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Former Minister Bridget McKenzie defends role in sports grant allocations

Former Minister Bridget McKenzie defends role in sports grant allocations
April 30, 2020

Former Federal Government Minister Bridget McKenzie has broken her silence about the sports grants scandal that ended her frontbench career, defending her actions while conceding more could have been done to ensure public trust in a scandal-plagued pre-election program.

In a 20-page submission to a Senate inquiry, the former Federal Sports Minister insisted she had taken responsibility for her actions, having quit the frontbench earlier this year.

Defending her ministerial intervention in the program, Senators McKenzie said in a statement "I make no apology for exercising ministerial discretion.

"To do so was my prerogative, but more importantly, it was my responsibility."

Following the January release of a highly critical Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report on the $100 million Community Sport Infrastructure Grants program, a series of revelations dogged the Federal Government for weeks.

It forced Senator McKenzie, who had moved on to become Federal Agriculture Minister after the Coalition’s May 2019 election victory, to resign from the ministry and as Nationals deputy leader and in February.

She did so after an investigation by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet found she breached ministerial standards by failing to disclose her membership of a gun club that received almost $36,000 from the grants program.

Senator McKenzie refuted the ANAO report finding that grants had been allocated towards marginal and target seats the Coalition hoped to win at last year's election, advising in her submission "I unequivocally reject this premise and the facts themselves contradict it."

With the National Audit Office report accusing Senator McKenzie's office of ignoring merit-based assessments made by Sport Australia, she wrote "I reject this interpretation and the facts refute it.

"My objective when exercising my ministerial authority was to see more communities benefit, across a wide range of sports and local clubs, to ensure the funding resulted in a fairer overall outcome, with more clubs funded across more regions than would otherwise have been the case.

"Whilst not my purpose, analysis shows more funding went to Labor-held electorates than Sport Australia had recommended. Only 26% of Sport Australia's recommendations were in Labor-held electorates. I increased this to 35%."

In respect of her membership of a gun club, she advised "I personally failed to declare two memberships to the Prime Minister in a timely manner and hence breached his ministerial standards.

"I took the appropriate action of ministerial responsibility under the Westminster system of accountability and resigned."

Senator McKenzie went on to reject the suggestion of a conflict of interest in awarding the grant to her club, adding “in effect, I was a member for approximately five days between visiting the club and signing off on the final approval of round two grants, and I received no material or financial benefit then or subsequently.”

Image: Senator Bridget McKenzie at the Wangarrata Clay Target Club. Facebook.

Related Articles

12th March 2020 - Former Federal Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie could be personally liable over infrastructure grants

27th February 2020 - Sport rorts inquiry implicates Prime Minister Scott Morrison

15th February 2020 - Report from Secretary to Prime Minister’s Department rejects Audit Office finding that sports grant program targeted marginal electorates

4th February 2020 - Former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie bypassed Sport Australia board to authorise $2.5 million grant to Netball Australia

2nd February 2020 - Sports rorts scandal sees National deputy leader Bridget McKenzie resign from Government

29th January 2020 - Former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie warned that sports grant program was compromised

25th January 2020 - Former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie approved more than $1 million in grants for shooting clubs

23rd January 2020 - ‘Sports rorts’ review to be assessed by Prime Minister’s department

23rd January 2020 - ‘Sports rorts’ scandal: Revelation that upmarket golf, rowing and tennis clubs received major grants

13th February 2020 - National Audit Office advises 43% of successful Federal Government sports fund projects were ineligible

16th January 2020 - Audit Office sports grants report cites ‘conflict of interest’ at Sport Australia

15th January 2020 - Audit Office report confirms that Federal Government targeted marginal seats with potentially illegal sports grants

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

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

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

16th April 2019 - MP presents $1.5 million novelty cheque to sports club despite funds not being approved

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