The Prime Minister has knocked back suggestions from the Opposition that he was deeply involved in the $100 million sports rorts saga, arguing any “authority” given by him did not relate to picking which clubs received public funds.
- Mr Morrison said the only authorisation Senator Bridget McKenzie sought was about public announcements
- He maintained in Parliament that Senator McKenzie was responsible for awarding grants
- Labor says audit office documents suggest Mr Morrison was involved in selecting programs that won funding
Last week, Labor leapt upon details released by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) of emails between the offices of Scott Morrison and then sports minister Bridget McKenzie, referring to the Prime Minister wanting to personally look over the list of clubs receiving money from the $100 million fund.
The emails also included references to coordinating the rollout of the program with the Coalition’s campaign headquarters, and that Senator McKenzie would seek “authority” on the approved projects from the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly denied suggestions he was involved in selecting which clubs successfully applied for funding under the much-maligned scheme, which the ANAO said was politically biased.
In Question Time, Mr Morrison said he had already addressed the issue repeatedly.
“The authority for making the decisions in relation to that program was the minister for sport,” the Prime Minister told the House of Representatives.
“It may be inconvenient for the Opposition that that is the fact.
The Federal Opposition has repeatedly accused the Coalition of using the program as an election slush fund, citing the ANAO’s finding that worthy clubs were overlooked in favour of applicants in marginal Coalition seats.
On Monday, the Prime Minister dismissed questions about the emails.
“It’s good to see that the Canberra press gallery is back to politics as usual with Parliament coming back,” he said, after being asked about the emails during a press conference.
Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles said Mr Morrison’s latest explanation was not good enough and said he could not use the coronavirus crisis as a shield for avoiding accountability on other matters.
“I think there is considerable interest in the expenditure of public money, and the extraordinary way in which that money was spent in the lead up to that election, and the biased way in which this particular program was allocated,” he said.
“There are real questions about who was the decision-maker in all this.”