TANGNEY Liberal MP Ben Morton says he had no hand in a controversial $500,000 “sports rorts” grant to the Applecross Tennis Club.
The grant was approved by former federal sports minister Bridget McKenzie as part of a process found to have been politically manipulated to favour the Coalition before last year’s election.
Ms McKenzie was forced to resign over her undeclared membership of a shooting club she favoured with one of the grants, though her decision to link funding to marginal seats targeted by the Coalition is still providing the Opposition with fodder to attack prime minister Scott Morrison in Parliament’s question time.
Although Applecross’s riverfront club is in the Liberal stronghold of Tangney, its application for fencing only scored 54 per cent against Sports Australia criteria, while clubs from less affluent locales had their projects turned down despite ranking in the 90s.
The Melville Little Athletics Club is also in Tangney and based at the pleasant but view-less Len Shearer Reserve. Its application for $25,000 was knocked back despite being ranked by Sports Australia in the top 50 around the country.
The club didn’t return the Herald’s calls.
Mr Morton said while he’d provided letters of support for various sport, community service and environmental organisations across his electorate, he hadn’t lobbied for the tennis club.
“Nevertheless, in representing the needs of my community, I am always willing to go in to bat for local sports clubs and volunteers who work hard to improve facilities and support and grow their membership,” Mr Morton said.
“That is the role of hard-working local MPs and the local community should expect that of their elected representatives.”
Mr Morton said of those he’d lobbied for, some were successful while others missed out.
Labor MP Josh Wilson was ropable after hearing the Fremantle Lawn Tennis Club was informed they’d missed out twice because they were “not in the right seat” and let fly in Parliament.
“Deputy speaker, when the prime minister pretends there’s nothing wrong with the sports rorts fiasco he is treating Australians like idiots,” Mr Wilson said of PM Scott Morrison’s claim all clubs that got funding qualified under the scheme.
Meanwhile in his electorate the East Fremantle Tennis Club’s application was successful, but Mr Wilson’s office said he wasn’t informed and his Liberal candidate, Melville councillor Nicole Robins, got to announce their good fortune as part of her campaign.
Mr Wilson noted that Bicton was also in the marginal state seat of Bicton where Ms Robins is viewed as a starter for the Liberal party in the next election.
“Maybe, deputy speaker, the political payoff for the murky and deeply-corrupted sports rorts fiasco didn’t end with the 2019 federal election,” he said.
“But what we know for sure is that this government used taxpayers’ money for its own political benefit at the expense of community clubs around Australia.”
by STEVE GRANT