Labor has launched a senate inquiry into the so-called sports rorts affair. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

Infrastructure

Labor demands money for sport grant losers

2020-02-06 16:40:05

The sports rorts saga is set to drag on after Labor clinched support to put the controversial grants scheme under the blowtorch.

A Senate select committee will examine the $100 million program which the auditor-general found favoured marginal and targeted seats before the election.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is continuing to defend the program from accusations of political bias after his department head cleared it.

“The minister made decisions, all eligible projects, and made the final decisions as was her authority under the program,” he told parliament on Wednesday.

Labor wants projects recommended by Sport Australia but rejected by former sports minister Bridget McKenzie to be given money.

“I’ll be working with the treasurer as we prepare for this year’s budget to see how we can provide further support for this important infrastructure that brings communities together,” Mr Morrison said.

In stark contrast to the auditor-general, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens produced a separate report that supposedly found the scheme was above board.

The report has not been made public.

Senator McKenzie quit cabinet after Mr Gaetjens found she broke ministerial rules in awarding two grants to shooting clubs she didn’t disclose membership of.

Labor’s public service spokeswoman Katy Gallagher launched an extraordinary attack on Mr Gaetjens, questioning his independence.

Mr Gaetjens was Mr Morrison’s former chief of staff and worked for almost a decade in the same role for another Liberal treasurer, Peter Costello.

“Is he the head of the Australian Public Service or is he Mr Morrison’s chief servant?” Senator Gallagher told parliament.

She said the only way to prove his suitability for the job was to release the report.

“Is he Mr Morrison’s head butler serving up cooked-up political fixes when the bell rings?”

Mr Gaetjens said through a spokesperson earlier this week he acted impartially and professionally.

Liberal frontbencher Zed Seselja slammed Senator Gallagher’s “grubby” and “disgusting” attack.

“That was beneath you, Senator Gallagher. Mr Gaetjens was on your hit list and you didn’t get to take him out because the Australian people rejected your agenda.”

Labor planned to sack Mr Gaetjens if it won the election.

The senate inquiry will investigate the role of the prime minister and deputy prime minister’s offices in the program.

It is expected to hear from clubs that missed out on funding and call on ministerial advisers to give evidence.

Labor, the Greens and independent Jacqui Lambie have ordered a range of documents relating to the scheme be tabled in the upper house.