Interview with Johanna Nicholson and Fauziah Ibrahim – ABC Weekend Breakfast – 1 FEBRUARY 2020



SUBJECTS: Sports Rorts Scandal

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM: We’re now joined in the studio by Liberal MP Jason Falinski. We also have the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Labor Party MP Jason Clare.


Thank you so it is it seems to be the Jason and Jason show.


JASON FALINSKI: Absolutely, I agree with Jason.


IBRAHIM: We were saying this is a triple j show, Jo.


Jason Clare if I could start with you. It does seem that Bridget McKenzie has become almost an albatross around the Prime Minister’s neck. Would you say that that’s the case, it’s time for her to go. There is talk that she may be leaving just before Parliament resumes.


JASON CLARE: Well she should have been sacked three weeks ago. That’s when the Audit Office report came out. The Prime Minister has got all the information he needs to act. There are more smoking guns here than a Clint Eastwood movie. You’ve got the Audit Office report. You’ve got that colour-coded spreadsheet leaked from the Minister’s office that proves they’re allocated money to marginal seats, not the best projects. Now you’ve got this leaked email that shows that the Prime Minister’s office were pulling the strings behind the scenes. 

Any other prime minister would have sacked Bridget McKenzie by now. Think about this, Bronwyn Bishop got sacked for a five thousand dollar helicopter ride. This is a hundred million dollars of taxpayers money. And the prime minister still hasn’t acted. He’s holding the Australian people in contempt. He should sack her now.


IBRAHIM: But it’s not up to the Prime Minister to sack Bridget McKenzie is it? She is part of the Nationals Party.

CLARE: He’s the Prime Minister of Australia. She’s part of the cabinet. He can sack her today. He should have sacked her three weeks ago. The fact that it’s taken so long shows a lack of leadership or the fact that he’s worried that if he sacked her, who do you have to sack next? Who else was involved in this event which is a misuse of taxpayers money?


JOHANNA NICHOLSON: Jason Falinski, of course Parliament returns on Tuesday are you confident that Bridget McKenzie will remain in her position by then?

FALINSKI: Well look I can’t say because at the moment the whole thing is under review by Phil Gaetjens, the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. He’s presenting his report sometime this weekend. I’ve seen reports that it’ll be potentially as soon as today. The Prime Minister will then announce the outcome of that review and we’ll have to go from there. But yeah we’ll just wait and see.

NICHOLSON: It does seem as though more information comes out each day and at the moment there’s also some unanswered questions about Scott Morrison’s involvement in this and he answered questions about that at the National Press Club this week. Saying that basically his role was only to relay representations it had received. Is that right?

FALINSKI: Well I I’m not in the prime minister’s office so I don’t know. But my experience has been that that would be roughly what occurred so that you’d have members of parliament who are representing their community and community groups within their community going to the Prime Minister’s office and saying “look this community really needs funding for female change rooms” or something of that particular nature. And the Prime Minister’s office would convey that request to the relevant minister, in this case Bridget McKenzie.


NICHOLSON: It does seem as though the details of this case are not ordinary, are not as they usually are and according to both ABC sources that the ABC spoken to and also Network Ten, the Prime Minister’s sport advisor Chris Daffy liaised directly with Senator McKenzie’s office regarding the program.


FALINSKI: I don’t’ think that’s unusual. 


NICHOLSON: Do you know if there were directions of where this funding would go, or where this funding should go?

FALINSKI: Well I don’t know is the answer. I haven’t seen or any evidence or an allegation of that nature. 


NICHOLSON: If we do see evidence. What should happen then?


FALINSKI: Well then there would need to be review about what the nature of that was occurring. But you know we have in this country a system where we elect representatives to make decisions. These programs are, certainly advice is put forward to ministers that the bureaucracy makes. They have their decision criteria. We’ve had of course that example of where the roller derby rink rated 92, but the women’s change rooms rated 42 and as elected representatives it’s kind of our job is to put a common-sense filter over that and say actually we need more women encouraged into sports.


NICHOLSON: Sports Australia did those rankings so did they not use common sense?


FALINSKI: Well it would seem at this point in time that they were using guidelines and a particular formula. And yes sometimes formulas spit out what is a technical answer but that any human being looking at it would say “well that doesn’t make sense”, it doesn’t mean that everything is wrong. It just means that occasionally every formula spits out.


CLARE: I feel sorry for the mums and dads that run different sporting clubs and put together these submissions they thought it was all legit and fair and then they find out that money has been allocated not to the one that was ranked the highest but to the ones that go to the marginal seat. They didn’t realise the game was rigged. You know Jason you talk about, and the Prime Minister’s talked about, girls having to change behind the sheds, but the fact is there’s lots of applications for girls change rooms that didn’t get funded. And then you’ve got half a million dollars to the Mosman Rowers Club for an extension of a pier. You know you’re talking about girls having to cover up, to cover up your own misdeeds. That’s the problem here. Money should have been given to the best applications. You talk about “everything’s eligible”, I’m eligible to play for Australia in the next Test against South Africa, but you shouldn’t pick me because I’m not the best. 


