Bridget McKenzie
(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

Former federal sports minister Bridget McKenzie is under fire for failing to declare that she received a membership to the Wangaratta Clay Target Club at the time the club was granted $36,000 under the now infamous Community Sport Infrastructure program.

Her reason? The office of the now agriculture minister says she didn’t need to declare the gift, valued at $180 according to her office, because it was below the declaration threshold of $300. 

So, Crikey decided to check on McKenzie’s statement of registrable interests going back to August 2016 to see if the minister only ever declared gifts valued at over $300.

Apparently, not. We discovered dozens of examples which look to us to cost less than $300.

Here are some of them:

  • 13 kilos of Fuji Apples from Scott Brothers orchard in Tasmania
  • One Christmas ham from the Australian pork industry
  • One notebook from Liberal-aligned lobbying firm Bespoke Approach
  • One signed Spalding basketball presented by the Melbourne Boomers
  • Box of vitamins from Swisse
  • One bottle of Bobbie Burns 2016 Shiraz from the National Press Club
  • One bottle Clonakilla 2016 Shiraz from Lightfoot and Sons winery
  • One bottle of home block Chardonnay 2017, also from Lightfoot
  • A bottle of Tasmanian scotch, brand unspecified, say $100
  • Tickets to a 2015 Geelong AFL game.

Interestingly, McKenzie appears to have had troubles with the declaration rules.

Having first declared the gifts she was given, she had to later correct the record to name who gave the gift — which is, arguably, the entire point of a register.

McKenzie’s full list of declarations shows what an armchair ride life as minister can be. Sports bodies, mainly, and large corporations look after many of life’s necessities and a luxury or two. 

Telstra has donated State of Origin tickets. There are Melbourne Cup Tickets from Tabcorp and Seppelt. McKenzie received corporate tickets to the Australian Open Women’s final 2019 from Nine and Emirates Airlines.

Four dozen bottles of wine came from the Business Council of Cooperatives and Mutuals. Virgin Airlines and Qantas donated lounge memberships. The Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association has provided a Fox subscription free of charge. And Credit Union Australia put up the readies for KFC Big Bash tickets. 

On top of this corporate largesse, McKenzie is paid $364,000 a year as a minister and as leader of the Nationals in the Senate. Plus she receives a $32,000 electorate allowance.

She holds the record for 2018 as the federal politician with the highest travel allowances which are tax free and are paid on top of her salary.

As reported here, McKenzie claimed for 217 nights in hotels, averaging more than $1400 a week — around $75,000 for the year — paid by the taxpayer. 

For most of the period examined by Crikey, McKenzie has declared only one property, a unit in the Melbourne suburb of Elwood which, as many have pointed out, seems to be a long way from rural Australia and her principal electorate office in Wodonga.

The property though is described as an investment, rather than her residence, with a mortgage, and potentially drawing negative gearing tax breaks.

Just over a week ago McKenzie added another property, also in Melbourne, also described as an investment property and also with a mortgage. Two properties, but neither called home.

How good is living off other people’s money?

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW