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Sport and Recreation – Election Sports and Recreation Grants


Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Tags: Sport and Recreation, Integrity, Transparency

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Chair. What was the total number of projects that were granted financial support through the Local Community Facilities Fund between 26 March and 1 May 2021? Also, what was the combined dollar figure for those projects?

To be clear, I am not looking at the total figure for the year, for the Local Community Facilities Fund; it was between those dates. I accept you may not have them; if you don't, I can put it on notice if you are happy with that.

Mr STREET - I'm more than happy to take it on notice. I don't have that particular information, particularly around the dates, at hand.

Dr WOODRUFF - Following on, how many - and this sounds like it will also need to be in writing -how many grant requests were made to the Local Community Facilities Fund between 26 March and 1 May and were refused? How many grant requests made were refused?

Mr STREET - Are you talking about during the 2021 election?

Dr WOODRUFF - That is right, leading up to that.

Mr STREET - I can get that information for you, but I would make it clear as well that they are not grants; they were election commitments. They were made as election commitments and then they were contained within the Budget as election commitments.

Dr WOODRUFF - Grant requests was what I said.

Mr STREET - So, you mean election commitment requests, not grant requests?

Dr WOODRUFF - I think you just described the process earlier, of how the process was made?

Mr STREET - No. Ms Finlay's question and my answer was about the grant processes that the Government has, in general. You're talking about election commitments. I wasn't the minister at the time of the election.

During the 2021 state election, the Tasmanian Government made over 150 funding commitments to benefit the sport and recreation sector, including: assistance to build new or upgrade existing sporting facilities; purchase much needed equipment; or to continue vital community sport and recreation programs.

Dr WOODRUFF - What I am looking for is if any requests were made that were not supported.

Mr STREET - I don't have that information in front of me, if you want to put that question on notice.

Dr WOODRUFF - I will, thanks. Was it the Department of Communities that assessed those election commitments?

Mr STREET - No, it was not.

Dr WOODRUFF - So there was no assessment process?

Mr STREET - There was an assessment process, but it wasn't through the department.

Dr WOODRUFF - What was the assessment process. Could you please describe it?

Mr STREET - The 2021 election commitments were informed by community feedback and consultation, with an assessment process in place during the election campaign. On 3 April, the Liberal Party Director wrote to all candidates announcing the Local Communities Facilities Fund policy. The Local Communities Facilities Fund is an internal Liberal Party title of a fund that: (a)

did not exist prior to the campaign; and (b)

had no money in it at the time of the campaign; and (c)

was merely a vehicle for a process for managing requests from local candidates on behalf of local community groups and organisations.

As I said, examples of the projects included: upgrade to community halls; community parks and gardens; recreational sports facilities; township and street beautification projects; playgrounds; indoor and outdoor sports programs; and creative arts and cultural projects.

Candidates were asked to consider how each project would help rebuild Tasmania post-COVID. On 4 April, the Liberal Party director wrote to all candidates, outlining the composition of the Liberal Party team which would assess the proposed projects against the established criteria. As we said at the time, and are saying now, the commitments that were made at the election were exactly the same as the commitments that were made by other parties that were running at that election.

Dr WOODRUFF - So, is it the Liberal campaign headquarters who received all the requests?

Mr STREET - I just told you what the process was, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - Well, you read it out quickly, so I think that is what it was.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, we know that the member for Clark, Madeleine Ogilvie, was advised of successful funding for Local Communities Facilities Fund grants totalling over $800 000 during April last year. Can you please provide a breakdown of what the dollar figure was for other MPs and election candidates?

Mr STREET - I don't have a breakdown of respective members or candidates. They were all part of last year's Budget process in terms of funding. But I don't have a breakdown of how it relates to specific members or candidates from the election.

Dr WOODRUFF - Will you take that on notice?

Mr STREET - I'm not sure that that level of detail even exists.

Dr WOODRUFF - Commitments are made through the Local Communities Facilities Fund -

Mr STREET - They were funded and listed in last year's Budget, through the Local Communities Facilities Fund, and the Budget was approved by parliament. You're asking for information from last year's Budget as well, not this year's Budget.

Dr WOODRUFF - It's germane to this year's Budget. It is about how the Government has spent its money. I remind us all that Premier Rockliff said in here on Monday morning and said that he's keen to improve transparency.

