Wednesday, 5 February 2020
Questions without Notice
Community Sport Infrastructure Grants Program
My question is to the Minister for Youth and Sport, Senator Colbeck. The independent Auditor-General's report on the corrupt sports rorts scheme states:
The award of funding reflected the approach documented by the Minister's Office of focusing on 'marginal' electorates held by the Coalition as well as those electorates held by other parties or independent members that were to be 'targeted' by the Coalition …
Does the minister accept this finding?
COLBECK (—) (): The Auditor-General's report says what it says. You can read it and everyone can look at the statistics in it. The statistics in the Auditor-General's report are quite instructive. In fact, it says that the number of grants that went to Labor seats, under the ministerial discretion exercised by Minister McKenzie, went from 26 per cent to 34 per cent. This is the first time I've heard the Labor Party complaining about more grants going to more Labor seats—26 per cent to 34 per cent. They're the facts from the Auditor-General's report. That's exactly what the report says.
The report confirms—
Senator Wong interjecting—
Mr President, I will take Senator Wong's interjection about spreadsheets with columns. In an Auditor-General's report in July 2010—
Opposition senators interjecting—
This goes to your characterisation of the program.
Opposition senators interjecting—
The point of order is that interjections are disorderly, and those opposite should listen to the damning findings of the Auditor-General in relation to the administration of the department that Mr Albanese—
That Auditor-General's report stated:
The awarding of funding to projects also disproportionately favoured ALP held seats …
It also said:
In addition to the data originally provided by the department—
listen to this—
two new columns were added to the worksheet to identify the electorate in which the project was located, and the political party that held that electorate.
I refer to the statement of the new Nationals deputy leader, Mr Littleproud, when he states: 'Obviously I don’t think that necessarily getting as partisan as that is the best way to do it.' Does the minister agree with the new Nationals deputy leader?
If you look at the numbers in the report—and I just mentioned them a moment ago in my previous answer—Senator McKenzie's decisions actually brought the allocation of grants closer towards the proportion of seats that Labor had to what they would have had had the original process of assessment been carried out. Senator McKenzie's decisions increased the number of grants in Labor seats from 26 per cent to 34 per cent, and Labor held 35 per cent of the seats.
I completely reject the premise of the question, because if the program is that way, so is the Leader of the Opposition. In fact, so is Catherine King, because her record is worse than Mr Albanese's. Catherine King actually signed off ineligible projects, projects that were assessed by her department as not eligible.
There were descriptive terms in the question that the minister is entitled to challenge in his answer and be directly relevant, and I think he is being directly relevant on multiple occasions even if not answering the part of the question that you've highlighted. Senator Colbeck.
My understanding of the Auditor-General's report came at the release of the report, because I didn't have access to that information prior. I received a copy of the report in the usual course of events and that's when I had a broader understanding of the program. (Time expired)