The involvement of Scott Morrison’s office in the Sports Rorts grants program was on a scale not seen before by the Auditor-General, according to new evidence provided a Senate committee last night.
Scott Morrison claims his only involvement in the Community Sport Infrastructure Grants program was that his office would “provide information based on the representations made to us as every prime minister has always done”.
But Australian National Audit Office officials last night told the Select Committee on Administration of Sports Grants they had never uncovered so much interaction between a Prime Minister’s and Minister’s offices in any previous grants audit.
Across all three rounds of the $100 million program, that interaction included 136 emails between the Prime Minister’s office and the then Minister for Sport’s office, with 15 different versions of the now infamous colour-coded spreadsheet attached.
The ANAO also revealed the Minister’s office prepared talking points for a meeting between Bridget McKenzie and Scott Morrison that occurred on 28 November 2018.
Officials said that under the heading Marginal and Targets, the talking points “set out how many applications were in that cohort, where their scores were in broad terms, how many projects in marginal and target electorates could be funded with the $29.7 million program and then how many projects in marginal and targeted electorates could be funded with a $100 million program”.
Mr Brian Boyd, Executive Director, Performance Audit Services Group told the committee: “The talking points document which was prepared for the purpose of the discussion between the Minister and the Prime Minister – that’s what it talked off, is how many additional projects in marginal and target electorates could be funded, not in terms of other things.”
But the committee heard Scott Morrison’s wasn’t just listening to Bridget McKenzie’s pork-barrelling plans.
ANAO evidence shows he was an active participant in the plotting, with the PMO on 4 March asking the Minister’s office for “a list of unfunded CSI projects as soon as possible, as well as an indication of what another round of $30 million would look like and any additional projects you’ve been contacted about by MPs and Senators”.
Earlier, the ANAO revealed the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Philip Gaetjens did not ask for information about the grants program until 28 January despite the PM referring Senator McKenzie’s handling of the program to his former Chief of Staff on 17 January.
The Senate committee inquiry is revealing what Scott Morrison has always been trying to hide – that he was in the Sports Rorts scandal up to his neck from the start.