A donation from the Chief Minister’s Charitable Fund to the CFMEU’s Construction Charitable Works (CCW) came under scrutiny at an estimates hearing on Monday.
The $7500 donation from the flagship charity fund was questioned by ACT Liberal leader Alistair Coe, as Chief Minister Andrew Barr defended the decision as being independent of government.
Decisions about the allocation of grants from the $5 million pool, which was established in 2018 by a levy on gaming revenue, are made by the Board independent of government, Mr Barr told this year’s Annual Report Hearings.
Mr Barr said that the Chief Minister would write to the Board about very high levels of interest, and had set impact areas that he wanted the fund to focus on, being mental health and wellbeing, education, employment, belonging and reducing homelessness.
When asked by Mr Coe if the fund would second guess what the government would want, Mr Barr replied with an emphatic no.
Mr Barr was unable to answer what charitable category that CCW fell into, taking the question on notice, prompting the Liberal leader to criticise the Chief Minister for being coy.
“I just don’t think it’s a good look to be evasive when you’re talking about money going to the CMFEU’s community arm,” Mr Coe said.
According to the Hands Across Canberra website, the CCW’s area of impact is on drug and alcohol abuse and are “determined to improve the lives of building and construction workers and their families during their time of need”.
The organisation offers community support through multiple avenues including detoxification and rehabilitation, trauma response, mental health services, health promotion/training and welfare and support services.
Mr Coe again pressed Mr Barr regarding the grant, and the reasons why the CCW was awarding the $7500, provoking a heated exchange between the two leaders.
“This attack on the CMFEU is typical of your approach to anything that relates to the work of the union movement,” Mr Barr said.
“The implication of this line of questioning is that there is somehow something wrong. This sort of thing, Mr Coe, is why people think you are the most conservative, right-wing leader of the Liberal Party ever in the Territory.”
Estimates will continue all this week.