Watch Matt's speech here
Mr KEOGH (Burt) (15:37): It's great to see that the government's defence of its sports rorts program fundamentally comes down to, 'Somebody else did it too!' Putting aside the fact that everything you just said is wrong, your defence effectively amounts to, 'Other people have done it.' You're admitting your own problem.
Let's look at what this MPI boils down to. It is really interesting to see that the minister opposite at the table has decided to oppose, effectively, a proposition that government should apply the highest standards of due process and probity to its spending decisions. He's then gone on and proceeded to rattle off a number of spending amounts in programs, the majority of which are very meritorious. In fact, the sports program, when you read it as a headline number and what they were supposed to be funding, is very meritorious, but the projects that were funded were not meritorious. That's the fundamental program that we've got. In fact, some of them were not even eligible to receive the funding.
I go to this point because the member opposite did. He talks about the very significant and important funding that is going to support those in need of drought relief and fire relief. It is important that those funds are allocated; it is important that those funds are there. But what's actually important is that the funds flow to the people who need them. I have met and spoken with those businesses affected by the bushfires in the Blue Mountains and elsewhere in New South Wales. I have found that businesses that need access to loan funds to get through this period where they've had a decline in their business—as tourists are not going to those areas—are not getting the help that they need. They're not getting the money from the government. It's taking weeks for applications to even be acknowledged. Then further information is required. That money is not flowing to those people. It's great that you mentioned a headline figure. We completely support that idea. But, when it comes to due process and making sure that the money does what it's designed to do, you're not actually delivering on that for the Australian people. We want to see that system work, but it's not happening.
When it comes to the high standards that we would expect, it's not just 'we' the opposition, it's 'we' the Australian people. We want to see not only transparent guidelines and a fair process but also decision-makers following those guidelines. There's an idea! How about ministers accept the advice about programs, not only that they're meritorious—that'd be a good start—but that they're actually eligible for the money that is supposed to be flowing to those organisations.
Regarding sports rorts 1—and isn't it amazing that we have to give version numbers now because we're into multiple sports rorts under this government—the $100,000 Community Sport Infrastructure Grants Program which was supposed to be assessed meritoriously and was supposed to help community sports programs around the country, I just want to read some of the observations that the ANAO made, because it's really, really important:
… the Minister's Office used the spreadsheets ... to undertake a parallel assessment process as a basis for the Minister deciding which projects should be funded with additional analysis on 'marginal' electorates held by the Coalition as well as those electorates not held by the Coalition that were to be 'targeted' in the 2019 Election …
When it comes to looking at guidelines and meritorious programs and making sure that people receive the benefit of the doubt, I elucidate this from the submission of the City of Gosnells in the electorate of Burt, my electorate, for a program that they applied for—a program that was ranked in the top 50 meritorious sport grants by Sport Australia—which did not receive money because of decisions made by this government. This should ring in your ears. The city's application presented over 17 pages of information and six supporting documents. It's estimated the application took over 80 hours to prepare. The City of Gosnells does give you the benefit of the doubt, government, because they say they 'understand that the federal minister may apply some discretion in decision-making. However, if funding bodies require detailed and professional applications, the City would expect professional and objective decision-making.' Well, it appears that, under this government, the only objective of their decision-making was to rort the system so that they could see themselves win an election and return to power. That was the only objective that was being pursued, and not just by the sports minister at the time but, quite clearly, by the Prime Minister's office.
When you've got 136 emails in six months about this program, when you are seeking approval from the Prime Minister about where money will be allocated the day before the election and then approval is given after the election is called, it's a rort.