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Wednesday, 23 June 2021
Page: 140

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (10:11): When the Australian National Audit Office released its pretty damning report into the community sports grants program 18 months ago, finding evidence of distribution bias by the federal government, I was not surprised. But I was angry for those who unfairly missed out, and I was deeply concerned about the consequences. Sadly, my prediction that the government would pull back from sporting infrastructure has come true. There was no $100 million community sports grants program or equivalent in the budget this year, and that, I think, is a great shame.

Many of the sporting facilities in my region are community owned, so for decades they have struggled to source funding to upgrade their infrastructure. I have been to facilities that have buckets under the sink to catch water. Mayo was a safe seat for many decades and didn't attract as many election promises as other electorates. That changed when I was elected, and I have unashamedly advocated for my community. The government has also unashamedly made electoral promises to win back my community, and that is the reality of politics. But this goes to the heart of the problem with the sports rorts scandal.

Election promises of future funding for marginal seats is one thing; tinkering with grant schemes that you advertise as merit based does not wash with the Australian people. Club volunteers put in thousands of hours of work, having the mistaken belief that they would be assessed on merit. Clubs accept that they might miss out, but to find out from the government that you scored quite highly but then you were overruled by the government so they could improve their re-election chances just makes people's blood boil.

A number of the highest-ranking applications received, revealed in a spreadsheet leaked to the ABC in early 2020, were from my electorate, including the applications of the Cherry Gardens Ironbank Recreation Ground, Coromandel Valley Ramblers Cricket Club, Echunga Netball Club, McLaren Vale Football Club, Adelaide Hills Hawks Football Club, Lobethal Tennis Club and, of course, down at Goolwa, the Goolwa District Pony Club. The Goolwa District Pony Club asked for $40,000 to replace an ageing hut. They weren't reaching for the stars; however, they did expect to be treated fairly, and that didn't happen. Their president, Dr James Meyer, was so angry he organised a parliamentary petition calling on the government to immediately fund all the projects assessed as meritorious and recommended by Sport Australia that were dismissed in the final ministerial funding decisions. I echo their call, and I now present this petition to the parliament.

The petition read as follows—

The 'Sports Rorts' saga surrounding the 2018 Community Sport Infrastructure grant program lead to the Senate Select Committee on Administration of Sports Grants. The final report of the Committee has been released with nine sensible recommendations. The recommendations outlined improved communication, transparency & integrity when Government bodies are administering grants. These recommendations were made in response to findings of "overt and organised practice by the Government of inappropriately using Commonwealth grants for partisan political purposes, and a failure to act transparently and accountably in relation to the expenditure of public monies". The recommendations also included that "the Australian Government immediately fund in full all projects that were assessed as meritorious and recommended by Sport Australia, but dismissed in the final ministerial funding decisions". This is vitally important to restore trust and faith in the Australian Government, by the not-for-profit organisations who rely on these programs, to improve the facilities they offer to their members and their communities.

We therefore ask the House to immediately fund in full all projects that were assessed as meritorious and recommended by Sport Australia (from the 2018 Community Sport Infrastructure grant program), but dismissed in the final ministerial funding decisions.

from 325 citizens (Petition No. EN2620)

Petition received.