FALINSKI: I think you’d make it.


CLARE: I can tell you what, I was a pretty good opener for Cabramatta, but don’t pick me for Australia. Give the money to the ones that need it the most. I’m sure that the Mosman Rowers Club if they needed a new pier, they could pay for it themselves.


FALINSKI: Well that’s not an unfair point, but well they can’t they can’t. That’s a club that’s gone you know under three times and they do a lot of great work. 


CLARE: What about the Royal Adelaide Golf Club? It costs about 20 grand to join. I don’t think they need taxpayers money for the solar power.


FALINSKI: Well hang on. Why not? Are we against solar panels?


CLARE: Because they didn’t rank as high as others…


FALINSKI: So we should have just say, we should just taken the advice of the bureaucracy or Sports Australia in this particular instance. So we should have funded the roller derby rink over the women’s change room. 


CLARE: You didn’t fund women’s change rooms.


FALINSKI: Well we did, there were a lot of women’s change room rules that we funded that would not have been funded if we’d just listened.


CLARE: There were a lot that had been rejected because they weren’t in the right seat. 


FALINSKI: Well that’s not true. I mean can I make this point because it’s a very important point before the minister’s office intervened funding to Labor electorates or electorates held by Labor members was at 26 per cent. After she intervened it went to 36 per cent because we wanted to ensure that there was a spread, well she wanted to ensure that there was a spread of the program. You can’t say I mean I can’t come in here and say I can go and 


CLARE: More evidence you see here, more evidence evidence out of the Liberal Party’s mouth that there was intervention for political purpose.

IBRAHIM: Is this the case Jason Clare that perhaps the guidelines are not strong enough? Is that basically the case?

CLARE: Well I’ll tell you what it’s a case for an ICAC. The only way to…

FALINSKI: Oh more show trial.


CLARE: Oh so you don’t want an ICAC?


FALINSKI: No I don’t want an ICAC. We’ve seen in New South Wales, the injustice that ICACs infer on people who are innocent over and over again.


CLARE: If the Minister doesn’t get sacked over the rorting on 100 Million dollars, when does a Minister ever get sacked?  If Bridget McKenzie doesn’t go then it’s a message to every other minister in your government that you can get away with whatever you want. The only way we’re going to stop this is with an ICAC.


NICHOLSON: But Jason Clare there is that investigation being carried out. So should we not reserve judgment until we get the result?

CLARE: That’s an investigation into whether the minister had a conflict of interest, in not declaring that she was a member of a club. This is bigger than that. You know this is the rorting of 100 million dollars of taxpayer dollars. 


FALINSKI: Oh I just, sorry your premise is completely wrong. 


CLARE: Smoking guns as far as the eye can see. Any prime minister before this prime minister would have sacked Bridget McKenzie by now. I can’t understand what he’s waiting for unless he’s worried about evidence coming out that his office is involved in pulling the strings in all of this.


IBRAHIM: Jason Falinski is the Liberal Party being sullied by the internal conflicts of the National Party?

FALINSKI: No I don’t. I don’t think that at all. I mean we’re having a discussion about a program, how it was administered. Jason is obviously trying to turn that into something bigger. That’s his job to do that. But the whole idea that this somehow would justify more show trials as we’ve seen in New South Wales and a commission that failed to notice the rorting going on under the Carr Keneally government and Eddie Obeid and that investigation only started after they left office. And the number of people who have been injured and had their lives destroyed by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in NSW. I cannot and I’m not saying this politically, I’m saying this is a human being that we want to see more justice in the world. I can’t understand people like Jason who I know cares about justice who wants to impose on the Australian people a commission that has done so much injustice. 


CLARE: I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that at all. Your government has said you’re going to introduce an ICAC and it’s been delayed. 


FALINSKI: No an integrity commission.


CLARE: Which is well it’s the same thing.

FALINSKI: But you guys want public hearings. You guys want to replicate the New South Wales ICAC, which has just done so much damage.


CLARE: All we want you to do is act. This country is screaming out for leadership here. Real leaders turn up in a crisis. We’ve got three on our doorstep at the moment. You’ve got the Coronavirus. You’ve got bushfires on the doorstep of Canberra again and you’ve got the stench of corruption with this scandal as well. The Prime Minister was too slow to act on the bushfires but finally acted. He’s too slow to act here too. He should have sacked Bridget McKenzie three weeks ago.

IBRAHIM: I’m afraid we’ve run out of time. Jason Clare, Jason Falinski thanks so much for coming.