Rooms for improvement – de Brenni denies sports grant pork barrelling

Queensland’s Sports Minister Mick de Brenni has defended his intervention in a sports grant program and denied accusations of pork barrelling.

Sep 30, 2020, updated Sep 30, 2020
Energy Minister Mick de Brenni. (Photo: ABC)

Energy Minister Mick de Brenni. (Photo: ABC)

An auditor-general’s report of the grants program for women’s changing rooms found the minister intervened and overruled his department’s recommendations on 33 occasions.

De Brenni said there were errors in some of the original recommendations and it was his responsibility to fix them.

Speaking to ABC Radio Brisbane, de Brenni said he did not recommend one club because it was incorrectly listed as not having women’s teams when it in fact did.

He said another club was initially rejected because they had already received funding from another scheme for their sports field.

He said there was nothing in the scheme that said clubs could not receive both sets of funding.

“When I identified that error it was my responsibility to make sure that they weren’t ruled out because that was just simply wrong,” de Brenni said.

“It was my authority and my responsibility to ensure that the outcomes were aligned to the policy intent and the program guidelines and that’s what I did in those cases.”

The minister said more eligible clubs across the state were able to access funding as a result of these interventions.

“Most of the time the department gets it right,” he said.

“But in that small number of cases that they don’t, it’s my responsibility to make sure that those errors are corrected.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the report was “shocking” and showed “blatant pork barrelling by the Labor Government.”

“The Premier needs to immediately explain why 33 grants were approved by her sports minister against the expert advice of her department,” Frecklington said.

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The report also found the changes to recommended grants meant the proportion of grants awarded in Labor-held electorates had increased from 44 per cent to 68 per cent.

Meanwhile, the report found the number of grants awarded to LNP-held electorates decreased from 43 per cent to 28 per cent.

de Brenni denied some electorates were favoured over others and said the changes were made to only 1 per cent of all grants recommended for approval.

He said he did not see a problem with it as changes were made in 12 Labor-held electorates and 14 in other electorates.

“My responsibility — it’s one I take very, very seriously — is to ensure that the best applicants were the ones that received that support,” de Brenni said.

“The ones that weren’t successful, most of those have since been funded through other programs and we continue to work with other clubs that haven’t yet been funded.”

Treasurer Cameron Dick said the Opposition had to answer why 13 of its MPs went to the Gold Coast last year for four days during the Schoolies festival and claimed $6500.

The Treasurer said the MPs should repay the funds.

– ABC / Holly Richardson

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