A key plank of the federal government’s Sport 2030 plan designed to direct funding where it is needed most has been abandoned, despite being backed by state and territory sport ministers less than two years ago.
- A plan to better track which sports facilities need upgrades has been abandoned
- The federal government has ignored expert recommendations for sports funding in recent years
- The opposition argues it leaves sports infrastructure funding vulnerable to political interference
The project’s quiet termination has prompted the shadow minister for sport to accuse the federal government of intending to “continue using community sport funding for their own political purposes”.
The project promised to produce a database on sports infrastructure shared across governments and with sporting bodies that highlighted which facilities need upgrades.
Labor senator Don Farrell said the proposal “as flagged in the government’s own national sports plan, would have helped to avoid another sports rorts”.
“Now we find out that instead of showing leadership, the Morrison government has quietly abandoned work towards ensuring that future grants can be allocated based on need and merit.”
Information released through the Senate Estimates process shows Sport Australia worked on a technical platform to support the project in 2018, leading to sports ministers agreeing to consider a proposal to progress the project in November 2019.
But sports ministers met again in March 2020 and removed the project from Sports Australia’s work plan. The abandonment of the project was never announced.
The office of New South Wales sport minister Natalie Ward told the ABC the project and its cancellation was a federal matter.
A similar project was recommended in a report this year by the Labor-controlled committee into the Community Sport Infrastructure program — the funding stream at the centre of the so-called “sports rorts” — which called for sharing data to apply funding “based on an audit of needs”.
A spokesperson for Sport Minister Richard Colbeck said the government was “considering” the report of this committee, “including recommendation three regarding a coordinated national policy framework for community sport infrastructure”.
They declined to comment on the Sport 2030 recommendation.
A hole in Sport 2030
The Sport 2030 plan was launched in August 2018 by then-sports minister Bridget McKenzie.
At the time, she said it “will ensure we can realise our vision to be the world’s most active and healthy sporting nation, known for its integrity and sporting success”.
A key recommendation was for federal, state and territory governments to look at developing a database of sports infrastructure in partnership with councils and sporting organisations.
The federal government spends more than $100 million in a typical year on sporting infrastructure, in addition to state and local funding.
In the Community Sport Infrastructure program, the minister ignored advice on meritorious projects from Sport Australia.
Another pre-election program, the Female Facilities and Water Safety Stream, was promoted as offering applicants a chance to improve women’s change rooms. It was never open for applicants and the vast majority of the funds were used on swimming pools in marginal seats.
Spending under each program was in excess of $100 million.
Senator McKenzie resigned from the frontbench last year at the height of the sports rorts controversy for failing to disclose a membership to a Wangaratta shooting club that benefited under a grants scheme.