, south of Queanbeyan.
Spending decisions also included funding Brisbane-based Boeing Defense Australia to expand the Advanced Defense Aerospace Manufacturing Network. This was announced on April 21 with comments from Peter Dutton, then Defense Minister, on the number of jobs to be created in Queensland.
As a result, 10 of the 17 collaboration projects were in Coalition ridings. None of the ads quoted local Labor members.
Among the significant grants to Labor voters, the government supported the Australian Space Manufacturing Hub at Adelaide Airport at Hindmarsh headquarters, a plan to create an Advanced Steel Manufacturing Precinct at Port Kembla Steelworks at Cunningham headquarters, and pledged $22 million for the Sovereign Combat System Collaboration Center in Mawson Lakes in South Australia in the Makin constituency.
A spokesperson for Morrison said the former prime minister had to give final approval because the plans spanned multiple cabinet portfolios, such as health and defence, and involved large sums of money. The spokesman said Morrison had accepted then-Industry Minister Angus Taylor’s funding recommendations without any amendments.
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