Federal estimates hearings: sports rorts make-up grants missing from budget

Sport Minister Richard Colbeck. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Sport Minister Richard Colbeck. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The public service agencies at the centre of the sports rorts scandal were not asked about a promise to extend the controversial grants scheme to clubs which missed out, it's been revealed.

An Australian National Audit Office report found former Sport Minister Bridget McKenzie ignored recommendations from Sport Australia to award grants to marginal seats in the lead-up to the 2019 election.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison signalled in January that clubs that were overlooked for a grant under the $100 million program may be given funding in future.

"There are many, many, many more worthy projects in this area. And I will work with the Treasurer to see how we can better support even more projects in the future," Mr Morrison told the National Press Club.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack also foreshadowed further sporting grants.

"When you have a responsible government as we do in Canberra making sure that we've got the sort of money we can spend on regional programs on these sorts of sporting programs we'll put these programs as rolling funds and go from there," Mr McCormack said.

"So those projects and organisations that haven't been funded this time, I say to them reapply next time."

However Senate estimates heard on Tuesday night the bodies responsible for administering the grants programs had not been asked to provide advice on expanding the program.

"Despite all those very positive comments in the wake of the sports rorts fiasco, is it fair to say that neither the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Finance Minister, or the minister for sport or any of the officers have requested a briefing, or advice on funding of local community sports clubs, that were snubbed by the original sports rorts grants," Labor senator Don Farrell asked.

"I'm not aware of anything of that nature," Department of Health associate secretary Caroline Edwards said.

Sport Australia chief operating officer Luke McCann also said no ministers or their departments had asked his agency for advice on expanding the grants program.

Sport Minister Richard Colbeck accused Senator Farrell of making political points.

"We have made a number of commitments with respect to local community projects," Senator Colbeck said.

"The government is very supportive of funding, community sport infrastructure and a number of the programs that we have supported support local communities in the development of local infrastructure and they have been funded through the recent COVID environment and some of the grants programs that are out there they supply support local government, in particular, in funding community infrastructure."

Senator Farrell accused the Mr Morrison of misleading the public.

"There was community outrage about the way in which this money was distributed by the government in the lead-up to the last election, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer both led these clubs that missed out ... to believe there was going to be something in the budget to make amends. The reality is minister that there was nothing in the budget to make amends," Senator Farrell said.

This story Sports rorts make-up grants missing from budget first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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