Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program - Take Note

Well, colleagues, what we've heard today from the Labor Party is a lot of exaggeration, a lot of conjecture and a lot of long bows being drawn but not a lot of evidence and certainly no case based on any evidence. We haven't heard that, because the words that the Labor Party have been using aren't actually from the Auditor-General's report about this project. 

The words that they have been using are the ones you'd expect from an opposition with a particular interest in attacking a government. So they're throwing around words like 'rort' and 'corrupt'. The Leader of the Opposition had to withdraw at one stage. They went a bit too far. They're desperate to make these points. But the principle here is that we should assess this program on its merits and on the facts, and none of those conclusions that the Labor Party are trying to rely on are actually in this report.

What I'd like to do, in the time I have, is refer back to this report and what it actually says. This report from the Auditor-General is into a sport funding program—not unusual. Auditor-General reports are there for a reason: to look at all of these types of programs. It has made four recommendations. Three of those four recommendations are made to Sport Australia, an independent body in the Commonwealth government, and my understanding is that they've all been accepted by Sport Australia. One of the recommendations was made to the Australian government. I won't read it all out, but in effect that recommendation asks that, when the government advises and makes decisions on reporting requirements, we do so in a way that extends rules on Commonwealth entities to a minister as the decision-maker. The government has accepted that recommendation, and we will implement that accordingly.

It's also important to look at other things that this report says that, of course, the Labor Party would not refer to. The Auditor-General's report says:

      Ineligible applications were identified and no applications assessed as ineligible were awarded grant funding.

So all of the funding under this scheme was provided to projects that were eligible for funding. Another quote, from page 33:

      Each application assessed as eligible was assessed against the three published merit criteria.

At this point, I will just draw a contrast to an older Auditor-General report, on the third and fourth funding rounds of the Regional Development Australia fund, which was administered, at the time the funding was made, by former minister Catherine King. In that report, the Auditor-General concluded that 56 per cent of applications in these two rounds that were awarded funding had been assessed by the department to not satisfactorily meet one of the criteria. So in that report you had a Labor minister making more than half of the funding decisions on projects which did not meet criteria, whereas in this program every project funded met the criteria.

The issue that the Labor Party is trying to latch onto here, to leap all the way from saying the minister has made decisions and run a process to saying this is somehow a rort, is just the simple fact that the minister has made her own decisions. But I believe that the Australian public expect that we here as elected representatives, and the ministers that are chosen from those elected representatives, are actually put here to make decisions.

We take advice from bodies like Sport Australia and from government departments. They provide worthy advice. They are hardworking officials. But they are not elected representatives and their advice is not there to be rubber stamped, because, if it were, what would we all be here for? Why are we here, then? 'We're not needed! Let's get rid of us! Let's get rid of elections! Let's get rid of all of the crap that the Australian people have to put up with during elections and let's just let the Public Service take charge!'—that is, at its heart, the argument from the Labor Party, that we should do away with the Westminster system and just allow unelected public officials to make decisions.

All that's happened is that the minister has made decisions, using her judgement against criteria that were established under guidelines, about projects which have delivered enormous benefits to sporting clubs all around the country. I don't have time to go through it, but we have already heard in this chamber today how the Labor members of parliament were welcoming those funding recommendations. They were supportive and happy that the minister had taken up their efforts and lobbied for projects. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, said that he was thankful that Minister McKenzie had lobbied for a project in his seat. But now, apparently—eight or nine months later—it was a great sin for Minister McKenzie to be lobbying for that project, because it suits Mr Albanese's political purposes to make that claim.

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