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Reports reveal Federal Government ‘quietly spent’ $150 million female sports program funds on aquatic centre projects in marginal seats
Media reports have today revealed that beyond the 'sports rorts' that led to Senator Bridget McKenzie's resignation from Government, the Coalition quietly spent another $150 million in funds for female change rooms and swimming pools in marginal constituencies prior to the last Federal election.
The $150 million Female Facilities and Water Safety Stream (FFWSS) program, announced by the Federal Government less than two months before the election, was funded in the 2019 budget for the purpose of female changerooms and swimming pool upgrades.
While there was an expectation among sports clubs that the program would be open for applications, the Federal Department of Health has revealed that the funding was all allocated during the election campaign.
Guidelines were promised but never published and the program was never open for applications.
Reports today suggest that the funding was even more heavily skewed towards Coalition-held marginal seats than the controversial sports grants program, with two Liberal-held seats receiving 40% of the funding.
“The projects funded through the $150 million Female Facilities and Water Safety Stream Program were announced by the Australia Government in 2019.
“The FFWSS Program was not open to applications for grants. The projects were selected as election commitments.
“Projects eligible for funding included those that supported the development of female change room facilities at sporting grounds and community swimming facilities.”
The Federal Department of Health formally advised successful recipients on 23rd October 2019 and additional information was requested “as part of standard due diligence that would support contract execution”.
Most of the funded projects will be under way within the next 12 months, the department said.
According to details of grant recipients provided by the Federal Department of Health, 41 projects have successfully secured funding through the program totalling $131 million.
As with the controversial community sport infrastructure program, projects funded through the scheme were predominantly in Coalition-held seats or those that it was targeting in the election, including the key seats of Braddon in Tasmania, Boothby in South Australia, Gilmore in NSW, Brisbane in Queensland, Corangamite in Victoria, and Pearce and Swan in WA.
The largest single grant was $25 million for the new Ellenbrook pool in the attorney general Christian Porter’s marginal seat of Pearce, which was announced three weeks before the election.
In Corangamite, which the Liberal MP Sarah Henderson was attempting to hold on for the Coalition despite it becoming notionally Labor in a redistribution, $20 million was pledged from the fund for the Torquay pool and $10 million to the Bellarine aquatic centre.
Steve Irons, who is a close ally of the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and was battling to keep his WA seat of Swan in Coalition hands, used the fund to promise $20 million to build a new South Perth aquatic centre.
A $500,000 grant for the Broulee surf club in Gilmore was announced by candidate Warren Mundine, who was unable to hold the marginal seat of Gilmore for the Coalition following the departure of Anne Sudmalis.
In a media release just four days before the election, Mundine pledged the $500,000 “to increase the clubhouse footprint and improve amenities for women”.
4th February 2020 - Kate Palmer departs Chief Executive role at Sport Australia
2nd February 2020 - New multi-million dollar Northam Aquatic Facility opens
23rd January 2020 - ‘Sports rorts’ review to be assessed by Prime Minister’s department
28th October 2019 - Kate Palmer to step down from Sport Australia Chief Executive role
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