Nearly eight months after the Australian National Audit Office’s damning report into the Morrison Government’s sports rorts scandal, the cover up continues.
Last week Sport Australia told the Select Committee on Administration of Sports Grants that it would not provide legal advice it received on whether the then Minister had the authority to choose her own grant recipients in marginal and target seats.
In earlier hearings, Sport Australia had said it would provide the legal advice to the committee but now can’t because Minister for Sport Richard Colbeck has made a claim for public interest immunity.
Nothing could be more in the public interest than whether a Minister had the legal authority to funnel millions of taxpayers’ dollars into seats the government needed to win the 2019 election.
At Senate Estimates in March, Minister Colbeck admitted he’d been advised by staff from Scott Morrison’s office before appearing to answer questions about the sports rorts scandal, including an adviser identified as having played a role in the rort.
He also revealed responses to questions on notice from agencies including Sport Australia would go through his office before being provided to committees.
Ever since, repeated requests for documents and communications at the heart of the Morrison government’s pork barrelling plans have been withheld from the scrutiny of the committee and the public.
Several questions on notice remain unanswered despite Sport Australia believing it had responded. We can only assume the responses are sitting on the Minister’s desk.
The hearing also heard that 70 per cent of grant funding providing to sports projects through the Community Development Grants program went to Coalition-held seats and all but one of the grants to non-Coalition seats were made to marginal seats.
That’s $45 million more in rorts from another program, on top of the $100 million Community Sport Infrastructure Grants program and the $150 million so-called ‘Female Facilities & Water Safety Stream’.
If there’s one thing the Morrison Government likes more than rorting sports grants, it’s a cover-up.
At a time when the Minister for Aged Care, Youth and Sport should be focused on the COVID-19 crisis, he’s instead making claims of public interest immunity to protect Scott Morrison.
The Senate Select Committee on Administration of Sports Grants will continue to investigate the sports rorts scandal.
It’s past time for the Morrison Government to show some accountability, cooperate and be transparent.