16 January 2020

When Liberal candidate Georgina Downer turned up to present a giant Liberal-branded cheque to a bowling club, it prompted an inquiry by the Australian National Audit Office into the administration of the Community Sport Infrastructure Program by minister Bridget McKenzie — and the report is damning. Disregarding the formal criteria, her office instead used their own pork-barrelling criteria to make decisions: “The award of funding reflected the approach documented by the Minister’s Office of focusing on ‘marginal’ electorates held by the Coalition as well as those electorates held by other parties or independent members that were to be ‘targeted’ by the Coalition at the 2019 Election. … The significant majority of [unmeritorious] applications (71 per cent of the number of applications and 74 per cent of the funding) were in Coalition electorates or ‘targeted’ electorates.” Worst of all — contrary to McKenzie’s claim that “no rules were broken” — the whole plot was illegal: “Throughout the granting process all parties acted as if the Minister was able to be the approver. No section 11 directions were issued to Sport Australia in 2018–19. In the absence of a section 11 direction, there was no legal authority evident to the ANAO under which the Minister was able to be the approver of CSIG program grants to be paid from the money of Sport Australia.” Heads should roll.