Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

McKenzie under investigation over sports grants

Prime Minster Scott Morrison's top public servant will investigate if embattled cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie breached ministerial standards in the deepening sports grant scandal.

Mr Morrison referred the Auditor-General's scathing report into the $100m controversial community sport infrastructure program to Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens last Friday.

Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie is under pressure to resign.
Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie is under pressure to resign.

Senator McKenzie's awarding of $35,980 to the Wangaratta clay target club under the program when she was a member of the organisation will also be scrutinised.

The damning report found Senator McKenzie ignored Sport Australia's advice on which organisations should get grants, with 73 per cent of the projects not recommended by the agency.

In a statement, the Prime Minister's office said Mr Morrison had referred the auditor-general's scathing report to Mr Gaetjens on Friday.

"The prime minister is awaiting the secretary's advice and will continue to follow due process. The matters raised in the media today have also been referred," a spokesman said.

The pressure on Senator McKenzie intensified today after it emerged she awarded a $36,000 grant to a Victorian shooting club she is a member of in February Senator McKenzie failed to disclose she was a member of the club when her register of interests was last updated on November 21.

Bridget McKenzie pictured with Peter Dutton on a dairy farm in December. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Bridget McKenzie pictured with Peter Dutton on a dairy farm in December. Picture: Steve Pohlner

A spokeswoman for Senator McKenzie said the Wangaratta Clay Target Club membership was a gift worth less than $300, making a declaration to the Senate unnecessary.

"Round-two funding became available in December 2018 at MYEFO and funding decisions were made from that time," the spokeswoman said.

Philip Gaetjens will investigate the claims. Picture: Kym Smith
Philip Gaetjens will investigate the claims. Picture: Kym Smith

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese ramped up calls for the minister to be dumped.

"This is a rort. Bridget McKenzie must resign - and if she won't, Scott Morrison must sack her," he said.

But Attorney-General Christian Porter, who is looking at legal questions raised by the auditor-general, defended having ministerial oversight on grant programs. "What I fundamentally don't accept is that ministers should not be involved in final approval for projects. That's their job," he told 6PR radio. He said his Perth electorate, which was a marginal seat before the election, received three grants under the scheme.

Health Minister Greg Hunt was unable to explain why a pony club in his electorate needed a $30,000 grant two years after receiving $8000. A video on social media also shows a yacht club member in his electorate thanking Mr Hunt after the organisation received more than $170,000 through the scheme.

"Thanks Sports Australia and your office in particular because I know there's been a little bit of work behind-the-scenes on your behalf to support our club and thank you very much for that," a club member said to Mr Hunt. The minister made no apology for "advocating for projects" in his electorate and said there was no reason for Senator McKenzie to resign.


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