Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government’s failure to listen to the advice of the Auditor-General’s report was “farcical”.
A review by Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Phil Gaetjens on Sunday absolved Senator McKenzie of using the $100 million Community Sport Infrastructure Grant program to funnel money to seats the Coalition wanted to win at the 2019 election.
It was despite the Australian National Audit Office finding her office overruled recommendations by Sport Australia to dole out $41 million on projects in marginal or targeted seats.
Senator McKenzie was forced to resign for breaching ministerial standards by failing to disclose she was a member of a shooting club that she approved a $36,000 grant for.
“The dismissal by the government of the Auditor-General’s report, that is very clear, in favour of a report by Scott Morrison’s former chief-of-staff, who says, ‘nothing to see here’… is quite frankly, farcical,” Mr Albanese said.
“And to actually hear from some of the clubs about how it is that their applications were overlooked.
“Some witnesses might choose to try to come forward and ask to speak about the need for a National Integrity Commission so that these sorts of rorts can’t happen into the future.”
Labor’s sports spokesman Don Farrell said former staff from Senator McKenzie “might” want to come forward
“We know already that those people who have come forward and said that they told the Minister that what she was doing was wrong,” he said.
“We know from Sport Australia, that they wrote letters to the Minister saying, ‘what you’re doing here is wrong’.”
Mr Morrison was peppered with questions about the 18-day saga in the first question time of the parliamentary year on Wednesday.
He continued to defend Senator McKenzie’s administration of the scheme, telling the the House of Representatives she made decisions on eligible projects in line with her authority.
“Where there are improvements to be made to that program in the future, they have been accepted,” Mr Morrison said.
He said the program received applications for $400 million in projects and the government would consider extra funding ahead of the May Budget.
“As I said last week, we think this infrastructure is important to local communities,” Mr Morrison said.
“I’ll be working with the Treasurer as we prepare for this year’s budget to see how we can provide further support for this important infrastructure that brings communities together.”
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra