Previously, we argued the Sports Rorts story was the brainchild of Liberal party headquarters.
Largely because it beggars belief that one lone National’s senator went rogue & decided to subvert the entire re-election campaign from the claustrophobic confines of her Canberra office.
And for this, we need to look back in time before the sports grants program launched in August 2018.
The money for the Community Sports Infrastructure Grants program was announced as part of the May 2018 budget.
The Budget spiel was that several large studies identified a need to support sports across Australia at a grass roots level.
That would have been self-evident to most Australians, but governments need reports to cover their backsides in their decision making.
Most of the time.
We know from the ANAO report on the whole saga, that some time during May-July 2018, Sen McKenzie’s office was insisting she have final say on any grants
Why is this interesting?
Because Sports Australia is its own corporate entity, per the Australian Sports Commission Act 1989
Sports Australia has its own board, its own Chairman, a CEO & corporate structure. So although it’s owned by the federal government, it is arm’s length empowered to make its own decisions.
In fact, there are laws governing a minister’s interference in a Commonwealth corporate entity.
Under section 71 of the PGPA Act 2013, the Minister may only intervene with a corporate entity in certain circumstances & after following certain protocols.
Which were not followed here.
Which is why the lawfulness of Sen McKenzie’s intervention in the grants is under debate.
Which could mean:
If Sen McKenzie lacked the legal authority to authorise and sign off on the CISG funds, this in turn calls into question the legal validity of the contract agreements entered into between the hundreds of sporting groups and councils – and Sports Australia.
So the implications for this spreading virus of a story are vast and far reaching.
There would not be a community across Australia that is not somehow affected, however tenuously.
Which should worry the federal government a great deal.
But that was furthest from their mind back in July 2017.
Because the Liberal party had scored a coup.
In July 2017, re-energised and raring to learn from the mistakes of the 2016 near miss election, the Liberal party had recruited a new director – Andrew Hirst.
Andrew Hirst was an experienced political operator.
He’d worked for John Howard, Malcolm Turnbull, Brendan Nelson & Tony Abbott.
Before July 2017, he was a Director at the Liberal party’s favourite election campaigns & strategies firm, Crosby Textor.
Hirst, who’d worked in Liberal HQ during the 2016 federal election, arrived when the party power brokers wanted to sharpen up their tactics at the grass roots level & work with analytics & digital campaigning.
He understood tactics.
And he understood how to maximise data.
Moving into 2018 knowing an election could be called later that year, Hirst sharpened up his inner team.
Hirst became the Liberal Party’s campaign director.
He reported to the federal executive of the Liberal Party and worked directly with the PM on campaign strategy.
When Turnbull was rolled in late August 2018, Hirst didn’t skip a beat.
Into Scott Morrison’s office came Yaron Finkelstein, another Crosby Textor alumni.
Both Finkelstein in Morrison’s office and Hirst at Liberal campaign HQ understood the importance of finely tuned analytics.
By September 2018, the election team consisted of Andrew Hirst, Yaron Finkelstein, Ben Hindmarsh of the Nationals & Catherine Douglas, a key Crosby Textor strategist.
All of these operators had massive experience in how up-to-the minute voter data could be used and deployed.
September 2018 is also of course when our Community Sports Infrastructure Program began.
While the program may have been initially developed and instigated with good intentions – somewhere along the line it is evident it was hijacked.
There was of course the immediately alarming insistence of Senator McKenzie’s office that she oversee every grant.
Sports Aust had managed to successfully operate on a $315-430M a year budget without a Minister’s micro-management intervention before.
Bridget McKenzie also had a vast portfolio covering Regional Services, Sport, Local Government & Decentralisation.
Despite this phenomenal workload covering all of Australia, the Minister was suddenly overcome with concern for the Howlong Pony Club & overseeing their new turf?
And why did the Minister’s office insist on inserting themselves from the get-go into the sports grant’s decisions?