This is last year's history and it would be great for the Government to just open up, lance the boil, let us see what happened. If there's a problem with it, you can deal with it. If there's not, we'll move on. I think it's totally fair when we're talking about 150 election commitments, you said, to understand a dollar figure to particular MPs. Madeleine Ogilvie, we understand, $800 000 -

Mr STREET - Is there a question?

Dr WOODRUFF - There is: will you take it on notice to provide a breakdown for the MPs, accepting that local candidates who weren't elected is understandable.

Mr STREET - I've answered the question, Dr Woodruff. There's nothing to take on notice. I've told you that the commitments you're talking about were all in last year's Budget, listed, funded and approved by parliament. I don't have that breakdown in front of me and I don't think that it's pertinent to this year's Budget Estimates.

Dr WOODRUFF - We are on the record of not approving or agreeing to anything in parliament to do with dodgy deals that were made, and non-transparent election commitments -

Mr STREET - You voted for the Budget, Dr Woodruff. They were listed in the Budget.

Dr WOODRUFF - that were essentially about a non-merits-based approach and pork barrelling. So, I think the community's got a right to know what happened.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I will just point to this particular document we have obtained. You would understand that document which was created by Liberal campaign headquarters with the heading 'State Election Local Communities Facility Fund - Internal Use Only for Candidates, Do Not Provide Externally'. We know from that document that Liberal candidates were asked to submit requests for that grants program that was created to the Liberal Party. How did those requests then make their way from the Liberal Party headquarters to the department?

Mr STREET - I don't understand what your question is, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - This is a document that was provided to Liberal candidates before the 2020-21 election and I am trying to understand how the information that was collected there made its way from the Liberal Party headquarters to, in this case, Sport and Recreation for funding to be disbursed.

Mr STREET - I have explained the internal process, Dr Woodruff. The approved election commitments were submitted to the Premier's office who submitted them to the relevant departments once the election commitments were confirmed.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. What was the date that approval was granted for election commitments that were made? Were the requests all received together and if they were, can you tell us the date they were received?

Mr STREET - Again, Dr Woodruff, you are referring to election commitments that were funded in last year's budget. We are now in Estimates for the 2022-23 Budget. They were submitted to the departments and were funded through the budget process.

Dr WOODRUFF - How were they submitted to the departments? That's what I am trying to understand.

Mr STREET - I have told you and have made it clear. They were submitted to -

Dr WOODRUFF - DPAC, they went to the Premier.

Mr STREET - Not to DPAC, they went to the Premier's office and then they were submitted to the relevant departments.

Dr WOODRUFF - Were the requests received all at the same time, like in a bundle and then provided to the departments?

Mr STREET - I don't have that information.

Dr WOODRUFF - When were they approved, what date?

Mr STREET - They were approved in the budget that went through parliament last year. That is what I keep saying to you.

Dr WOODRUFF - In the 2022-23 state Budget there is a reduction in funding in Sport and Recreation from around $45 million to around $31 million. The papers on page 44 attribute this drop to a one-off grant funding from 2021-22 budget initiatives, including the local community facilities fund. The Liberal Government was returned to majority by a single seat, so it would be great if you could be honest with Tasmanians and admit that $14 million loss in this financial year was a result of money spent to buy a majority government last year in the 2021 election?

Mr STREET - Which projects do you not support that were part of the local community facilities fund?

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm glad you're getting to the point. The issue is about transparency and process. There was not a formal independent merits-based process and it was used solely to purchase a majority government. It is pork-barreling. That's what sickens people in the community and they want to understand that that process won't happen again.

Mr STREET - Commitments are made at every election by every party, Dr Woodruff. We publicly announced all of these commitments, either through a media release or social media so that members of the community before they voted were aware of where we committed the money, and then they were in the budget and were approved through the budget process. The problem that you seem to have is that we've won the last three elections, Dr Woodruff. Parties at every election make commitments and announce them publicly.

Are you going to make that comment on microphone or are you just going to verbal me under your mask?

Ms FINLAY - I wasn't actually speaking to you, minister. I was speaking to my colleague here.

Mr STREET - We publicly announced all of those commitments, just like the Labor Party publicly announced theirs. If they had been successful at the election they would have funded their election commitments through the budget process, just as we did.

