Senate debates

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program

3:21 pm

Photo of Nita GreenNita Green (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to take note of the answer that we received in response to my question to Senator Cormann. This question related to the corrupt sports rorts scandal, but I just want to take note of some responses that we've received here after question time today. If the government don't think that this matters they have another thing coming, because it matters to the community. It matters to the communities that I speak to, the communities that missed out on this funding. It matters to the volunteers, the mums and dads who took the time to write grant applications and who are today still trying to figure out how they're going to find a shortfall in funding for female change rooms because their grant application was overlooked even though they scored 76 out of 100, which would have been over the threshold needed to get a grant. So it does matter to the community. It does matter to those mums and dads and those volunteers whether you use a merit based grant fund system to prop up your own election campaign. And if the government would like the opposition to stop asking questions about the sports grants—the corrupt sports rorts scheme—then they're very welcome to table the documents in the Senate that the Senate has required them to do. They are very welcome to come in here and provide that information we need to find out what happened to those grant applications.

But I know that that order for production of documents will be spoken about shortly, so I would like to talk again about the Auditor-General's report, and the process by which the minister's office used a colour-coded spreadsheet to decide who to give these grants to. The Auditor-General's report is very clear. The Auditor-General's report said the spreadsheet provided to the minister's office by Sport Australia included an assessment of scores that could have been used to rank the competing applications, but that was not done. Rather, it was initially proposed by the minister's office that applications located in a marginal and targeted electorate be successful at a significantly higher rate than the remaining applications. That's what the Auditor-General found. The applications that the minister's office was proposing be successful were not those assessed as having demonstrated the greatest merit in terms of the published program guidelines. This was particularly the case for projects located in marginal and targeted electorates. I include that because we've had a series of different reports created and we've had the minister resign. I think the government thinks that everybody has moved on from the Auditor-General's report. The Auditor-General's report is very clear about what happened.

The question that remains after the Auditor-General's report is: who else was involved in this parallel process? We have some clues as to who was involved. We know that the member for Longman, Terry Young, who was at the time the LNP candidate for Longman, praised Mr Hirst and the Prime Minister for visiting a Caboolture sports club on the eve of the election where he announced a half-a-million dollar grant to that sports club—impeccable timing on the eve of the election. Obviously former Minister McKenzie was busy at the time and was unable to come and present that cheque, so the Prime Minister went himself. We know that the Prime Minister's office was involved, because an email from the minister's office to Sport Australia asked for a slight adjustment to be made to the grants that were proceeding. When it came to sports rorts 2, even the current Senator Henderson, who was at the time the Liberal MP for a marginal seat, said, 'If it was not for the Prime Minister including this money in the budget it would not have happened.'

They were very proud at the time to stand there and take the credit. They are very proud now to come in here and say that, actually, former Minister McKenzie did the right thing in granting those applications. But they are not so proud as to table the documents and provide Australians with the information that they need or even to answer the questions that we put to them in question time. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.

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