Sports Minister used hand-picked grants to promote himself
Mick de Brenni spruiked his success at landing "first-class" sports facilities in his marginal electorate, including two $500,000 projects he hand-picked against departmental advice.
The Sports Minister yesterday refused to detail which 14 clubs lost out when he intervened in 33 sports grants against the advice of public servants, citing privacy reasons.
But The Courier-Mail can reveal two of the clubs Mr de Brenni chose to fund against his department's advice were the Rochedale Tigers Rugby League Football Club and Logan Lightning Football Club, which scored $500,000 and $464,075 respectively in the Female Facilities Program.
Both of those are within Mr de Brenni's electorate and were used in a newsletter to voters late last year that celebrated how he was "delivering first-class sports facilities" locally.
The revelation comes as analysis by the Auditor-General reveals how the Logan/Beaudesert region received a whopping $27.6 million in sports grants between July 2017 to February 2020, compared with an average of just $7.4 million in the nine other southeast Queensland districts.
That equates to $81 per person in Logan/Beaudesert compared with $20 per person in neighbouring districts.
The region is made up of just one LNP seat and the rest ALP, including Mr de Brenni's Springwood electorate.
While the Auditor-General found there was an even split in $197 million in funding across seats held by different political parties, it did find that Mr de Brenni's interventions in the Female Facilities Program and Get Playing Places and Spaces favoured Labor and his reasons for changes weren't recorded.
Neither were decisions recorded when Mr de Brenni hand-picked all 46 successful applicants under Active Community Infrastructure Kickstart in June last year.
Batting down Opposition calls for him to resign, the Minister again denied any political bias, saying his interventions "made it fairer" and fixed mistakes made by public servants, who'd gotten their recommendations wrong.
He said he would not resign over the matter, as former federal sports minister Bridget Mackenzie had done following the federal sports rorts affair earlier this year.
"What the federal senator did, she broke the rules," he said, pointing out he had delegated authority to sign-off on the grants at the time.
"What I did, I made it fairer.
"The federal senator engaged in a political exercise for a political outcome.
"I made some amendments back in early 2018 to ensure those mum and dad clubs - where those parents fundraise at sausage sizzles, they don't have big pokie revenues - got a fair go, that they got a shot at support where they hadn't before and so that's the clear difference."
Asked whether it was a coincidence that his interference saw the total share of Labor seats increase and LNP seats decrease, he said: "Well what I did was make sure that where the recommendations that were made to me by the department didn't pass my test of ensuring that they met the community's expectations for a fair distribution of funds, I made a small number of amendments."
But as clubs called for clarity around whether they were one of the unlucky ones that had successful grant decisions overturned by Mr de Brenni, he said he could not detail those who'd missed out.
Despite not naming them, he encouraged them to reapply for funding.
"In respect to details of those clubs, I wanted to provide that advice through my correspondence to the Audit Office but for privacy reasons I'm advised that I can't legally do that," he said.
"I didn't break the rules when I made those amendments and I'm not going to start breaking the rules now."
Asked how clubs could have faith in processes when his reasonings for his decisions are not recorded, the Minister instead talked about improvements in record keeping made by his department.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who was in Cairns, said Mr de Brenni would keep his job.
Playing down the Auditor-General's findings, she said the report had made a number of recommendations that her government had already accepted.
"What was very clear here is that my understanding is the report found that it was mostly consistent across the major parties," she said.
"I think there was a differentiation of around 1 per cent.
"When the AG makes recommendations my government will implement them and that's exactly what I promise to do."
She said better record keeping would happen in the future.
CLUB WANTS ANSWERS AFTER FUNDING MISS
Grange Thistle Football Club are demanding answers after they missed out on two rounds of grants found to have been interfered with by the Sports Minister.
Club vice president Anthony White said the club missed out on money for female change rooms under the Female Facilities program in March 2018, but had been since funded under a federal grant.
The club also missed out on funding to convert two unused bowling greens to all-weather field space for junior soccer, female soccer, walking soccer for older people and a mums and children program under the Active Community Infrastructure Kickstart in June 2019.
Mr White said he had sought, but never received, feedback as to why the applications had been unsuccessful and the latest revelations around the grant process left questions.
He said the club wanted to know whether they were one of 14 eligible grants recommended by the department that Mick de Brenni had knocked back.
Mr White said their player numbers had exploded in the past five years and "we're all begging for field space".
"All we're chasing is fair access to funding," he said.
He said the club had been reluctant to discuss their problems with the grants process "but we simply can't get an informational feedback from Mr de Brenni or the department about why we're missing out".
"We need to know how to better position our community to receive funding because we need space."
Originally published as Sports Minister used hand-picked grants to promote himself