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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3600

Senator KEMP (6:52 PM) —I rise to speak on the motion that was moved by Senator Bernardi. This is an extraordinary story, I have to say. There is an issue that has emerged. Prior to the election—in fact, for the 12 to 18 months prior to the election—Lindsay Tanner and Mr Albanese spent a great deal of time criticising the Howard government for our pre-election commitments, and some very unkind comments were made. What we did not actually know at that time was that, while Messrs Tanner and Albanese were attacking the Howard government on our pre-election commitments, they were planning the largest pork barrel in Australian history. What Senator Bernardi has indicated is that already we have found some 116 sporting grants to sporting bodies that were made in the run-up to the last election, which are valued at over $100 million.

Senator Abetz —How much?

Senator KEMP —One hundred million dollars. I have a list here which I think establishes the point I have made. I seek leave to have this incorporated in Hansard. I have shown the list to the Labor Party.

Senator Wortley —We have not had the opportunity to see it.

Leave not granted.

Senator KEMP —This is again totally in line with the policy of trying to hide these grants.

Senator McLucas interjecting—

Senator KEMP —Senator, a list of the grants was shown to the Labor Party. I asked whether this list could be incorporated in Hansard. I made it clear that the list was prepared by my office. Once again, the Labor Party has refused to allow this information to be put on the public record. As I said, while the Howard government were being attacked for what was allegedly pork-barrelling, we did not know that the Labor Party were preparing the largest pork barrel in Australian history. I made the point that all we are doing is speaking about sporting grants. We are not speaking about the vast range of other grants that the Labor Party made in the course of the election. I think Minister Ellis has been put in a very difficult position. I believe her to be a conscientious minister, a minister who is seeking to work hard on behalf of the sporting community, and I make no attack on Minister Ellis in that regard. Minister Ellis has been asked by the machine men, by people in the PM’s office and presumably by people in Tanner’s office to attempt to cover up the vast range of pork-barrelling which occurred in the sporting area.

The Labor Party has a rather unfortunate history in this regard. Remember that then minister for sport, Ros Kelly, was sacked over what is now termed sports rorts 1. In its final phase, it totalled, I think, about $30 million. Contrast the $30 million that Ros Kelly was sacked for with this $100 million plus—and growing almost daily as we get new figures in to show the large scale of grants. It is not for me really to advise Minister Ellis, but my view would be this: Tanner and Albanese prepared a major pork-barrelling exercise. They should wear the odium of it. I do not think Minister Ellis should wear the odium of it. I do not think that the advisers to Minister Ellis are aware of just what powers this Senate has. I suspect they are expert in the ways of the other place—possibly some of them have come from state arenas—but they are now dealing with the Senate. The Senate has very extensive powers to obtain information and extensive powers to make sure that this is debated. Our procedures would allow this to be debated virtually every day in this chamber as the information came to hand.

I shall be leaving the Senate, so I shall not be leading that debate or taking part, but I suspect I am not letting any secrets out of the bag when I say that Senator Bernardi will be very active over the break. Senator Bernardi will be contacting a lot of organisations over the break. I can perhaps share with the Senate some of the methods that he will be using. He will be speaking to organisations close to those bodies which have received grants but did not receive grants themselves. I suspect that, over the next three months, a great deal more information will be obtained. I just want to state again what I believe is the best advice for Minister Ellis: simply table the list of grants which she has been asked to administer.

We are not interested, really, in the argument that these grants are going to be administered correctly, because we believe they will be. Any government would be foolish not to make sure that the grants were administered in an effective way. The big issue is this, and I think people have to understand it: a massive degree of pork-barrelling has occurred—

Senator Bernardi —The largest in history.

Senator KEMP —probably the largest that we have ever seen. The second thing is that there is a huge effort to have it covered up. During the estimates process I asked some senior public servants if we could have a list of the election commitments that were being administered by their department. That was a very straightforward question. To be quite frank, I was embarrassed for the senior public servants who had to fend off these questions. And I say to the Labor Party: the contempt that the public service must start to feel when they are asked to take part in a Labor Party cover-up should not be underestimated. You cannot treat people in this fashion. You cannot ask senior public servants—secretaries of departments—to attempt to obfuscate and to pretend that they have not got lists of the election commitments which they are being asked to administer. It is not right to require that of senior people in the public service. I have to say that it is yet another example of how Labor is failing in its relations with the Australian Public Service.

My argument is simply this: all of us know that pork-barrelling occurred to an extraordinary extent during the last election. We know it occurred in the area of sports. I have a list here which I have been prevented by Senator Wortley from tabling. I do not want Senator Wortley to take part in a cover-up. That would be most unfortunate. I do think that it is important that the public know precisely what has occurred under the Labor Party, and I make it very clear to the chamber that I have no doubt that this matter is going to be vigorously pursued by my colleagues in the days, the weeks and the months to come.