Dr WOODRUFF - The right way to run an election commitment is to support a grants program to have a full merits based assessment. What the Greens support is an even playing field. As the Minister for Sport and Rec, you should support an even playing field. That's not what happened in 2021. There is $14 million missing from this year's Sport and Recreation budget because one off payments were made to clubs to buy their support in the election. How many applications did you put in to the community facilities fund yourself as a candidate? And how many of the commitments that you made were funded?

Mr STREET - I have no information in front of me about the number of commitments that I submitted through the process but all projects were assessed by the Liberal policy team based on criteria. The former premier wrote to candidates advising of successful projects, noting that should a Liberal government be elected, funding would be allocated as part of the state Budget process, which is what I've said.

Dr WOODRUFF - Will you take that question on notice?

Mr STREET - As I said, all commitments were subject to the election of a Liberal government. Candidates were asked to provide a copy of the premier's letter directly to the organisation, or put out a media release or issue a Facebook post, so that everybody was well aware of the commitments that were being made.

Dr WOODRUFF - How many did you make?

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, I am now going to pass to -

Dr WOODRUFF - He didn't answer the question. Can I take it on notice?

CHAIR - You have had your quota of questions. I'm now going to pass to Mr Winter.

Dr WOODRUFF - It's difficult when the minister hasn't answered the question. Will he put it on notice how many he made and how many were funded?

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, you've mentioned earlier that 150 election commitments were funded through the Local Communities Facilities Fund; and we've also established that candidates to the election received a form to make their commitments to the Liberal Party so that pre-election commitments could be made.

Mr STREET - Made their requests to the Liberal Party.

Dr WOODRUFF - Made their requests, that's right. We've got here a letter from the former Premier, Mr Gutwein - on letterhead and signed, to Madeleine Ogilvie - providing a commitment from the Premier towards $85 000 to Bucaan Community House 'on behalf of the State Liberal team', he wrote. Minister, how many requests did you make to the Liberal Party on behalf of organisations in your electorate, during the election, and how many -

Mr STREET - Again -

Dr WOODRUFF - Can I finish my question - and how many were funded? I'm happy to take it on notice if you don't have that information?

Mr STREET - Dr Woodruff, I've answered this question. I detailed that there were 150 commitments made. I detailed the process, which you've just taken the time to outline again. They were publicly announced. They were funded in the 2021-22 budget. They are all on the public record. I don't understand why we're in the Estimates for 2022-23, talking about items that were in the 2021-22 Budget that were publicly announced and funded, and the Budget was approved by parliament.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thanks, minister, but I'm asking the questions. I don't mind if you don't understand. I just want the information for the public record. Could you please provide the information, or provide it on notice if you don't have it here?

Mr STREET - I've answered the question to the best of my ability, Chair.

CHAIR - I'm going to pass to Mr Winter please.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay, so that's a 'no.'

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, on 28 April 2021 former premier Peter Gutwein advised Liberal MP for Clark, Madeleine Ogilvie, that a re elected Liberal government would provide $150 000 in funding to the Sandy Bay Rowing Club to purchase a floating pontoon. Is it true that Ms Ogilvie's daughter was a member of the Sandy Bay Rowing Club at the time?

Mr STREET - Dr Woodruff, I think even you would know that I can't possibly know the answer to that question.

Dr WOODRUFF - That's fair. Could you take it on notice?

Mr STREET - I am not going to comment on conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest that other ministers might have. You would have to ask Ms Ogilvie.

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm asking you as the Sport and Rec minister.

Mr STREET - And I am telling you that you are talking about a budget commitment from last year when I wasn't the minister and a potential conflict of interest. That is completely outside the scope of budget Estimates for this year and it is also outside the scope of what I could possibly know.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. Unlike the Liberals, the Greens don't think you just sweep these things under the carpet. The Premier yesterday said that his Government was committed to transparency. Don't you think it's a problem if there was a conflict of interest like that if her daughter was a member of the rowing club? Isn't it something she should have stepped aside from if she made a commitment like that?

Mr STREET - Again, all I will say is that you're making an allegation about a potential conflict of interest -

Dr WOODRUFF - We're trying to get to the bottom of whether it's true or not.

Mr STREET - You're making an allegation that I can't possibly be expected to answer, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - Can someone else in your Government answer it?

