Hockey Coffs Coast Inc received $200,000 under Round 3 of the controversial community sport infrastructure program. A number of other local sporting clubs also received grants. Photo by Trevor Veale.
Hockey Coffs Coast Inc received $200,000 under Round 3 of the controversial community sport infrastructure program. A number of other local sporting clubs also received grants. Photo by Trevor Veale.

Coffs Harbour clubs linked to the ‘sports rort’

COWPER was one of the electorates on a knife edge in the lead up to last year's Federal Election.

With long-serving Nationals Member Luke Hartsuyker retiring and high-profile independent Rob Oakeshott entering the race, The Coalition pulled out all the stops.

Now the electorate has come under the spotlight as calls for The Nationals' deputy leader and former sports minister Bridget McKenzie to be sacked, over her handling of the $100m community sport infrastructure program, intensify.

 

Cowper clubs to receive funding

In Round 3 of the Community Sport Infrastructure grant program the following clubs in Cowper received grants:

 

  • Hockey Coffs Coast Inc $200,000
  • Sawtell/ Toormina Australian Football Club Inc $137,530
  • Urunga Cricket Club Incorporated $33,000
  • Sawtell Bowling and Recreation Club Ltd $21,042

 

The electorate of Cowper takes in the two major centres of Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour and well-known Port Macquarie lawyer and ex-policeman Pat Conaghan was chosen to run for The Nationals, eventually claiming victory in a tight race.

 

PRESSURE'S ON: Pat Conaghan pictured on the campaign trail in the fierce battle for Cowper.
PRESSURE'S ON: Pat Conaghan pictured on the campaign trail in the fierce battle for Cowper.

Mr Conaghan was contacted for comment this morning in relation to the scandal engulfing Federal politics but an office representative told the Advocate he was busy at a roundtable in Port Macquarie until lunchtime and would attempt to respond by 5pm.

The Advocate is yet to receive a response.

A report recently released from the auditor-general found: "evidence of distribution bias in the award of grant funding".

Hundreds of grants were recommended for funding by Sport Australia but were rejected by the minister. In the third round of the program, 73 per cent of projects given funding were not recommended by Sport Australia.

 

Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie and Prime Minister Scott Morrison speak to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra earlier this month. (AAP Image/Marc Tewksbury)
Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie and Prime Minister Scott Morrison speak to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra earlier this month. (AAP Image/Marc Tewksbury)

Senator McKenzie has indicated she will not step down but speculation is mounting she is being encouraged to stand down before parliament returns in early February.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has referred Ms McKenzie's handling of the sports grants program to his department to investigate whether ministerial standards were breached.



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