A topic of conversation around Canberra this week has been timing of the announcement of successful projects under Building Better Regions Fund Round 5. With parliament sitting, the Section51 team had the chance to talk a few people. Speculation from multiple sources is that announcement will follow one of the next two sittings. Thus, the week beginning 28th June or the week beginning 16th August. The reason is that the final decision will be made during sitting weeks, while Cabinet is in Canberra. The announcement will then wait until local members are back out in their electorates, in the weeks after, to gain the benefit.
The specific day and time of the announcement is only known by the Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers Media Advisors. This will depend on if the media advisors want to hide the announcement or get it on the front page. While the excitement of an announcement of successful projects is what the government is looking for, there are challenges as well. As the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr McCormack said recently ‘Last year’s $200 million budget commitment for Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) Round 5 was oversubscribed by almost a billion dollars and the government is still considering applications.’ That means that 4 out of 5 applications will be unsuccessful with a lot of disappointed councils. Not what a government is looking for in an election year thus managing expectations, with a focus on the successful projects, will be a major part of the announcement process.
The related topic is timing of the opening of Building Better Regions Fund Round 6. In the 2021-22 Budget the Australian Government announced an additional $250 million towards a sixth Round of the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF), bringing the total commitment for this program to $1.29 billion from 2017-18 to 2024-25. The announcement said that the Building Better Regions Fund supports regional and remote communities by funding shovel-ready infrastructure projects up to the value of $10 million, which will create jobs and drive economic growth. It also funds up to $1 million for new or expanded events, strategic regional plans, or leadership and capability strengthening activities which provide economic and social benefits across the relevant region.
BBRF6 opening will be dependent on both the announcement of BBRF5 and potential election date. The Australian Government election can be called by the Prime Minister anytime in the window of 7 August 2021 to 21 May 2022. It is the Prime Minister who decides, and despite speculation by media and others, there is no way of picking when.
The potential election date influences every aspect of BBRF6. If the election is to be called on 7 August 2021, then the government will want BBRF6 already open to maximise the politics. If this is the case, then BBRF5 announcement, and BBRF6 opening, would happen on the same day. This has happened before. If the election is going to be on the last possible day, with is 21 May 2022 then the government will want BBRF6 open, assessed and successful projects to be used as election announcements. This has happened before too.
What this means for application preparation is that you should anticipate BBRF6 opening very soon. Section51 is already preparing BBRF6 applications for Councils as we know that this round will be the most intense of all grants you have prepared.