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Wednesday, 2 February 1994
Page: 209


Senator TIERNEY (3.22 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Health (Senator Richardson) to a question without notice asked by Senator Tierney this day, relating to the allocation of sports funding.

Over the last few months the sports rorts affair has unravelled more and more as cases have come to light around Australia of the absurd allocation of taxpayers' money to the extent of $30 million. There was the case in East Maitland of a cricket club which had as one of its main contenders Mr Tony Keating, who is an aspirant to the seat of Maitland. The sheer incompetence of the application put forward by his club is only now really coming out. The club had applied for the money for six years. One could ask why it was constantly knocked back for six years and why, suddenly, it was granted just before the last March election? It was obviously granted because it was part of Minister Kelly's pork-barrelling exercise around New South Wales, in particular in the marginal seats, Paterson being the most marginal of all.

  The sheer incompetence of the way in which this money was handed out is only now coming to light in the local newspapers. In the Maitland Mercury last week these headlines appeared: `Delay could cost big grant—Toxic tar fear hits cricketers'; `Contamination scare'; `Council may seek land test "compo"'.

  What has come out of this—and it is particularly important in light of what Minister Kelly has just admitted about the paperwork, or lack of it, on this matter—is that, before $49,000 in public money was handed out, there was no testing at all of the worthiness of this proposal. All they had was an open ground, a ground that had formerly been a gas works site. What has now come to light is that there is an enormous amount of toxic tar on this site. Because of the delay caused by the environmental problems and the rather curious fact that there was no development application or building application, this has created terrific delays. It seems that what will happen is that Maitland will lose this money.

  This afternoon the minister, in a rather silly way, was trying to make out that it was good that Maitland had got the money. The whole point is that, as the headlines have said, the delay could cost the grant. Maitland will probably not get the money. We have had the absurd spectacle in the local region of Bob Horne, the local member, proudly boasting, `I will pork-barrel for my area. I will get anything I can for my area', which totally misses the point. The point is that we should try to get money for our area, but that money should go to worthwhile and sound projects that have gone through the proper procedures. Through the silly actions and sheer incompetence of Bob Horne and his staffer Tony Keating, the pretender for the seat of Maitland, they are going to lose a grant for this city. I challenge Mr Horne and Mr Keating to defend this action in light of the way they have incompetently handled this grant.

  I also challenge Minister Kelly to tell the parliament how much consideration she gave to this grant. Picture the scene: it is before the 1993 election. Everyone is rushing around electioneering. Two thousand applications for sports grants arrive on Minister Kelly's desk. Is she seriously asking the parliament to believe that she considered all these sports grants in detail? Is she seriously asking us to believe that she could even do that without any paperwork? It is blatantly obvious that without a DA, a BA and environmental approval there was no paperwork. I think this is yet another example of the incompetence of this government, this minister and local members in the Hunter Valley.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.