Albanese calls on Phil Gaetjens to make sports grants report public

By Australian Associated Press

The federal opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, has said top bureaucrat Phil Gaetjens must show his independence in the sports grants scandal “that just stinks”.

Gaetjens, the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, wrote on Friday to the Senate inquiry into the sports grants saga that cost the previous sports minister, Bridget McKenzie, her job.

Gaetjens’ report to cabinet remains under wraps, but he told the inquiry that while there were some “significant shortcomings” with respect to the minister’s decision-making role, her office’s separate approval processes were not unduly influenced by reference to “marginal” or “targeted” seats.

But Albanese disagreed on Saturday, saying this “giant pork barrel” saw money being allocated with “politics being first, second and third priority”.

“Phil Gaetjens … needs to not just be independent of the political interests of the government, he needs to be seen to be as well,” Albanese said in Perth. “Which is why Mr Gaetjens should himself, if the prime minister won’t, make his report public.”

He said Scott Morrison had on 16 occasions said all the grants were eligible, but the Senate inquiry heard this week from the auditor general that 43% were not.

“This is a massive scandal,” Albanese said. “This just stinks, everyone knows it does, and it needs to be cleaned up and it can never ever happen again.”

Liberal MP Tim Wilson defended the government’s actions, saying the projects said to be ineligible were because of a “silly technicality”.

He cited the fact that the grants were not supposed to go to projects that were already built. “They were awarded, they started building,” he told ABC television. “Then by the time all the paperwork was signed off, they had commenced.”