Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defused the “sports rorts” affair that had threatened to engulf his government by securing bipartisan support for his plan to establish a new specialised federal funding agency.
At a Canberra news conference Mr Morrison announced he would establish a new Marginal Electorate Rorting Department to funnel all federal funding to at-risk Liberal or National Party seats.
And he continued to reject attacks by the Labor Party opposition and others on former sports minister Bridget McKenzie for her handling of sports grants prior to the May 2019 election.
“How good is Bridget?” he said to media representatives.
Swiftly cutting off the many reporters who began to answer, Mr Morrison continued: “I firmly believe it is not Bridget who is being criticised, but the level of transparency in the decisions surrounding the sports grants.
“So I have devised a plan to give total transparency to any funding decisions affecting marginal seats held by my government.
“The new Marginal Electorate Rorting Department, or MERD for short, will be responsible for allocating funding for any project or service in any government-held marginal seat by any program run by any federal department or agency.
“The bureaucrats running MERD will have the clear task of spending public funds to help the government hold its marginal seats and their decisions on allocating funds to particular projects will be taken on that basis.
“So there will be no question of any conflict between departmental recommendations and the desire of ministers to fund projects likely to help hold on to marginal seats.
“How good is transparency?” Mr Morrison said.
Once again swiftly cutting off the many reporters who began to answer, Mr Morrison continued: “Of course as a fully fledged federal agency MERD will act for whatever party is in office at any given time, so under a Labor Party government MERD will be spending truckloads of cash on Labor marginals. That’s only fair.
“I have briefed Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on the plans for the new department and he totally backs it,” Mr Morrison said.
When contacted Mr Albanese confirmed Labor’s support for the new agency and said as a result his party would drop its campaign against Senator McKenzie.
“Shit yeah. Of course we support it,” he said of the PM’s plan.
“I’m happy to give up any short-term gains from our attacks on Senator McKenzie for the long-term gains of guaranteed pork-barrelling that you can’t get into trouble over.
“How good is pork-barrelling?’ he said.