PM insists no ‘absolute’ proof in sports grant scandal
PRIME Minister Scott Morrison is standing by embattled minister Bridget McKenzie, insisting there was no "absolute" proof she was pork barrelling.
It is despite a growing fear within the Nationals that pressure will continue to build on Senator McKenzie until she is forced out.
Mr Morrison's comments all but dismiss a damning report from the auditor general who found more than 60 per cent of sport clubs to receive grants under a $100 million program run by Senator McKenzie were marginal seats targeted by the Coalition.
He announced Attorney-General Christian Porter would look into "legal issues" raised by the report.
But Mr Morrison said it was difficult to claim that more worthy projects missed out on funding because "these things are hard to judge between".
"It's hard to say, to draw that absolute conclusion when the minister intervened to make sure more Labor seats got funding," he said.
"The other thing the Auditor-General found was there was not one project that was funded that was ineligible."
It is despite the independent audit finding that there was a secret set of criteria used by the Minister and merit-based criteria was overlooked at times.
Mr Morrison also dismissed comparisons with Labor's Ros Kelly, who lost her job to a similar scandal in the 90s, saying she awarded funding to ineligible programs, while all of the current crop had been found to be eligible.
He did not directly answer questions as to whether his office was involved in the scheme in any way.
Labor front bencher Brendan O'Connor said it "beggars belief" that Mr Morrison was not aware of how the scheme was being run, "at least to some extent".
The report from the Australian National Audit Office found pork-barrelling in marginal seats the Coalition was targeting and questioned the "legal authority" behind the former sports minister's involvement.
Of the $15 million in grants Queensland sporting clubs received, almost $10 million went to those in marginal seats, analysis by The Courier-Mail found.