Speeches

TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS - Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program, Aged Care

February 27, 2020

What we've seen, now that this sports rorts committee has been meeting, is that every day, in a new way, the protection racket they've been trying to build around the Prime Minister and his office gets dismantled. We've had only a couple of hearings now, and we're getting so much new information about how this goes to the direct involvement of the Prime Minister and his office in this program. That's why they're getting outraged, obviously—because they know that this is creeping up on them and that they are going to be held accountable for it.

It started with the report from the Audit Office. Then we had the resignation of Senator McKenzie, after the ANAO report had come down. Senator McKenzie didn't resign because of the content of the ANAO report; she resigned because of a failure to declare a conflict of interest in the granting of a grant to a gun club. The PM said that all projects funded were eligible. But the ANAO evidence was that 43 per cent of them were not. The PM said that what his office did was provide representation. Well, we know from the evidence that there were 136 emails, 28 versions of the colour-coded spreadsheet and a breach of caretaker conventions, and twice the Australian Sports Commission raised concerns with the minister's office about the way they were conducting this.

Why were they in such a rush to get this program done? This actually goes to the heart of the determination and the way they were using this sports grant. At the end of the day, it all had to do with their re-election. That is what their motivation was in terms of how they used this sports grants program. It was all designed to boost their chances of re-election. The damning evidence is that, in round 1, 41 per cent of the projects were not endorsed by Sport Australia. In round 2, 70 per cent of the projects were not endorsed by Sport Australia. And then in round 3, in the shadows of the election campaign, 73 per cent of projects were not endorsed by Sport Australia.

So we know that the political nature of this decision-making by the minister was that the closer it got to the election the more they favoured those decisions that were going to boost their electoral chances. That was actually the whole genesis of this, and it goes to the heart of the Prime Minister's involvement as well. There's no doubt that this sports grant program was part of their re-election strategy. That's why the Prime Minister's office was so keen to know what was going on. That's why Minister McKenzie was so keen to ensure that the projects that were approved were in those marginal and target seats. Why else would she add the column to the spreadsheet, other than to identify those marginal and target seats? When they sent the spreadsheet back to Sport Australia they said, 'We'll just delete that column.' How clever was that? They said, 'We'll just delete that column before we send it back to Sport Australia.' But we know that the decisions that the minister was making were based on that target and marginal seat list, because they were determined to boost their election chances.

We know that they were running a re-election strategy. They gave up on running a government; all they were doing was running a re-election strategy. They were using this sports grants program at the heart of that strategy. That is what they were up to. They were using this program to fund targeted marginal seats. We know that Sport Australia did not recommend up to 73 per cent in the last round that went for ministerial approval.

They're treating the Australian people so arrogantly because they can't admit the truth. Disregarding the thorough independent assessment from Sport Australia to fund their own projects is beneficial to them politically. The reason they can't admit that is, of course, it goes to the very legitimacy of this government. The fact that they were using this program as they were, as part of their re-election strategy, goes to the very legitimacy of this government. That's why they need to treat the Australian people with contempt. The government treat with contempt those mums, dads and other volunteers who put so much effort into putting forward submissions to get project funding and were rejected by this government even if they did score a high recommendation from Sport Australia. They're completely disregarding the will of the Senate over multiple orders for the production of documents and other things that would assist us in getting to the bottom of this. The government are treating that with contempt by providing redacted copies and not enabling us to identify who those community groups and who those people were who put in so much effort to be rejected by this government. We will continue to put the blowtorch on them, because the Australian people deserve better. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER