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More than $1 million in sport grants given to nine clubs linked to Coalition MPs
More than $1 million in grants from the Federal Government’s Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program was handed to nine clubs that boast senior Coalition MPs as members or patrons, including one undisclosed by former Federal Sport Minister Bridget McKenzie, three linked to Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt, one tied to Federal Treasurer and deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg, and two associated with Senator Sarah Henderson.
Funding from the controversial $100 million grant program gave money to the Wangarrata Clay Target Club, of which Nationals deputy leader McKenzie was a member, a tennis club where Treasurer Frydenberg is an honorary member, an AFL club where Minister Wyatt is the ‘No 1 ticket holder’, and Senator Henderson’s football and netball club, which made personal representations for the funding to prime minister Scott Morrison.
The memberships are listed in MPs’ register of interests as affiliations where “a conflict of interest with a member’s public duties could foreseeably arise or be seen to arise” with the exception of the Wangaratta Clay Target Club which received $35,980 but was not listed on Senator McKenzie’s register of interests.
The Club, which received funding to install new toilets and amenities, boasted Senator McKenzie had “signed up to our club as a full fee-paying member” when she visited the club on 25th January 2019 to announce funding alongside Nationals candidate Mark Byatt who was contesting the independent-held seat of Indi.
A spokeswoman for Senator McKenzie told The Age that since the membership was a “gift” in January 2019 and valued at less than $300 a declaration to the Senate was “unnecessary”.
Most other MPs told Guardian Australia they did no more than alert clubs in their area to the grants on offer, although Senator Henderson wrote a letter of support in favour of one successful club.
The scandal surrounding the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program was sparked by a scathing Australian National Audit Office report, released last week. It found the program conducted, during Senator McKenzie's time as Federal Sports Minister, skewed the grants towards marginal seats prior to the last Federal election.
Now widely referred to as the ‘sports rorts’ scandal, it also saw Prime Minister Scott Morrison personally announce grants for sports clubs in his electorate.
Examples of the funding saw clubs at which Minister Wyatt was patron received funding: Kalamunda Districts Rugby Union Club ($180,000); Swan Districts Football Club ($199,616); and the Guildford & Kalamunda Districts Swimming Club ($24,195).
Video shows Wyatt handing over a giant $180,000 cheque for new women’s changing rooms to the Kalamunda Districts Rugby Union Club on 5th May, just two weeks before the Federal election. The club is in his marginal electorate of Hasluck in Western Australia.
The two grants to the Swan Districts Football Club - for $31,516 and $168,100 - paid for a new women’s changeroom and to upgrade the sound system at its home ground.
Minister Wyatt has not only declared himself a patron of the club, but told Parliament he was the club’s ‘No 1 ticket holder’.
The club is located in the neighbouring electorate of Perth, also a marginal seat, which was retained by Labor’s Patrick Gorman, who is also a supporter.
Club Chief Executive Jeff Dennis said he did not see any conflict of interest, telling Guardian Australia “we firmly believe both grants were successful based on the merit of the application.
“We don’t see any conflict of interest with either Ken Wyatt or Patrick Gorman. Both support the club because we deliver many broad and deep community outreach strategies.”
In January 2019, Minister Wyatt posted photos to social media handing a large-sized $24,000 cheque to the Guildford & Kalamunda Districts Swimming Club to purchase new pool covers.
Senator Henderson declared that for part of 2019 she was a member of the Barwon Heads Football and Netball Club and a sponsor of the Grovedale Tigers Football and Netball Club, both of which have now lapsed.
Both are in her former marginal seat of Corangamite.
According to Sports Australia Barwon Heads got $370,000 in the first round of the program for new lighting at its home ground and Grovedale got $256,000 in the third round.
The Barwon Heads grant was awarded after Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Henderson, and the club’s President Tim Goddard were pictured together in October 2018.
Releaed last week, the Auditor General’s report found that 70% of projects approved by Senator McKenzie in the second round in March 2019 were not recommended by Sport Australia, rising to 73% in the third round in April 2019 after an extra $40 million was tipped into the program.
The Attorney General is now reviewing legal issues that could render the grants invalid, including the Auditor General’s finding that Senator McKenzie lacked authority to approve grants and the program may be unconstitutional.
So far she has resisted calls to resign.
Images: Federal Sport Minister Bridget McKenzie at the Wangarrata Clay Target Club (top, Facebook) and promoting elite basketball development (below).
20th January 2020 - NSW Government under pressure over allegations of biased sport grant allocations
12th November 2019 - Sport Australia announces strengthening of National High Performance Sports Strategy
28th October 2019 - Kate Palmer to step down from Sport Australia Chief Executive role
21st September 2019 - NSW Sports Minister steps down in corruption probe
13th February 2019 - Sport Australia welcomes creation of new integrity agency
21st September 2017 - Belgravia Leisure to manage Kalamunda Water Park
7th February 2013 - Drugs and crime report rocks Australian sport
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