PM’s office exchanged 136 emails over sports grants

SCOTT Morrison has been grilled in Question Time about the $100m so-called sports grants scandal, after it emerged his office exchanged 136 emails with Bridget McKenzie's office over the scheme before money was given to clubs.

It has also been revealed Senator McKenzie sent a list of applications she intended to approve under Round 3 of the program directly to Mr Morrison the day before the election was called in 2019.

Senator McKenzie also sent Mr Morrison a spreadsheet that included a breakdown of how the grants were distributed by state, political party and electorate in the same email.

The new details emerged today in documents released to a Senate inquiry probing the handling of the scheme.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been grilled in Question Time about the $100m so-called sports grants scandal. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been grilled in Question Time about the $100m so-called sports grants scandal. Picture: AAP

It also showed that Sport Australia was informed of the final list of approved clubs on April 11, 2019 - the same day the election was called - although the signed approval brief was dated April 4.

The documents showed the then-Sport Minister's office was given a spreadsheet of data by Sport Australia on applications.

The minister's office then changed the spreadsheet by colour-coding it by "the electorate for each application to identify which party currently held the seat".

It also inserted columns titled 'Successful' and 'Electorate status', which it marked with Marginal, Target or Blank.

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese asked about 136 emails exchanged between Scott Morrison’s office and the former sport minister’s office. Picture: AAP
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese asked about 136 emails exchanged between Scott Morrison’s office and the former sport minister’s office. Picture: AAP

The minister's office also created a second worksheet within the spreadsheet with five summary tables which identified the total number and value of approved projects, analysed the distribution of funding by state and territory, analysed the distribution of funding by political party and analysed the distribution of funding for each electorate in which one or more applications had been received.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese asked Mr Morrison about the 136 emails exchanged between his office and Senator McKenzie's between October 17, 2018 and April 11, 2019 in Question Time today.

The photo that sparked it all. Georgina Downer, then-Liberal candidate for Mayo giving a cheque to the Yankalilla Bowling club. Picture: Georgina Downer - Liberal for Mayo/Facebook
The photo that sparked it all. Georgina Downer, then-Liberal candidate for Mayo giving a cheque to the Yankalilla Bowling club. Picture: Georgina Downer - Liberal for Mayo/Facebook

Mr Morrison responded: "Neither I nor my office were decision-makers in the process that governs the sports grants program."

"The decision-maker, as has been identified through the audit office, was the sports minister."

Mr Morrison argued his office had made representations on behalf of other MPs to the minister about applications in their electorates.

The Auditor General has previously confirmed that not all of the projects the prime minister's office argued for were approved.

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