An Adelaide Greek Orthodox Church faces another investigation after it received $5m from the Federal Government for noise insulation from the neighbouring airport. The investigation launched is due to the excessive amount of funds received by St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church when compared with previous grants received for noise insulation by the Federal Government as part of the previous Howard Government’s Adelaide Airport Noise Amelioration Program.
Hindmarsh MP Steve Georganas said this funding would be welcomed by the local community, who have campaigned strongly for measures to minimise the impact of aircraft noise.
“This is great news for the western suburbs and for all the volunteers and community members who use the church on a daily basis,” he said.
“It’s on top of the $3.4 million insulation funding provided to St George Greek Orthodox Church for the insulation project completed in 2012.”
However, Liberal senator Simon Birmingham has queried the amount of money received by the church and has written to Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese seeking the costs of the project.
“It seems highly unusual for one church to receive a one-off grant of $5m a number of years after the program was widely understood to have ended,” Senator Birmingham told The Australian.
He said the Program had funded the refurbishment of about 650 properties for a cost of $63m – roughly $100,000 per building.
“Given Labor’s track record of excessive and wasteful spending … the Coalition is eager to ensure this significant expenditure is justified and that less expensive options have at least been considered,” Senator Birmingham said.
The $5m refurbishment for the church will be funded through a passenger levy at Adelaide airport for a six-month period.
Mr Albanese said the grant was government business “as usual”, and a continuation of a Howard-era program.
“The situation was put in there by the former government; what we have done is allocate it,” Mr Albanese said.
“It will be done as cheaply as possible, but this is legislation that isn’t this government’s legislation.”
SA MP Senator Xenophon said he and the Coalition would pursue the government over the grant through the estimate process.
“I think it sounds like a lot of money to most people [and] I think it’s incumbent on the government to set out how the money will be spent, whether there was a competitive tender process, how it compares to other churches that were soundproofed in the area; all those factors have to be taken into account and to make sure there is very thorough scrutiny of the way the money is spent,” Senator Xenophon told ABC radio.
The church in Adelaide has become a scene of controversy ever since the arrival of Father Prokopios Kanavas as parish priest.
The church priest, Father Prokopios Kanavas, was investigated by Israeli police last year in connection with an allegedly forged character reference, purportedly written by a senior officer in the Israel Police Department.
He also came before the Greek Orthodox Community of SA Council in January last year to explain why allegedly false claims about his past, including university degrees he did not have, were posted on his Facebook page.
Following the meeting, Father Kanavas received a second written warning over his conduct within the local community.
He was issued with a similar written warning in early 2011 following allegations that explicit images were found on a church computer.
Father Kanavas was sacked as an SA police chaplain in 2011 because of concerns over his suitability for the role.
A separate investigation into Father Kanavas’ background led to him being defrocked as a priest in 2008.
He joined the Greek army and then another faction of the church.
He was again ordained and returned to Adelaide in 2010.