Speeches

Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program - Sports Rort

February 10, 2020

I rise to speak again on this important issue, which was the focus of questions from the Labor opposition during question time today. I'd say to those government senators who have been sent in here to defend the sports rorts—I said it last week, as well—that they should put themselves in the shoes of those moms and dads and other volunteers who are the lifeblood of these community groups, who were responsible for putting in these submissions that received a high score but were completely disregarded by the government for its own political purposes. Those are the people they need to be thinking about when they come in here to defend the rorts and say: 'This is just what the government did. We made those decisions.' The people they are dudding are those mums and dads and other volunteers out there who put in hours that they don't have—they give up other things while they are putting in those hours—to make these submissions that the government ignored.

The government ignored them through three processes through the first sports rorts. There were rounds 1, 2 and 3. We know that as each round went further the government completely disregarded the Sport Australia recommendations. By the last round it was ignoring up to 73 per cent. The closer the election got the more likely they were to disregard the Sport Australia recommendations. That wasn't enough for them—the three rounds and $100 million weren't enough—so they came up with another plan for $150 million for them to spend during the election campaign. All up, the government spent a quarter of a billion dollars through this process to help its re-election campaign. If that's what those opposite want to come in and defend then I'm happy to take the fight up to them every day of the week.

What is outrageous is the performance of the Prime Minister, particularly when it comes to sports rorts 2. When he launched this fund, the Prime Minister said:

The principal objective of that is to ensure that there are changing facilities and other facilities to support more girls and women’s participation in sport all around the country.

That is what the Prime Minister said when he launched this fund. Guess how much of the $150 million was spent on female change rooms—less than 15 per cent. So for him to justify that on the support that everyone in this place and around the country has for female sport and for trying to get more women involved in sport is absolutely nonsense. He should be held accountable for that. He is still using that line today to try to justify the sports rorts as being for female change rooms, when the reality is that just 15 per cent went on female facilities.

We know that $60 million, or 40 per cent of the total, went on funding pools in the two Liberal held seats of Corangamite and Pearce. That actually goes to show the motivation of this government. They say one thing to try to justify the program, but the reality of this program is that it was intended to buy votes and win marginal seats so they could try to form government again. That was the sole purpose of the program. We saw that with sports rorts 1. Increasingly, as we got closer to the election, those opposite were disregarding Sport Australia and trying to fund their projects in marginal seats. They weren't done with that. That program finished with April. They came up with another $150 million that was to go to funding they could use to fund projects that they wanted. This goes also to the substance of the decisions that they made around who was responsible for it. When the policy was released, a document was prepared by the infrastructure department, which said that guidelines for the program were meant to be delivered in June last year. Guidelines for this funding program have never been released, and already the $150 million allocation has been exhausted. So even when they released and announced the money—we heard the rot from the Prime Minister about the basis for it; that can be dismissed, because that is not what they have done. When they launched the fund they said guidelines would be issued. But we now know that the fund has been completely spent and that no guidelines have been issued at all. The health department stated that the program was not open to applications and that all proponents were selected by government. So there were no published guidelines and no criteria for the allocation of funding, and all announcements were made by the government at the time, including the minister.

We know the Department of Health and Senator Colbeck had responsibility for the program in consultation with the Prime Minister, but I think they have so many sports rorts programs that they are funding that the minister himself got confused about which one he was talking about in terms of the question from Senator Farrell regarding the guidelines they were using. They are desperately trying to keep their head above water on this, but we know there is so much more coming their way to take accountability for. (Time expired)

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