'Back in black' as regional grants hidden

·1-min read

Labor asked for details on the latest regional grants awarded by the deputy prime minister and all it received was pages of black ink.

"Is that really what the government meant when it said it would be back in black," Senator Tim Ayres asked at an estimates hearing on Thursday.

The federal opposition still wants details of changes it says were made to 80 of the 163 grants under the $1 billion Building Better Regions fund, where almost 90 per cent of funding has gone to government seats.

Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher said 31 were in electorates represented by the ministerial panel making selections.

Another 49 were listed in attachment B as not selected but added in by government - all redacted, she said.

"If this doesn't explain the problem I have with the funds and how they're allocated I don't know what does," Senator Gallagher said, holding up the redacted pages.

Three were in the electorate of Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack, 12 were in Agriculture Minister David Littleproud's electorate and 14 went to the electorate of regional NSW MP Mark Mark Coulton.

"They are large electorates," Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said.

Officials said there was a difference between not recommended and rejected, and as all were eligible it was open for the ministers to pick and choose.

Senator Birmingham said panel members declared their interests and excluded themselves when those grants were discussed.

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