Coe and Barr clash over charity fund at estimates hearing

Dominic Giannini 6 November 2019 3
CFMEU CCW screengrab

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe questioned Chief Minister Andrew Barr over a $7500 donation to the CFMEU’s Construction Charitable Works (CCW). Photo: Screengrab CFMEU CCW video.

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.”

So far this year the fund has distributed nearly $400,000 to 29 local community organisations; a full breakdown can be seen here.

Estimates will continue all this week.

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3 Responses to Coe and Barr clash over charity fund at estimates hearing
noid noid 5:48 pm 08 Nov 19

As a rate payer this is a very reasonable question from Coe considering the Labor party is made up from a number of Union members as well as a number of union members running for seats in the next election. If Barr can’t see this as a conflict or perceived conflict of interest then I would have to question his intelligence.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 9:27 pm 06 Nov 19

Why the Chief Minister set up a charity based on government taxes in his own name. Very Weird!!!!

Surely there’s a better way to distribute Government money than via a personally named charity fund????

Vickie O'Malley Vickie O'Malley 8:05 pm 06 Nov 19

$400000 divided by the 71 charities listed. The CFMMEU charity did well for a playground. Others did not fare as well.

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