Government Funding Announcement is Fake News

The Morrison Government has been exposed for rushing funding decisions to buy political support from One Nation.

In the days before the Liberal Party Leadership spill One Nation Senator Peter Georgiou was given the go-ahead to announce a $3 million grant for a football club that hadn’t even been approved.

The Morrison Governments rushed and chaotic decision making process was revealed at Senate Estimates hearings in Canberra last week. 

Departmental officers admitted the controversial funding of $3 million pledged for Floreat Athena Football Club is not secured and no assessment of the project has yet been done.

Labor has previously raised a number of concerns about how the August announcement of funding by the Morrison Government came to be made by One Nation Senator Peter Georgiou – Story here - and now even more questions arise.

Under questioning by Labor Senator Gallacher, Departmental officers revealed there is in fact no decision to provide any funding for the club at this point.

Ms Zielke: 'Announced' is not the right language there. There hasn't been an assessment provided to the minister on value for money as yet. An agreement is not issued to the proponents until after the minister has taken a decision in relation to that value-for-money assessment. So it's not contracted at this stage.

Senator GALLACHER: I quote: “A $3 million Federal Government grant for a WA soccer club to upgrade its home ground has left the club cheering but triggered a war of words between the stadium's landlord and a One Nation senator”. So the funding package was announced. What's the status of the funding? Is it approved or not?

Ms Zielke: It has not been contracted. A value-for-money assessment has not been undertaken. The announcement in relation to the grant is something the department wasn't involved in.

Senator GALLACHER: I'm just trying to follow logically from the ANAO report, and then I thought I heard there was an assessment that goes to the minister saying that it's all going to be good, because you don't knock anything back. Is this the first one that's been challenged?

Ms Wieland: No. This program is an election commitments program. What we've tried to explain is that announcements are made by incoming governments and, once those announcements are made, the department then works with the proponent to gather sufficient information to provide a recommendation to the minister to approve that grant.

Senator GALLACHER: That didn't happen? I'm trying to get the—

Ms Wieland: We're at the early stage of the process. There was an announcement.

Senator GALLACHER: So, despite the fact that it's been announced by someone and it's been argued about by the owner of the land and the club, it's not official yet? There's no $3 million here?

MS WIELAND: There's no decision taken to provide that funding at this point. It's been announced but not decided. We have not entered into a funding agreement.

This is evidence the Liberal Government are making reckless funding announcements, using taxpayer funds for political advantage and without any due diligence.

Announcements like this raise great uncertainty for both funding recipients and their community as despite the fanfare, the promised funding may not proceed.

Despite having the full resources of government available to them, Liberal Ministers are prepared to  bypass proper process and give the green light to announce random funding without any assessment by the Department and in this case, even without discussing it with the groups set to receive the funding.

The  Morrison Government now needs to make it clear – was Senator Georgiou speaking on behalf of the Turnbull Government when he made the announcement?. Is the announcement still backed by the Morrison Government?