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff. Mr Winter, please.

Dr WOODRUFF - The Integrity Commission conducted a report that was published on 6 April this year about grant commitments in election campaigns and they have detailed the 2018 election. I have found that there were $21.4 million worth of what they have called individual grants commitments that are not assessed by the state service, although they comment that the state service did what it could to ensure there was as much process as possible after the commitments were made.

They say that in 2018 there was no process - competitive or otherwise - to determine whether pledged funds were really needed or whether they were a good use of public money. They made the point that they didn't meet good practise grant management principles; they didn't have objectives; they didn't have selection criteria; they didn't have an application process; they weren't publicly advertised or competitive; they didn't identify decision makers; and they didn't involve a public record of how or why recipients were chosen.

Minister, do you condemn this practise of giving out taxpayers' money, and do you recognise that it is potentially dangerous and it erodes community confidence in a fair playing field for the provision of tax-payer money in the sport and recreation area; and will you work as minister to make sure that you are no part of this in any future election campaign?

Mr STREET - I certainly don't accept the premise of the question, Dr Woodruff. As I said earlier, during the 2020-21 state election, the Liberal Party, like every other political party in this House, made a number of election promises. Just like all parties did in 2018 and in 2014 and all election campaigns before that, and just like what happened in the federal election that has just been completed.

Each party has the right to choose its policy and its platforms. Election promises can be as large as building a new hospital or as small as fixing a school crossing or upgrading a sports ground. No matter what it is, there is nothing criminal, improper, or unethical about that.

Democracy is about voters making a choice at an election based on the promises put before them. As I keep saying, we publicly announced all of these commitments so that people were aware of them on election day. Elections are about making judgements on the candidates before them or making judgements about the Government's record. How people decide to vote on election day is entirely up to them, once they have had the evidence and the promises presented to them - which is exactly what we did.

We presented these commitments publicly; we announced them publicly so that people were aware of them before election day; and then we delivered those commitments once we were successful at the election.

Dr WOODRUFF - So, you reject the findings of the Integrity Commission and you are doubling down and going back, because that is the Integrity Commission's words, not mine. Are you rejecting the findings? Do you not see any problems with the process that the Integrity Commission has pointed out that does not meet good grant management guidelines? They have pointed out one example where $10 000 was provided to upgrade a walking track to a local government council; a subsequent review of the walking track project suggested there was ineffective consultation and limited community planning; and it cost the council $100 000 to go back and fix up work and to rehabilitate an area.

Mr STREET - Any determination made by the Integrity Commission - whether that is to pursue an investigation, to complete an investigation, or to report on a finalised investigation is a matter for the Integrity Commission, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - So, you don't take any account of what our supposedly independent integrity body does? You are not concerned at these findings?

Mr STREET - I absolutely do; what I am outlining for you is the process as it has been in place in 2014, 2018, and 2021, which are the elections.

Dr WOODRUFF - I know, they have condemned that process.

CHAIR - I am going to hand to Ms Finlay now.

Dr WOODRUFF - The Integrity Commission's report, which was released recently, makes two recommendations. The second recommendation is that the Government consider before the next House of Assembly election introducing mandatory grant rules modelled on the Commonwealth grants rules and guidelines. That would make sure there would be compliance mechanisms applying to ministers and ministerial staff, grant commitments made during an election period, and any ad hoc and discretionary grant commitments in relation to the Premier's Discretionary Fund.

The Integrity Commission has identified problems with the way the Liberal Party made commitments prior to the 2018 and the 2021 elections. That's their words.

Can you please tell me, was there an upper limit on how much the Local Facilities Fund was worth before it was set up after the election?

Mr STREET - I didn't set up the Local Community Facilities Fund. In terms of the Integrity Commission's recommendations, that would be a matter for the whole Government to consider, particularly Cabinet, before the next election.

Dr WOODRUFF - What's your view as minister in terms of what the proper process should be for providing money in the Sports and Rec portfolio?

 

Mr STREET - My personal opinion is that we should be doing everything we can to ensure that there's integrity around the processes for committing money, both at elections and in grant programs.

CHAIR - The time has expired for the portfolio of Sport and Recreation. We'll have a couple of minutes' break while we swap over to Hospitality and Events.