Isn’t history a facinating thing? And Hansard even more fasinating?
A quick look back at what the current Federal Treasurer’s view of rorting
the public purse when he was just the Shadow Finance Minister is indeed
insightful.

Of course then he was banging on about Ros “Whiteboard” Kelly and those
outrageous community grants.

Now one of his own is caught doing the same thing well …….

Here are a few choice extracts from the time. There are dozens more.
Anyone (Kim Beazley perhaps) interested in reading more can just visit – http://parlinfoweb.aph.gov.au/ – and enter Costello and Community Grants in
the search engine. Truly fasinating!

17 November 1993

Question Without Notice – Community Grants

Mr COSTELLO —I refer the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories
to the report of the Auditor-General on the community cultural, recreation
and sporting facilities program, where the Auditor-General reported as
follows:

The role of the Minister’s staff in the selection of grants appears
significant. ANAO notes that if these staff exercise public power they
should be held publicly accountable to the Parliament for the exercise of
that power.

Will the minister release all documentation generated by her office in
relation to applications for grants, deliberations on grants and awarding of
grants under this scheme?

17 November 1993

Matter of Public Importance

Mr COSTELLO (Higgins) (2.52 p.m.) —Yesterday the Auditor-General reported to
this parliament in audit report No. 9. The report is entitled Community
cultural, recreational and sporting facilities program, a program which has
been run out of the office—I say `out of the office’ deliberately—of the
Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories (Mrs Kelly). The first
responsibility of any minister is to administer the department. As this
Auditor-General’s report illustrates, there has been a humiliating failure
of administration in this department—and by this minister.

The suspicion is that up to $30 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent
on a vote buying exercise by the Australian Labor Party. It was not
motivated by public interest or community need, but by self-interest and
political need. It was motivated by the desire of this minister and this
government to use taxpayers’ funds—the funds collected from taxpayers—to buy
their way back into office at the 13 March 1993 election. This is not some
charge made by the opposition; it is a charge made by the Auditor-General,
an independent statutory officer, who has the responsibility to report to
this parliament on expenditure by government and the way that proceeds. In
the report brought to this parliament yesterday, the Auditor-General found that the Department’s administration. . .was weak:

  • insufficient information was sent to the Minister
  • the objectives of the program were unclear
  • the procedures for processing applications were poor
  • documentation supporting the . . . process was inadequate

He found there was not enough consultation. He also said:

  • projects were not monitored systematically
  • certain administrative procedures left the program open to fraud and the
    program fraud control plan was out of date
  • there is poor performance information

22 November 1993 – QWO

Question Without Notice – Community Grants

Mr COSTELLO —I ask the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories:
will she table in this House all documents, including correspondence and
file notes, held by her or her office relating to the consideration and
approval of grants under the community cultural, recreational and sporting
facilities program?


22 November 1993

Motion of Censure

Mr COSTELLO (Higgins) (2.48 p.m.) —I move:

That this House censures the Minister for the Environment, Sport and
Territories for the maladministration of her department and political bias
in the selection of grants under the community cultural, recreational and
sporting facilities program.

The community, cultural, recreational and sporting facilities program ought
to be known as the sports rorts program. It is the parliament’s duty to hold
ministers to account just as it is the parliament’s duty to appropriate
taxpayers’ money. It is the role of this parliament and the House of
Representatives to supervise the expenditure of funds. This is as clear a
case as we can get of where the parliament ought to step in and censure the
Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories (Mrs Kelly) for a
dereliction of duty.

=========

This minister has a choice of defence: she can come in here and say either,
`I am incompetent’ or `I am corrupt’. They are the only two defences that
are open to her this afternoon to explain how this money was expended and
where it went. The minister is either a knave or a fool. They are the only
alternatives that are left for this minister to explain the thorough
incompetence and bias……

If the minister has nothing to hide, why does she not come clean? Why do we
have to go through this questioning process in this House as representatives
of the people and ask a minister to come forward and release the relevant
information and she is unable to do so? Do not say it can be pushed off to
this committee, which does not have powers of subpoena or cross-examination,
or it can be pushed off to that committee. Why does she not come in here
before this House, of which she is a member and to which she is accountable,
and come clean with the documentation? Covering up is even worse than the
original failure. It is even worse to stand here and say, `I will not
disclose this information’ than it was to actually go ahead and act in the
way she did. Many a politician—we remember the Watergate scandal for one—got
into much more trouble for refusing to come clean early, rather than what he
did in the original example……

It is symptomatic of this government that ministers in this government—a
government that has been so long in office that it can no longer distinguish
between the public interest and its own political interest—will not accept
responsibility. They will not draw the distinction; they will not draw the
line; they will not create the public accountability. A minister who cannot
do that—a minister who cannot account to the people of Australia—is a
minister who must be censured.

14 December 1993

Question Without Notice – Community Grants

Mr COSTELLO —My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment,
Sport and Territories. On 1 December, Senator McMullan wrote to the arts
community saying that arts grants are made on an arm’s length peer review
basis `to ensure politicians do not have a say in deciding who is awarded
grants’. If it is important that politicians do not have a say in who is
awarded arts grants, why is it not important that politicians do not have a
say in who is awarded sports and cultural grants? Why did the minister take
it on herself to personally decide who received sports and cultural grants
rather than have it done at arm’s length by her department?

16 December 1993

Motion of censure

One thing is patently clear, as a result of the proceedings that have taken
place in this House over the last month. This is a minister who misled this
parliament, and this is a minister who must resign. The Prime Minister must
stand this minister down, or forever wear the stain of shame that he was the
one who undermined one of the most sacrosanct principles of Westminster
parliamentary democracy; the principle that a minister must account to the
parliament; the principle that above all else a minister must never mislead
the parliament. If this Prime Minister cannot find his way clear to stand
this minister down for whatever reason, it will be the low water mark of
ministerial responsibility in this country.

It will mean that ministers are above reproach for their conduct and actions
in this House. Ministerial accountability will not only have dived under the
Prime Minister, but it will have sunk. It will become the new low water mark
which gives a green light from here on in to ministers that they can, in
order to obfuscate and to hide, mislead this parliament and do it with
impunity.

Let us make this absolutely clear: this stench goes right to the door of the
Prime Minister. If this minister will not take responsibility, the Prime
Minister should, and he will wear the stain of shame of the Kelly fiasco for
the rest of his prime ministership. In front of the Australian people he
will wear the stain that it will be permissible on simple matters of fact to
mislead this House. If it ever becomes permissible on simple matters of fact
to mislead this House, then this House has no purpose in relation to
questioning ministers.

Peter Fray

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