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Tasmanian seats part of pork barrelling saga

bridget mckenzie

Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, December 3, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Tasmania has been caught up in the pork barrelling saga which has prompted calls for former Federal Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie to resign.

The Australian National Audit Office has found a $100 million community sports funding program was basically used as an election slush fund, with the then-minister prioritising less deserving projects in marginal seats over better applicants elsewhere.

Tasmania received around $3 million of the funding from the Coalition, with around 75 per cent of the money funnelled to the marginal seats of Bass, Braddon and Lyons.

In contrast, Clark and Franklin received roughly three-quarters of a million dollars.

Bass and Braddon were key in Prime Minister Scott Morrison's shock election win back in May 2019. 

Independent Andrew Wilkie says it's a disgrace, but points out both major parties have been at it for years.

"It was obviously very disappointing that the three seats in play got the lion's share of the money while Franklin and Clark missed out. That just shows very clearly that it was a pork barrelling exercise or slush fund to be used by the government," he said.

"The auditor himself has said that it was completely inappropriate. Mind you, I am struck by the hypocracy at some of those criticising the government too, because whoever is in power does this; whether it's Labor or the Coalition. And it points to a complete lack of integrity in the political class and a lack of proper process."

Mr Wilkie stopped short of echoing Labor's calls for Minister McKenzie to stand down.

"I'm not calling for Bridget McKenzie to resign, I'm calling for both major parties to lift their game, show some integrity and start respecting proper process. Because until that happens they'll be repeat episodes of this sort of thing."

Labor has referred the matter to the audit committee.

Ms McKenzie is refusing to step aside, maintaining the communities which were given the grants were merely the successful applicants.