The answer is – because Bridget McKenzie’s office were running their own sports grant’s assessment decisions.
Unbeknown to Sports Australia.
Yes, despite the highly qualified staff at Sports Australia sifting through thousands of applications & sorting them into various streams & lists according to pre-approved criteria, Bridget McKenzie’s staff believed they should also do exactly the same thing.
At the same time.
Why did Bridget McKenzie’s ministerial staff of media officers and researchers believe they knew better than the experienced sports administrators at Sports Australia?
And why would they just randomly assume to do this without being directed to?
It makes no sense.
It is inconceivable that one lone Senator from the Nationals decided to act on her own.
Luckily, McKenzie had Jonathan Hawkes suddenly arrive in September 2018 to help her.
Hawkes went way back with Andrew Hirst too – they worked on the 2013 election together.
Despite being described as the Deputy Leader of the National’s media officer, Hawkes’s pedigree was with the Liberal party.
He was also working below his extensive election experience skill’s level given his billing as a Media Adviser. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Interesting too that the Liberals made their campaign headquarters in Brisbane during last year’s election campaign.
Because during April & May 2019, Hawkes was witnessed riding his pushbike almost daily near the Liberal campaign HQ.
Where he was probably just helping out.
Hawkes is one of the people according to Andrew Probyn’s ABC report, known to have handled the famous colour coded grant’s sheet.
The one that appears to have allocated funds according to marginal seats as opposed to merit and worthiness.
And here dear reader, is a killer clue as to the involvement of the PM’s office & LibNat’s campaign headquarters.
That same colour coding system?
The one Andrew Probyn was holding in his hands at today’s Press Club address by the PM?
It had a match.
We have been advised the aptly named Colour Coding Strategy was determined by the PM office’s marginal seats strategists and the party campaign office itself.
They used the same identifying colour codes. They instigated it.
Same colours. Same formats. Same spreadsheets.
The PM’s office & the election campaign team used this same colour coding system to prioritise electorate attendances by the PM & senior Lib/Nationals for “announcements and press coverage” throughout the election campaign.
On any assessment, the coincidence of this same colour coding method for sports grants *and* for attendance at marginal seats – all coming out of the PM’s office – is just too far too convenient to ignore.
It all married in beautifully.
And of course the seat with a largest of blue “Liberal” marks next to it was Corangamite – the most marginal electorate in the closest of races.
The sitting member Sarah Henderson was holding the seat by 0.03%.
A cliff hanger.
On April 16 2019, Scott Morrison appeared at a press conference outside Geelong with Henderson.
This was an important one.
After thrilling the crowd with his introduction, the Prime Minister threw to Henderson who would, he said, be making an important announcement.
Sarah Henderson then breathlessly informed the crowd, Corangamite would receive $20 million for a pool in Torquay & $10 million for a north Bellarine pool (which was news to Geelong Council).
Why it would come out of the Community Sports Infrastructure Grant.
And then what did Sarah Henderson say?
She spoke these highly informative words:
“And if it was not for the Prime Minister including this money in the budget – it would not have happened.”
Scott Morrison with Liberal MP for Corangamite Sarah Henderson early in
the election campaign, on hand for another promise. Credit: Dominic Lorrimer – SMH Article
Peak pork: The marginal seat where election promises add to $26,500 per voter
So the Prime Minister himself intervened to include money in the budget for the Community Infrastructure Sports Grants?
And not just any old grant, but $30 million worth of special grants.
For a highly marginal seat.
Bridget McKenzie must have been in absolute shock.
Her original $29.7 million sports grants fund had gone totally rogue.
It looked like somehow, the PM’s office and Liberal National Party (LNP) election headquarters had taken full control.
Part 3, who got what – and why.
This says it all https://t.co/pCZYxe43Hb
— 𝐑𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐢 𝐒𝐚𝐥𝐭 (@RonniSalt) January 30, 2020