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Wednesday, 15 June 2005
Page: 207

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (5:01 PM) —I wish to pursue the issue raised by the member for Bruce with the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, who is at the table, concerning the allocation of money described in the budget paper Making Australia stronger: delivering our commitments 2005-06 on pages 41 and 42, where there is a list of grants to go to sporting and recreational organisations. That list comprises some 27 grants. The astonishing thing about it is that 16 of the 27 projects which have been approved under this list of successful grants go to just one single federal electorate—the electorate of McEwen. That means that the rest of us in the other 149 electorates around the country got just 11 successful project grants under this particular set of grants which were made during the election period. I would like the minister to explain how any kind of grants program could involve 16 projects going to one electorate and 11 projects going to the whole of the rest of the 149 electorates around Australia and what process the government went through—so what process the minister went through—to produce such an astonishingly skewed outcome.

The second thing I would like the minister to explain to us is how, of these 16 projects which went to the electorate of McEwen, 12 of them happened to be for the same amount—$10,000. This is truly an astonishing coincidence that someone in each of the clubs—the Broadford Bowling Club, the Gisborne Netball Club, the Kilmore Bowling Club, the Macedon Football Club, the Wallan Football Club, the Warburton cricket and football clubs, the Yarra Glen Cricket Club et cetera—woke up one day and said, ‘You know what we really need is $10,000 from the federal government.’ That is astonishing. It is not to be believed that that could have happened. What is clearly the case is that the member for McEwen went around and offered these groups $10,000 a pop. What I want to know and what the people of Australia are entitled to know is on what basis the member for McEwen was able to do this so that the government saw fit to make 12 of these 27 project grants, each of $10,000, go to these particular sporting clubs during an election period.

My further questions are: did the member for McEwen obtain authority from the sports minister before going around and offering $10,000 amounts to each of these groups, because this is clearly what occurred, and when did she obtain this authority? I cannot imagine other government members just walking around promising $10,000 to sporting clubs without having cleared it with the sports minister, so the question is: did she obtain this authority from the sports minister and clear it with the sports minister before she did it? The second thing is: were any other government members of the parliament given this same authority? As the member for Bruce noted, of the remaining 11 projects about six of them were in the electorate of Makin, so it would appear that the member for Makin was in on the deal as well. But the question is: were any other government members given the same authority to go around offering $10,000 amounts to these groups?

This is a very serious matter. It is no way to allocate taxpayers’ money. There appears to me—and I will be happy to be corrected by the minister—to be absolutely no process of advertisement, application or assessment. If this sort of thing were going on in Papua New Guinea or the Solomons, you would have the World Bank or the IMF crying ‘Graft’ and giving them a lecture on governance standards. The idea was to hand out grants to groups during an election campaign with no process, no advertisement, no applications and no assessment on merit. It is astonishing that the Howard government’s standards have sunk so low that it apparently allows one of its members of parliament, and a minister at that, to go around handing out what have all the hallmarks of election bribes, and we are entitled to hear from the minister how it is that she had this authority to hand out these amounts and on what basis the electorate of McEwen got more than half the grants allocated around the whole of Australia.