(Images: AAP)

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has called the government’s purchase of land for Western Sydney Airport at almost 10 times its value a “bargain”. 

The land was owned by a Coalition donor and sold for $30 million — despite being appraised for just $3.1 million. 

It’s the latest tactic by Nationals members to defer, deflect and deny allegations of rorts — even when faced by independent reports from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).

Crikey takes a look at some Nationals ministers’ reactions to allegations — from demanding immunity to denying evidence.

‘Great enthusiasm’

In 2004 a senate inquiry found that then-parliamentary secretary for regional services De-Anne Kelly had approved a grant of $1.27 million to A2 Dairy Marketers — despite a pending court case which later found the company had made misleading statements around the benefit of their product. Kelly later said the project had been “greeted with great enthusiasm” by local politicians. 

Political mischief

In 2007, an ANAO report found then-minister for children and youth affairs Larry Anthony ignored 120 departmental recommendations, awarding community grants to Nationals electorates, including his own. Anthony accused his opponents of “political mischief” and denied wrongdoing.

No audits before elections

That same year, the ANAO found aircraft were flying around Sydney Airport without authorisation and with breaches going unpenalised. In response, then-transport minister Mark Vaile criticised the office’s decision to release the report a week before the federal election. 

“To have an unelected individual who is a statutory office holder making a decision on the release of a report like this and the timing — maybe that needs to be looked at,” he said.

No integrity

National MPs, including former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, planned to oppose a new anti-corruption scheme in November 2018, saying they would only agree to it if it protected ministers who went against departmental advice when approving grants for whomever they felt like.

‘Ministerial standards

In February this year, former sports minister Bridget McKenzie resigned following weeks of bad press after an ANAO report found she had skewed community sports infrastructure grants toward marginal seats. 

McKenzie denied that she resigned because of the rort — saying instead, it was because she didn’t declare her membership to a gun club which had received funding.

‘No bias evident’

McCormack, Darren Chester and McKenzie each sat on the committee that oversaw the federal government’s management of a $220 million regional jobs scheme. An ANAO report found decisions weren’t consistent with advice given, with some funds going to projects not backed by the department process.

A spokeswoman for McCormack’s office said the department had already improved practises before the report was released, noting there was “no bias evident”.