Thursday, 27 February 2020
Questions without Notice
Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program
My question is to the minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Sport Australia has given evidence to the Senate that it received the backdated brief from the government approving the Community Sport Infrastructure program projects for funding at 8.46 am on the day the election was called. Given the House was dissolved at 8.30 am that day, can the minister explain why the Prime Minister breached caretaker conventions by spending $40 million on the community grant infrastructure program the day he called the election?
Let me firstly completely reject that final assertion. The Prime Minister did nothing of the sort. As Sport Australia said quite explicitly to the Senate select committee inquiring into the highly successful and popular sports grants program, the brief approving the third round of projects was dated 4 April 2019. The caretaker period associated with the 2019 election did not, of course, start until Thursday 11 April. In accordance with the conventions, decisions taken before a caretaker period can be announced during a caretaker period.
Why did the government provide a brief to Sport Australia at 8.46 am on the day the Prime Minister called the election, approving the Community Sport Infrastructure Program projects, when the House had already been dissolved at 8.30 am and caretaker conventions were in place?
Let me remind Senator Wong and the Senate again of the explicit and clear and unequivocal evidence of Sport Australia at the Senate select committee inquiry into this program. That is that the brief approving those projects was dated 4 April.
Evidence to the select committee has now revealed that the Prime Minister's and Senator McKenzie's offices exchanged at least 136 emails. Over 28 versions of colour coded spreadsheets outlining political and electorate breakdowns were exchanged, and Minister McKenzie backdated her decision on round 3 in breach of caretaker conventions. When will the Prime Minister admit his role in driving the sports rorts scandal?
As Sport Australia made very clear at the Senate select committee hearing, the brief was dated 4 April, a week before the caretaker conventions kicked in. There is nothing unusual about communications to organise event logistics and announcement arrangements.