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Thursday, 3 February 1994
Page: 380

Senator KNOWLES (5.31 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

The annual report of the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories raises again the issue of the Kelly sports grants affair and this government's continuing manipulation and abuse of the public purse. I think the shabbiest thing about this whole sports grants affair is that the government has been exposed as trying to bribe Australians with their own money. That is the saddest part of all. In fact, it is the most flagrant display of public vote buying ever seen in Australia. It is also a tale of flagrant ministerial abuse of responsibility by the honourable member for Canberra, Mrs Kelly, which has gone shamefully unchecked by the government.

  I spoke at lunchtime on another element of this particular rort. Senator Michael Baume drew to my attention the fact that he had raised this issue some two years ago and yet nothing has ever been done about it. The fact that Labor was twice as generous in handing out its taxpayer-funded grants in its own seats as it was to the marginal seats held by the coalition smacks at the very least of gross mishandling of taxpayers' money.

  Mrs Kelly became a political philanthropist in her own electorate. The only problem was that she was giving away the public's money—money that, according to the sports grants criteria, should have been spent in other seats. Labor seats in Western Australia are among those at the end of this taxpayer-funded vote buying exercise. The federal seats of Perth and Swan—occupied by the former prime ministerial adviser and now prime ministerial aspirant, Stephen Smith, and Kim Beazley, the Minister for Finance and honourable member for Swan—came in for some extra-generous funding.

  The Auditor-General's report found that an incredible $604,635 went into the seat of Perth and $542,562 into Swan. On the basis of these grants, it cost the government a scandalous $1,845.44 per winning vote in Swan and $72.22 per winning vote in Perth. I should not say that it cost the government—it cost taxpayers. It was their money. It cost $1,800 to win a vote in Swan and $72 to win a vote in Perth. In the seat held by the Assistant Treasurer, George Gear, the Kelly sports grants factor was worth a massive $406,592, leaving the taxpayer with a bill of $1,666.36 per winning vote.

  There is no shame among members of the Labor party. They have no shame whatsoever that they can fork out that sort of money. Former Labor Minister Wendy Fatin's seat of Brand received grants totalling $432,637—a cost of $77.80 per winning vote. Between Western Australia's marginal seats of Brand, Canning, Swan and Perth, more than $19 million was spent on shoring up Labor stalwarts, including Mr Beazley, Mr Gear, Mrs Fatin and Mr Smith. On the other hand, in the seat of Stirling—which was written off by many Labor pundits before the last election—only $80,000 was outlaid by the government in sports grants. The government made a sort of halfway bet, I suppose; knowing that it was going to lose, it did not bother to put much into that seat. In the seat of Cowan, which Labor had also all but conceded it would lose, only $30,000 was spent. This compares with $45,000 which was spent on one project alone in Mrs Kelly's electorate.

  Going on figures from Mrs Kelly's own electorate, a sports club or an organisation of which the minister was a member, was in for a funding bonanza. Mrs Kelly made it quite clear that a grant of $100,000 was nothing for her. Of course, honourable senators will have guessed that, as it turned out, Mrs Kelly is a member of a number of these organisations.

  The Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories must follow the lead of her colleague the former Minister for Industry, Technology and Regional Development and resign. She should have done it months ago. She has chosen not to, but this just comes out in how much she has rorted. We have only scratched the surface of this affair, which promises to continue to reveal some startling facts.