After more than a year of zero transparency from the Morrison Government on Sports Rorts, former Minister Bridget McKenzie finally fronted the Senate inquiry investigating the scandal on Friday.
It took an unprecedented order of the Senate to get Senator McKenzie to appear, despite her assertions that she had cooperated.
It is a year today since the Australian National Audit Office revealed emails back and forth between the former Minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s Office, attaching various versions of the now infamous colour-coded spreadsheets that identified whether project applications were in marginal or target seats.
Ever since then, the Morrison Government has sought to hinder the Senate investigation.
It has redacted entire documents and claimed public interest immunity on the laughable basis it’s protecting the privacy of grassroots sports clubs that it ripped off through its rorting.
Scott Morrison made Senator McKenzie a scapegoat when his former Chief of Staff found she’d breached his so-called ‘Ministerial Standards’.
The cover-up is designed to protect the Prime Minister and shield his office from proper scrutiny.
We know the Prime Minister’s Office told Senator McKenzie’s office that “the Prime Minister had not had a chance to look at” a list of potential Round 2 grantees.
What was the Prime Minister doing looking a short-list, long before the Minister approved the grants, unless he had a say in funding?
Asked by Labor Senator Nita Green yesterday whether she knew Mr Morrison was looking at project lists, Senator McKenzie said “no, I didn’t”.
Senator McKenzie told the committee there was “widespread confusion about the spreadsheets and versions of the spreadsheets” and that “clearly the ANAO is in the best position to describe those”.
The ANAO is in the best position because only it and the government have access to all the spreadsheets. The ANAO told the committee a year ago that a spreadsheet that listed “the electorate status” of projects as “marginal, targeted and blank” was the one referred to as “the colour coded sheet”.
But yesterday, Senator McKenzie claimed: “there was a separate colour-coded spreadsheet, which specified electorate and party but didn’t go to target or marginal status and that was attached to the decision brief I signed”.
There’s a simple way to clear up confusion about various versions of the Morrison Government colour-coded pork-barrelling plot – end the cover-up and release all of them, unredacted.
Senator McKenzie said she was “absolutely ruling out the Prime Minister’s office” being involved in changing a list of approved grants but admitted she had absolutely no idea who did and was “assuming it was someone in my office”.
It seems there is much Senator McKenzie doesn’t know about the handling of a program she claims to take full responsibility for, then and now.
Apparently, Scott Morrison’s pork-barrels just rolled over her desk without her noticing.