Thousands of applications for grants to support communities devastated by floods in the New South Wales northern rivers and western Sydney have not been processed, while thousands of others have been rejected.
The state’s premier, Dominic Perrottet, told a budget estimates hearing on Thursday more than 13,000 applications had been made for small business grants after the floods, with 1,074 having been paid and another 8,180 in progress.
Primary producer grants up to $75,000 had been paid out to 575 of the 1,968 applications, with an average damage quote of $55,000.
There had been 171 applications for grants of up to $25,000 for small rural landholders. Thirty-eight had been approved.
About 4,000 of the 7,300 rental support grant applications came from people who were ineligible.
The Back To Home grants, providing up to $20,000 to fix damage and replace home essentials, had been processed for 125 of the 5,900 applicants.
An independent review of how government grants are administered in NSW is under way.
“Any additional changes that need to be made to drive transparency and accountability that come through this review, I will endorse and adopt,” the premier said.
Perrottet also defended the number of NSW ministers and MPs who had received a pay boost during his six months in the top job.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday that only one government MP does not currently enjoy a boost on top of their base salary of $169,000.
The questioning comes as public-sector employees such as nurses, teachers and transport staff agitate for pay rises above the 2.5% capped annual increase amid concerns over the rising cost of living.
Perrottet said his cabinet had 26 “brilliant ministers” who received extra pay because of the additional responsibilities and duties they took on, and other MPs receive additional pay for serving on committees or as parliamentary leaders.
The Labor MP Penny Sharpe said the state now had “the most expensive ministry in NSW history”.
“The largest number of parliamentary secretaries, and (almost) every single one of your backbenchers is getting a pay rise of at least $5,000, and some of them, it’s around $150,000,” she said.
“You think that is perfectly reasonable?”
Perrottet said “any increase in entitlement is certainly not a focus of mine in relation to appointments of committee chairs”.
“I think they do important work on those committees and make a difference,” he said.
Perrottet said he expected them to add value to the work of ministers and provide substantive recommendations for the government to act on.
The East Hills MP Wendy Lindsay was the only Coalition MP earning a base member’s salary, but had been a committee chair until March.
Perrottet said the appointments were all merit-based, but there was a requirement to appoint a certain number of Nationals MPs.
Asked about the number of women MPs earning additional salaries, Perrottet said greater representation was important and “that’s something we can do better on”.
The women he appointed to cabinet during a reshuffle in December were in junior ministry roles and Perrottet said he wanted them to gain experience and become senior ministers.
“I’ve appointed the cabinet I believe has the best capabilities of representing the people of our state,” he said.
“What’s important is we get strong, high-quality women into the NSW parliament and into the cabinet.”