Woorabinda one of biggest losers in sports grants scandal
WOORABINDA Aboriginal Shire Council discovered the sad news yesterday that its community was one of the biggest losers in the Sports Grants controversy enveloping the Federal Government.
A colour-coded government spread sheet leaked to the ABC showed that its application for a desperately needed $500,000 sports grant was scored a very high rating of 84 out of 100 in Sports Australia’s assessment.
Despite this, it was rejected by then-Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie’s “parallel” assessment process which the Australian National Audit Office identified as approving grants for lesser rated applications for electorates the government held marginally or were targeting in the lead up to last year’s federal election.
This included the Pakenham Football Club in the Victorian Liberal-held marginal seat of La Trobe which received the highest possible grant of $500,000 despite having an assessment score of 50 out of 100.
Given that he had only been in the top job for the past five months, Woorabinda Shire mayor Phillip Alberts said he wasn’t overly familiar with the grant application but said it came as no surprise that his community was missing out yet again.
“That’s always been the case with Woorabinda. This community misses out on a lot of opportunities and a lot of things that we apply for,” Mr Alberts said.
“Our hopes aren’t too high. We know what to expect when we ask for things. We’re out of sight out of mind.”
The born and bred local father-of-three has spent his life seeking to empower his community and create more jobs.
As the assistant coach of the Woorabinda Warriors rugby league team, he knew first hand what a difference it would have made if their grant application to improve their local sporting facilities had been approved.
“I think they were going to upgrade our footy stadium, dressing sheds, toilets and bathrooms,” he said.
The mayor expressed hope that Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd would go in to bat for the community and that a future review would lead to increased transparency in the grant allocation process.
“We would like to be seen as a community that wants to go forward and receive the same benefits that everyone else gets,” he said.
Mr O’Dowd said we had seen first-hand the positive impacts the program had delivered for so many grassroots sporting organisations and communities around the country.
He defended his government’s handling of the sports grants program saying the ANAO report itself pointed out the way the program was conducted delivered on its intent and all the projects funded were deemed eligible by Sport Australia.
“It is more than appropriate that a minister take soundings from their colleagues, who clearly know their electorates better and the projects and clubs in their communities, than a bureaucrat in an office in Canberra,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“It is important to ensure that there is a good geographical spread of projects between states and also between metro and regional areas – which were two important factors in the final decision making.
“We wanted as many people covering as much of Australia as possible gaining benefit from the program - and they did.”
Mr O’Dowd said his government would act on the findings of the ANAO’s audit and the Prime Minister had referred the matter to the secretary PM&C for a review against ministerial standards.
“The Prime Minister is awaiting the secretary’s advice and will continue to follow due process,” he said.
Yesterday the Prime Minister raised the possibility of providing funding for the clubs which had missed out.