Tuesday, 12 November 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Sport, Senator Colbeck. Prior to the election, Sport Australia CEO, Kate Palmer, twice stated that Senator McKenzie, as sports minister, had only awarded Community Sports Infrastructure grants to projects recommended by Sport Australia. Then, only three days before the election, Ms Palmer changed her position, stating, 'Some projects from the eligible pool of applicants that were preferred by the minister were approved by her.' How many times did Senator McKenzie approve taxpayer money, for her personally preferred projects, against the recommendation of Sport Australia?
Opposition senators interjecting—
The government invested $102.5 million in the Community Sports Infrastructure grant program and delivered 648 projects, building better sporting facilities for healthier and stronger communities by promoting physical activity and social connection. These grants are enabling people from right across the country to get more active, more often. Projects include upgrades to female change room facilities, lighting upgrades for local sporting clubs and surface upgrades to ensure a safer sporting environment.
Over 2,050 applications totalling nearly $400 million were made to the program, which has seen 224 projects funded as part of round 1, 232 projects funded as part of round 2—
Yes, Mr President. It's in relation to relevance. We've heard about all of these projects the government is funding, but my question was quite specific: how many times did Senator McKenzie approve taxpayer money for projects against the recommendations of Sport Australia? I don't want to know which projects the government supported; I want to know the ones they rejected against the evidence and advice of Sport Australia.
I accept the—
Honourable senators interjecting—
I'll make a ruling when there's silence. We're using up time in question time with noise on my left. Is there going to be silence to allow me to make a ruling? On the point of order, I accept the substance of the question was about ministerial action and ministerial decision, not the program generally. I'm listening carefully to the minister, who has 57 seconds remaining to answer. Senator Colbeck.
Thank you, Mr President. As I said, there were 232 projects funded as part of round 2 and 228 projects funded as part of round 3. Each application was individually assessed using criteria including community participation, community need and project design and delivery. Recommendations were then provided to the Minister for Sport, who was the grant delegate for final decision and approval.
Thank you, Mr President, I do have a further supplementary question. Over three rounds of this program, 684 successful applications have been awarded funding, according to the Sport Australia website. How many of the 684 successful applicants were personally selected by Senator McKenzie against the advice of Sport Australia, and on what basis were those decisions made?
As I've just said, Senator McKenzie, as the then minister, was the delegate responsible for approving every project. That was her role. That was her responsibility. Minister McKenzie was responsible for approving every single project, each one of which met the guidelines of the program. It's really quite simple. There were over 2,000 applications totalling nearly $400 million. The program was very, very popular, to the extent that we ran three rounds of the program before the election. Minister McKenzie, as the responsible delegate, made the decisions on which projects were approved.
Thank you, Mr President, I do have one. In evidence before Senate estimates it was revealed that 618 recommended applications were rejected by Senator McKenzie. How many of the 618 eligible grassroots projects would have received local funding if Senator McKenzie had not intervened and hand-picked her favourites?
As I've said in answers to previous questions, Minister McKenzie, as the delegate, was responsible for the final approval of every project in the program. The 224 projects that were funded as part of round 1, the 232 projects that were funded as part of round 2 and the 228 projects that were funded as part—
Again, it is on relevance. We're not asking about which projects Senator McKenzie approved; we're asking about which projects she rejected the advice of Sport Australia, the department.
I think, with respect, you're going to how the minister is answering the question. There is an opportunity for debating that after question time, but by talking about the approval process, which may or may not meet with your approval or wish, I think he is, however, being directly relevant.
As I've said, every project that was funded under this program was eligible for funding under the guidelines. Minister McKenzie, as the responsible minister, had the final say and responsibility with respect to the approval of the projects under each round of the program.