Minister’s future hangs on thread after sports scandal
NATIONALS deputy leader Bridget McKenzie's future is teetering on the balance, with her colleagues bracing for fallout from the damning $100 million sporting grants scandal.
An independent audit found extreme pork barrelling going towards marginal seats the Coalition was targeting and questioned the "legal authority" behind the Minister's involvement.
Of the $15 million in grants Queensland sporting clubs received, almost $10 million went to those in marginal seats, analysis by The Courier-Mail found.
Marginal seats like Dawson, Longman, Flynn, Moreton, Herbert and Capricornia were among the seats to share in the spoils.
In one case, a Sunnybank soccer club in a marginal Labor electorate was awarded the grant just weeks before the election, but the LNP candidate rather than the sitting member was given the heads up to announce the windfall.
Labor's sports spokesman Don Farrell said it was "shocking betrayal" that made it impossible for clubs to believe their applications would be judged on merit.
The then-Sports Minister Senator McKenzie defended the grants process, saying it was within the rules and even "reverse pork barrelling".
But she did not rule out doing the same thing again.
"I will continue to use taxpayer funds appropriately and within the guidelines," she said.
Senator McKenzie's position was already precarious, with talk of a spill over her handling of the dairy code last year narrowly averted.
The report had been a ticking time bomb, with MPs knowing it was coming for weeks and waiting to see how it went off.
"People have been talking about this for weeks and what it will do," one MP said.
Nationals MPs yesterday said they would be watching closely the fallout from the latest scandal.
There are suggestions if it takes hold, it could play well for Queensland, with David Littleproud touted as a possible replacement deputy leader waiting in the wings.
Sunnybank Saints Soccer Club were notified by email by Sports Australia on April 23, weeks before an election, that they were successful in their grant application.
They were soon after contacted by the office of the LNP's Moreton candidate, Brisbane City councillor Angela Owen, seeking a photo opportunity to announce the grant - before sitting Labor Member Graham Perrett had been notified.
Mr Perrett said he was pleased the club received the $135,000 grant but disappointed the LNP played politics.
"It's disappointing to see the LNP candidate was involved," he said.
Cr Owen was contacted for comment.
It mirrored a similar stunt in Adelaide when Liberal candidate Georgina Downer, daughter of former Minister Alexander Downer, was photographed handing over a novelty cheque to a sporting club under the same program.
While Labor called for Senator McKenzie to step down, Nationals Leader Michael McCormack said she had his "full support".
"I believe the outcomes delivered in her capacity as sports minister have made a significant difference to the recipient communities," he said.
BY THE NUMBERS
■ 117 Community Sport Infrastructure grants given in Queensland
■ 47 in marginal seats
■ Of $15.15m given out, $9.6m went to those 47 seats
■ Marginal (less than 5%) seats that received cash: Bonner, Capricornia, Dawson, Dickson, Flynn, Forde, Griffith Herbert, Leichhardt, Lilley, Moreton, Petrie
■ $500,000 grants to clubs in Herbert, Petrie, Longman, Forde, Dawson, Fisher, Brisbane, Blair, Ryan
■ 684 grants found to be "not consistent with the assessed merit of applications".