Senate debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Auditor-General's Reports

Report No. 23 of 2019-20; Consideration

4:03 pm

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | Hansard source

I seek to take note of Auditor-General—Audit report no. 23 of 2019-20—Performance audit—Award of funding under the Community Sport Infrastructure Program—Australian Sports Commission.

I refer to this, what I consider to be an excellent report. I will start at the outset by congratulating the Auditor-General, Mr Hehir, on what was an extremely thorough examination of what we now know to be called sports rorts 1. Madam Acting Deputy President Askew, I'm sure you're aware that there are two sports rorts here: there is sports rorts 1 and sports rorts 2. This Auditor-General's report is into what we know as sports rorts 1. As I said, it's an extremely thorough examination of what went on in the awarding of these grants.

I'm sure you're familiar with this, Acting Deputy President Askew, because you've followed closely what's gone on here. Former Minister McKenzie had a pot of $100 million to hand out to sporting clubs around the country. She decided to have a set of guidelines. Those guidelines were published, and thousands of hardworking clubs, committed clubs, around the country put in applications. Volunteers spent their nights, their weekends—because most of them are volunteers at these sporting clubs—preparing an application for this grant. They thought the procedure was going to be above board and that when the government issued guidelines they would be assessed against those guidelines and on their merit.

We know that that process did start. We know that Sport Australia started the process of assessing these 2,000 applications. We know, from leaked documents in the hands of Andrew Probyn from the ABC, that clubs were rated from a high of 98, down to a low of 4. If you got a score of 74 or above that gave you the amount of money that equated to $100 million. Sport Australia did the right thing: they did what they thought the government wanted them to do, complied with the guidelines and produced a list of clubs that were entitled to this $100 million.

What we now know, is that the minister had a separate list—which has been described as the colour coded list—where she looked at these 2,000 applications and said, 'Oh, I'm going to find grants that have been applied for in Liberal marginal seats, National Party marginal seats and the seats which the government are seeking to win back from the range of Independents in the lower house.' Of course, that's where she targeted this $100 million. That's why, I think, it's considered by the community at large—certainly by the Labor Party and certainly by the crossbench—that this was industrial-scale pork-barrelling.

That's a simple way of describing what was a very thorough report by the Auditor-General. They spent months, forensically going through the rorts that were committed by the government in respect of this grant application. This afternoon, I think it's worth reporting, the Senate committee that was set up to look at this corrupt process is going to start its proceedings. I understand that in a few minutes the Auditor-General will start giving his evidence about this issue. Of course we're very much looking forward to asking him sensible questions so that we can flesh out what is an extremely good— (Time expired)

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