It’s astonishing that Bridget McKenzie thinks she can pork barrel and no-one will hold her to account, says Eliza Barr. How ignorant does she think voters are?
It’s astonishing that Bridget McKenzie thinks she can pork barrel and no-one will hold her to account, says Eliza Barr. How ignorant does she think voters are?

Sorry, Bridget. That’s not being a good sport

Bridget McKenzie insists she's a straight shooter, but that didn't stop the federal MP clumsily shooting herself in the foot from the pork-barrel of her gun with a sweet $36,000 grant for her own sports club under her now-infamous $100 million grant program.

For more than a week the Nationals MP and former sports minister has resolutely fended off any suggestion she acted improperly by handing out lucrative sports club grants to applicants in marginal electorates the Coalition desperately needed to win government in 2019.

The $100 million grants program was originally designed to boost local sports clubs - arguably a noble federal government initiative to support health, happiness and wellbeing in communities across Australia.

Instead, it was apparently used in a cynical bid to boost the Coalition Government's chances at the 2019 Federal Election by pork barrelling voters and leaving anyone who couldn't help them politically in the lurch.

It has now emerged Ms McKenzie's own shooting club - the Wangaratta Clay Target Club, from whom she received a $300 membership as a gift ­- was the fortuitous recipient of one such grant worth $35,980.

"Not many gun clubs can claim federal ministers among their membership, but the Wangaratta Clay Target Club now can," the club wrote alongside a picture of Ms McKenzie on Facebook in January 2019.

"She chose our club to show her support for the work we are doing to not only keep the club active but to continually improve all aspects of our operations."

What a stroke of luck!

The Commonwealth Auditor-General had already deemed a whopping 73 per cent of Ms McKenzie's grants were not recommended by Sports Australia, which made its assessments on the applicants' merits.

Instead, the Auditor General says Ms McKenzie's office ran its own eligibility assessment process - and her generous favour instead fell on "marginal electorates held by the Coalition" and "electorates to be 'targeted' by the Coalition at the 2019 Election".

Even the Prime Minister's premium blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Cook - which arguably didn't need any help at the polling booths - got a sweet cut of the action, with the local football club in the demonstrably wealthy waterfront suburb of Lilli Pilli snapping up a $200,000 handout for clubhouse renovations and gender-neutral change rooms - perish the thought.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ordered a probe into Bridget McKenzie’s sports grants. Picture: AAP Image/Marc Tewksbury
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ordered a probe into Bridget McKenzie’s sports grants. Picture: AAP Image/Marc Tewksbury

Ms McKenzie has strenuously denied doing anybody any favours for days but that position may be difficult to maintain now the generous grant to her own sports club has been uncovered.

How ignorant does she think voters are?

It's astonishing that Ms McKenzie thinks she can blatantly pork barrel local sports clubs for political points - even her very own shooting club - and no-one will ever know, or hold her to account for it.

The member's lack of respect for voters' intelligence is then amplified by her assumption she can simply deny doing anything wrong, despite the Commonwealth Auditor-General's own blistering assessment of her bias - and we will all just take her at her word and move on.

Even emergency services minister David Littleproud has leapt to his colleague's defence in a haphazard proliferation of the Coalition government's strategy of simply ignoring issues and hoping they will eventually go away ­- lazily dismissing angry Australians and their justified scrutiny as "a lot of sideline commentators".

Even Attorney-General Christian Porter's offer to investigate the growing scandal has been laughed off by Labor after it emerged his own electorate benefited from the curious allocation of the sports grants.

Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie in Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, December 2, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie in Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, December 2, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

Before the shooting club grant emerged the Prime Minister himself rubbished calls for Ms McKenzie's resignation, calling them "absolutely ridiculous".

"It's hard to draw that absolute conclusion (that she was pork-barrelling) when more Labor seats got funding," he said.

The minister gave her own shooting club $36,000.

Is it really that hard to draw conclusions of pork barrelling here?

This is political point scoring at the direct expense of local sports clubs in dire need of support.

If the Coalition Government does not act, the Australian people can be assured it preferences power over people.

Eliza Barr is a News Corp journalist.


Australia's best news deal: Get the big stories first here

premium_icon Australia's best news deal: Get the big stories first here

Get stories that really matter to this community before anyone else

River hits peak as town prepares for mozzies

River hits peak as town prepares for mozzies

Houses in St George have escaped inundation after the Balonne River peaked at...

Man fights for life as brother charged for 'head kick'

premium_icon Man fights for life as brother charged for 'head kick'

A Nanango man has been charged with grievous bodily harm against his brother.