Latest ‘outrageous’ revelation in grants scandal

ONE of the few grants that went to a Labor seat in southeast Queensland was actually announced by the neighbouring Liberal National MP - without the sitting member knowing.

It is the latest development in the $100 million sports grant scandal, which has put increasing pressure on deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie to be sacked.

There remains unrest within Coalition ranks that the affair has been allowed to drag on into its third week, while Senator McKenzie's future rests on a report from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet due any day.

 

A screen grab of Senator Bridget McKenzie with Luke Howarth announcing funding for the Sandgate Hawks football club in Lilley. Source: Facebook
A screen grab of Senator Bridget McKenzie with Luke Howarth announcing funding for the Sandgate Hawks football club in Lilley. Source: Facebook

Sandgate Hawks football club, which in the electorate of Lilley, received $300,000 on in December 2018 for an upgrade to its indoor training centre and change rooms.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had visited the club six weeks prior to the grant being announced, hosting a private function during his four-day bus tour of Queensland.

In a video posted online, then sport minister Senator McKenzie refers to Luke Howarth as the local member.

It has raised more questions over the political way the grants were run, after the auditor-general found there was a "bias" towards marginal seats targeted by the Coalition.

While the seat is in Lilley, then held by outgoing Labor MP Wayne Swan, the funding was announced by Luke Howarth, LNP member for the neighbouring electorate of Petrie, one of the most marginal in the country.

Former member for Lilley Wayne Swan says the sports grant scandal has been outrageous..
Former member for Lilley Wayne Swan says the sports grant scandal has been outrageous..

Mr Swan said it was outrageous he was never told about the grant going to the club in his area.

"They've been doing this across a range of areas; this is just the most blatant," he said.

"It just demonstrates that the program wasn't run according to criteria.

"It's an insult to people who put hard work into preparing submissions to find out they weren't really considered."

But Mr Howarth said it's was a fact marginal seats got more, and that the Hawks received the money because he "got off my arse and told them about it".

"The Hawks aren't in my electorate, but I was doing the job of Wayne Swan," he said.

"If you're a good member you're in the ear of the minister all the time.

"People in my electorate know my sporting clubs get funding and I will continue to advocate for it."

The LNP's candidate for Lilley at the time, Jim Liu, who quietly dropped out of the race a month after the grant was announced, was not at the announcement.

Mr Morrison has distanced himself from any involvement in the sports grant scandal, while denying there was political motivation behind the scheme.


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