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Former Government lawyer says Federal Minister’s Community Sport Infrastructure allocations were ‘illegal’

Former Government lawyer says Federal Minister’s Community Sport Infrastructure allocations were ‘illegal’
November 23, 2019

Unsuccessful applicants to the Federal Government's Community Sport Infrastructure scheme may be entitled to a payout, according to a respected lawyer.

As reported by the ABC, Ian Cunliffe, who worked for more than a decade in government and now advises a constitutional law centre at the University of Melbourne, argues the $100 million pre-election sports grants scheme "pretty clearly was illegal" because the relevant legislation does not allow the Federal Sport Minister to be given Sport Australia's power to choose grants.

Kate Palmer, Chief Executive of Sport Australia, told Senate estimates last month that "as the delegate, the minister approves the grants and was able to make the final decisions about the grants".

Upon hearing this, Cunliffe - with decades of providing advice establishing schemes and applying for grants - thought such an arrangement was unusual.

Section 54 of the Sports Commission Act sets out to whom Sport Australia can delegate its powers, such as choosing grants. The Federal Minister of Sports is not listed.

According to Cunliffe's interpretation, clubs behind the 618 applications recommended by Sport Australia but rejected by the Minister worth up to $500,000 each - have a sound case to appeal to the Federal Court.

Cunliffe told the ABC "if it was half a million dollars and I was on the board of one of the sports bodies involved I would be pushing very strongly that it be done."

The $100 million scheme has been beset by controversy, including Liberal candidates announcing grants instead of sitting MPs and a bias towards funding for marginal seats.

It is currently unclear exactly which grants were recommended by Sport Australia but rejected by the Federal Minister for Sport Bridget McKenzie, and how many grants were approved by Senator McKenzie that had not been recommended.

The National Audit Office is scheduled to release its investigation into the scheme before Christmas.

Image: Liberal candidate for Mayo Georgina Downer hands over a novelty cheque for Community Sport Infrastructure funding to the Yankalilla Bowling Club during the last Federal election campaign.

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11th November 2019 - Marginal electorates benefit under ‘dodgy’ Federal Government sport grant scheme

8th November 2019 - Sport Australia advice ignored by former Federal Sports Ministers in award of community sport infrastructure funds

28th October 2019 - Kate Palmer to step down from Sport Australia Chief Executive role

15th October 2019 - Sport Australia releases Position Statement on Physical Literacy

5th August 2019 - Sport Australia releases Corporate Plan to guide increases in participation in sport and physical activity

20th May 2019 - Federal Government Community Sporting Infrastructure Grants invests over $100 million

15th May 2019 - Major parties make sport funding pledges a cornerstone of Federal election campaign

13th May 2019 - Sport Australia misses opportunity at remarkable SportAccord Gold Coast

24th April 2019 - Liberal leaders repeat $15 million budget commitment to Sydney Swans AFLW facilities

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17th February 2019 - Sport Minister McKenzie accepts ridicule in battle to combat obesity

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8th February 2019 - NSW Premier accused of $25 million sport venue ‘blackmail’ in marginal electorate

9th September 2009 - Queensland Sport Grants Went to Labor electorates


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