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Speech: Sports Rorts

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 12 Feb 2020

I rise this morning to note this government's disturbing and frankly despicable attempts to avoid transparency and to shirk accountability. Trust amongst people in our democracy is at the lowest it has ever been. Democratic satisfaction has actually plummeted in the last decade from 86 per cent in 2007 to just 40 per cent in 2018. I can bet that if we asked the community right now how much they trust democracy in Australia, it would be in freefall thanks to this Liberal-National government. No amount of spin that Prime Minister Scott Morrison from marketing does will change that, because that is the reality. That is the truth, and that is absolutely shameful.

Rule No. 1 for the Liberals and Nationals in politics is that there are always more sports grants to rort. The community might be forgiven for thinking that $100 million in grants allocated to marginal seats with a colour-coded spreadsheet would be as bad as it would get. But of course it never is with this government; there's always worse to come. The next revelation was the rorting of the $150 million. That was money intended for women's sports programs that instead found its way to seats the government was desperate to hang onto.

In Port Macquarie, which used to be my home and is in my home state of New South Wales, the government were so desperate to pork barrel their way into an election win that they completely ignored the community and the local council and promised them $4.5 million for a pool that they did not want and which the government knew was never likely to be built. This is perfect material for shows like Utopia on ABC. It would be funny if it weren't this serious. Robbing communities of sports facilities and upgrades that they desperately need, and then using that public money to win elections frankly makes me cry rather than laugh.

All this government can do is this corruption of public money and covering up. They do not even have the guts to own up to what they have done and—maybe this is a very foreign concept to them—perhaps apologise for it and make up for it. Not this government. It should be an essential principle of our work here that communities and local councils should not be ignored in planning. It might sound like a cliche, but it is true that they are the voice of the community, they are the closest to the community. The fact that this government has done that shows that the Liberal-Nationals have an absolute contempt for the community.

This contempt doesn't just stop at sports rorts. There is a long history of rorting parliamentary entitlements, the rorting of grant announcement processes for political purposes, and the shameless rorting of public funds that subsidises the coal, gas and oil giants that are fuelling the climate crisis we are currently in. Even before the sports rorts scandal forced her resignation as minister, Senator McKenzie asked the Department of Health to fund a $165,000 study into her favourite hobby, shooting. She asked the Department of Health to divert funds from their important work in order to commission an entire report aimed at nothing other than making the case for recreational hunting and shooting. My order for the production of documents that this chamber passed last week requires the government to reveal her role in this waste of funds. It was due today, but obviously it's been delayed until tomorrow. We'll wait and to see if it ever comes to the table in this chamber.

Just as they're avoiding the release of the Gaetjens report, they are stalling over the handling of emails from Senator McKenzie that would show exactly her involvement in this report, and that is a complete disgrace. At the end of the day, though, it is not just Senator McKenzie who's involved in this. The buck really does stop with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. It is he who has to own up, front up and tell us all what he and his government have been up to, what he and his government are trying to cover up now. Nothing less will satisfy this chamber and nothing less will satisfy the community outside of this chamber.

The shameless Morrison government is rotten to its core. They are compromised right from the top down. That is why they run scared from a federal ICAC. That is why they hide behind secret reports. That is why they betray the public in rort after rort. We will keep holding Scott Morrison and his cronies to account. We will keep doing everything we can to kick the government out because that's what they deserve.


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