Coalition backs out of charities funding

THE federal government has axed hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding promised to Hunter charities and religious groups before the election.

On Friday, several charities were told funding had been withdrawn for the $4.5million Building Multicultural Communities Program following a review of the funding announced last month.

An email from the Department of Social Services told the groups  funding was being withdrawn because of ‘‘the current state of the federal budget’’.

‘‘As we have not yet reached agreement or entered into a funding agreement with your organisation, and as a reduction of the scope of the program, the department is withdrawing the offer of funding,’’ it read.   

‘‘In particular you should note that DSS will not pay for any expenditure incurred in relation to this program.’’

It is unclear if all eight Hunter-based charities have had funding withdrawn.

Ravi Pullareddy, a spokesman from the Vedic Samiti cultural group in Cardiff, said he was frustrated at the ‘‘lack of professionalism’’ in handling the review.

‘‘If you look at it from our point of view, there were things we had to do within a specified time as a prerequisite to get the grant money, so when we got the approval [in August], we started reacting straight away.’’

Mr Pullareddy estimated the cultural centre had spent about $14,000 of its own money  preparing planning submissions to the council. 

The Newcastle Herald was unable to reach  Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews yesterday, but last month in parliament he referred to the grants as an election promise. 

‘‘Because matters have been promised in the context of an election campaign by the Labor Party, that does not mean that we have to honour those agreements,’’ he said.

Charlton Labor MP Pat Conroy said the money had already been provided in the budget.

‘‘These were not election promises, and to suggest that they were is a cowardly attempt to cover up the fact that the Coalition government is ripping money away from community groups who need it most,’’ he said.

Newcastle Labor MP Sharon Claydon also slammed the move, calling it a ‘‘disgrace’’.

‘‘The government obviously doesn’t understand the significance of multicultural groups, and the work they do building an inclusive and respectful community,’’ she said.

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