Feb 14, 2020







SUBJECTS: Sports rorts saga; coronavirus travel ban; need for a national integrity commission.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, this sports rorts saga of the Morrison Government just gets worse and worse the more the public get the information that they were entitled to from the very beginning. The problem is this Government treats the public piggy bank just like its own private pork barrel. We have seen $100 million fund used to pork barrel marginal electorates. And that, of course, we know also there is a second fund of $150 million that was used for exactly the same thing. Now, Scott Morrison said 16 times, including in the Parliament, that all projects were eligible. We know in fact from the National Audit Office itself that 43 per cent of the funds used in this scheme were in fact not eligible. The Prime Minister is loose with the truth. Scott Morrison thinks that marketing and spin will solve every problem and that marketing is more important than telling the public the truth. Well, the truth is, that they used taxpayers’ funds as if it was the funds of the Liberal and National Parties. That has been exposed, 43 per cent of funding to ineligible projects, in spite of the fact that Scott Morrison, on 16 times, said that there were no ineligible projects funded. He has misled the Australian people. He has also misled the Parliament, yet again. And he will have to correct the record when Parliament resumes in a week’s time. This is a scandal of massive proportions. Because what we have here is not just ineligible projects funded. We also have got volunteers in community sporting-based organisations, spending hundreds and hundreds of hours, putting forward submissions to a scheme that they thought would be funded on the basis of merit. And we now know it was all about politics. And we also had evidence that literally there were dozens of emails and interactions between the Prime Minister’s office directly and Bridget McKenzie’s office. No wonder it took them so long to sack Bridget McKenzie. Because, quite clearly, Scott Morrison was in this right up to his neck. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: So, is it not just a technicality that the projects were ineligible given that they were at one stage eligible according to Sport Australia?


ALBANESE: They were ineligible projects. What we have here is a rorting of the scheme. And we have the Prime Minister, who has said on a number of occasions that every project was eligible. We know of course, I mean, that was an absurd analogy and spin to try and get around the fact that there was political decision-making, not decision-making based upon merit. I mean, I am eligible to pay Davis Cup for Australia. I play for Marrickville Lawn Tennis Club down the road here. I am in division two, grade five. So, chances are there are tens of thousands of players who are better suited to play Davis Cup rather than me. Doesn’t mean I am not eligible. It was always spin from the Government. What we have here is even their spin was not true. Scott Morrison is consistently loose with the truth. He says things that just are not true. When confronted with questions, he comes up with statements like, ‘it’s in the bubble’, or ‘that is just an editorial’, or other spin to avoid providing Australians with the truth. The truth is that this Government is arrogant, and out of touch. And this program was completely reported for political ends.


JOURNALIST: Would Labor like to see the process changed?


ALBANESE: There was no process here except for a minister and the Prime Minister ‘s office deciding on the basis of colour-coded versions of what we now know there were dozens of colour-coded documents, based upon, not based upon merit, it was not a 1-10 scale of merit. Because we know that Sport Australia did that. What they did is they threw merit out and made decisions based on politics. Of course, that should change. It is, frankly, a complete rort. It is an abuse of taxpayers’ funds, an abuse of the process, an insult to Sports Australia, and an abrogation of the requirements there under legislation.


JOURNALIST: Do you support the Government’s decision to extend the coronavirus travel ban?


ALBANESE: We should follow medical advice. We met with the Chief Medical Officer this week. And if the Government is following that advice then we do not think this should be a partisan issue. Australians must be kept safe.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of the China’s criticism of the Australian Government?


ALBANESE: Australia has to defend our national interest and the safety of Australian citizens. So, we should be following medical advice. And neither myself nor Scott Morrison and certainly Peter Dutton is not a qualified doctor. And we should listen to that advice and follow it. The first priority must be to keep people safe.


JOURNALIST: What financial assistance would you like the Federal Government to provide for businesses hit by the coronavirus?


ALBANESE: That is a matter for decisions to be made. Clearly, we do not know what the full impact will be here. Clearly, there will be a need to give assistance, particularly to the tourism sector. The Government’s priority should be, at this point in time, what we know is that for a long period of time, businesses have been impacted over the December and January period by the bushfires. And the fact is that there are a range of businesses that are crying out for support because they rely upon that period in order to fund their entire financial stability of their business. And Andrew Constance, the Liberal Party Member for Bega has made some clear statements about that. And I agree with Andrew Constance.


JOURNALIST: Do you think the tourism sector need support or other sectors as well?


ALBANESE: That will be a matter for assessment. The priority at this point in time is to provide assistance to make the right decisions based upon the health advice.


JOURNALIST: Why have you been called to give evidence in a trial against Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald?


ALBANESE: You know the answer to that, which is that it is something before the courts.


JOURNALIST: And you are not concerned that?


ALBANESE: It is something that is before the courts. Thank you.


JOURNALIST: Just one thing on the sports rorts saga. Is it more important now more than ever to have a Federal body into corruption? Considering this constant-ness that we see every day and the spin that we get from it?


ALBANESE: We need a national integrity commission. The Government promised
us that one in 2018. And quite clearly, a National Integrity Commission will be able to get right into this issue. This is a complete rort. Everyone knows that it is. There are documents floated around, colour-coded, to determine projects in spite of the fact that Sport Australia had looked at the merit of projects. And all of that was just ignored. The Angus Taylor affair. How is it that Angus Taylor cannot answer a simple question of where the fraudulent document that was given to the Daily Telegraph about Clover Moore and her fellow councillors alleged travel, that came from somewhere. It did not come from the City of Sydney website. Why is it that someone can’t just ask Angus Taylor the question? If Scott Morrison had integrity he would ask Angus Taylor that question. And, frankly, the public are entitled to know that question. We do need a National Integrity Commission. It should be introduced as a matter of urgency. The public do not have confidence in our politics at the moment. And it would go a long way to ensuring that there was integrity in our system. Thank you.