Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Questions without Notice

Community Sport Infrastructure Grants Program

2:15 pm

Photo of Anthony ChisholmAnthony Chisholm (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

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?

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

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.

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

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

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

I wonder why Mr Albanese is still the leader of your party, if you're characterisation is as it should be.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senator Colbeck, please resume your seat. Before I call Senator Cormann—

Opposition senators interjecting

I am having trouble hearing Senator Cormann. Senator Cormann, on a point of order?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I know that the Labor Party doesn't want to hear the damning findings of an Auditor-General's report on the performance of Mr Albanese—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Come to the point of order, Senator Cormann.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

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—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I would be surprised if anyone in the chamber could have heard anything Senator Colbeck was saying, because I certainly had trouble. Senator Colbeck, please continue.

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

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.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senator Chisholm, a supplementary question?

2:18 pm

Photo of Anthony ChisholmAnthony Chisholm (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

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?

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

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.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senator Watt, on a point of order?

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

On relevance. The question was whether the minister agreed with the new deputy leader of the Nationals.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Colbeck has concluded his answer. Senator Chisholm, a final supplementary question?

2:19 pm

Photo of Anthony ChisholmAnthony Chisholm (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When and how did the minister first become aware that the government was using the corrupt sports rorts scheme to pork barrel marginal and target seats?

2:20 pm

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

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.

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order on my left! Please, I would like to hear Senator Colbeck. Senator Colbeck.

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

I completely reject the premise of the question.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Watt, on a point of order.

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

On relevance. When was he first briefed about this program?

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

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.

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

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)