Media commentary on sports rort ‘fanciful’ : Conaghan
IT'S fanciful to suggest the awarding of sports grants impacted the outcome of the Federal election in Cowper, Member Pat Conaghan says.
Mr Conaghan, who was elected for The Nationals following Luke Hartsuyker's retirement, was responding to the growing scandal surrounding the Community Sport Infrastructure Program administered by former sport minister and the current deputy leader of The Nationals Bridget McKenzie.
"I think it is fanciful, with an electorate the size of Cowper with 125,000 constituents, media commentators are suggesting funding seven sports projects influenced the outcome of the May 2019 election," Mr Conaghan said.
"I believe people had bigger issues on their mind such as jobs, our regional economy and protecting retirees and the elderly."
Calls for Senator McKenzie to be sacked over the handling of the $100 million program have intensified over the weekend.
An auditor-general report found the program favoured coalition marginal and targeted seats before last year's federal election.
The audit found in the third round of the program, 73 per cent of projects given funding were not recommended by Sport Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week referred the matter to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens who will investigate if McKenzie's conduct was in breach of ministerial standards.
In the Cowper electorate the following projects received funding under the three rounds of the controversial program:
Northern Storm Football and Sports Club in Coffs Harbour - $25,000 for a Container Canteen for York St. Funds were allocated in Round 1, December 2018.
Nambucca Shire Council, Macksville Park Club House - $178,379 for the reconfiguration and refurbishment of the facilities and amenities to provide disabled facilities, female facilities, club rooms and meeting rooms ensuring for safety and security of all users. Funds were allocated in Round 1, December 2018.
Coffs Harbour City Council - $400,000 to update ageing roof and court infrastructure that does not meet safety and compliance standards at the multi sports venue, Sportz Central. Funds were allocated in Round 2, March 2019 with the project marked as complete.
Sawtell Bowling and Recreation Club Ltd - $21,042 to replace old rusted and dilapidated shades with new Shadeway Retractable Sun Protection Systems. Funds were allocated in Round 3, April 2019.
Urunga Cricket Club Incorporated - $33,000 for the refurbishment of Urunga Cricket Club cricket nets. Funds were allocated in Round 3, April 2019 with the project marked as complete.
Sawtell/ Toormina Australian Football Club Inc - $137,530 to upgrade lighting at Richardson Park. Funds allocated in Round 3, April 2019.
Hockey Coffs Coast Inc - $200,000 to install modular kiosk and meeting room facilities. Funds allocated in Round 3, April 2019.
Mr Conaghan says he will continue to support the embattled minister.
"The way the program was administered is now the subject of an investigation after the Prime Minister referred the matter to the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on Friday.
"I will continue my support of Bridget McKenzie as Deputy Leader of the National Party while the investigation is undertaken. In Australia, people are always afforded the presumption of being innocent until proven guilty, and this is the right I am affording my colleague."