March 04, 2020

PAT CONROY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE PACIFIC: Well we saw new revelations in the sports rorts affair yesterday. We already knew that on April 10, Bridget McKenzie sent to the Prime Minister a list of projects she intended to approve, and then that list got sent to Sports Australia the next day, 17 minutes after the election was called.
But what we found out during the Senate estimates process is that the list sent to Sports Australia on the day the election was called was different from the one that was sent to the Prime Minister’s office the day before. And why was it different? Because the Prime Minister’s office requested changes. According to the National Audit Office, the Prime Minister’s office demanded that one project be added, and then another project be removed.
And that wasn’t the end of the revelations. We also found out that a subsequent spreadsheet was sent to the Prime Minister’s office four hours after caretaker period began, and they then sent it on to Sports Australia with another nine changes.
All of this demonstrates that the Prime Minister’s office just wasn’t a conduit for backbenchers keen to get sports grants, they were up to their neck in the rort. They were up to their neck in determining what projects got funding and what didn’t. They demanded changes, and Bridget McKenzie gave those changes. So the Prime Minister is up to his neck in it, and the Prime Minister yesterday in Parliament lied about lying. This is a Prime Minister who is addicted to lying, and he continues to lie about the sports rorts affair.
And why does this matter? This matters because thousands of mums and dads spent hundreds of hours doing applications for their local sporting clubs, only to have no chance of getting their applications approved because they were in the wrong electorates. This is why it matters, because these mums and dads wasted hundreds of hours trying to do the right thing.
We also saw a waste of taxpayers’ money going to projects that were clearly inappropriate. Half a million dollars to the very rich Mosman Rowers Club, $50,000 for solar panels for the elite Adelaide Golf Club where one membership’s fees could probably have paid for those solar panels, and $120,000 to make a golf club into a wedding reception venue. This is an appalling waste of money.
Ultimately this goes to trust in this government and trust in this Prime Minister. If we can’t trust him on issues like this, how can we trust him on other challenging affairs?
Happy to answer any questions.
JOURNALIST: What economic stimulus would you like to see to boost the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak?
CONROY: Well we’ve been very clear that the economy was incredibly sluggish before the coronavirus and before the bushfires. We saw stagnant wages, stagnant growth, retail sales going backwards - this economy was in urgent need of stimulus well before the coronavirus hit. And we’ve been very clear about what the Prime Minister and this government should do; he needs to bring forward stage two of the tax cuts, he needs to bring forward real infrastructure spending because so far it’s out in the never never in 10 years’ time, and thirdly they need to consider Labor’s business investment allowance that we took to the last election.
JOURNALIST: Is that something you have put to the government, that you have put to Mr Morrison?
CONROY: We’ve said this repeatedly both in Parliament, in the media, and we have written letters to the Prime Minister. No one could deny that Labor hasn’t been calling for a stimulus package since the second half of last year. This economy has been very slow, underemployment was at a record high before the natural disaster of the bushfires, before the coronavirus, and this government needs to take urgent action.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask a question about what you went to the last election with. You were putting up $380 billion worth of new taxes, how would that actually stimulate the economy when you’re taxing taxpayers more money out of their pay packet?
CONROY: Well that’s complete rubbish. That’s just not true that claim by the government, and secondly, some of the initiatives –
JOURNALIST: Why isn’t it true?
CONROY: Some of these initiatives that we brought to the last election would have stimulated the economy. For example, our investment allowance would have actually stimulated the economy by providing a really strong incentive for companies to invest in necessary capital equipment earlier than possible. Our tax cuts were fairer; they would have put more money into the pockets of lower and middle-income earners, people who spend all that they earn, so they would have spent money in the economy straight away. So our package that we took to the last election would have stimulated the economy a lot more effectively than the government’s.
JOURNALIST: You’re saying adding more taxes to people’s pay packets stimulates the economy?
CONROY: Well I reject the premise of what you’re saying. We were actually taking tax cuts to support lower and middle-income earners. Lower and middle-income earners would have been in a much better position under Labor’s policy approach to the last election than this government’s approach.