Barnaby Joyce blasts Coalition for ‘deal’ with Pauline Hanson to announce $23m stadium grant | Barnaby Joyce
Barnaby Joyce has blasted the government’s decision to allow Pauline Hanson to announce a $23m grant for a 16,000-seat stadium in Rockhampton with a cheque emblazoned with her face.
In comments to Guardian Australia, the Nationals MP and former deputy prime minister accused the government of “a deal” with Hanson, buying One Nation support on an unrelated matter with the funding. Hanson hit back, accusing the Nationals of “jealousy” over her successful advocacy.
The accusations come after Tuesday’s budget tipped an extra $100m into the community development grant program, which will pay for the $23m grant, two $5m grants in Rebekha Sharkie’s seat of Mayo and other undisclosed projects.
In September, Guardian Australia revealed the $23m grant to the Rocky Sports Club, which Hanson and Nationals MP Michelle Landry jointly announced, but Hanson claimed credit for with the cheque purportedly from the “Australian federal parliament”.
After some claimed Hanson, and not she, had won the money, Landry later hit out at “naysayers and trolls who said I had nothing to do with the Rocky stadium”.
On Facebook, Hanson attributed the funding to her lobbying at a September 2019 dinner with the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and finance minister Mathias Cormann.
The dinner was called to mend relations between One Nation and the government after the Coalition directed preferences away from the minor party at the 2019 election.
Joyce told Guardian Australia: “Of course I would prefer we announced this grant rather than Ms Hanson, because it was a program that was brought about by the Nationals not One Nation.
“You always try and explain what cabinet or expenditure review committee meeting you got the funds through.
“They [One Nation] like to imply they were there, but they weren’t.”
“I suspect it was a deal – obviously it must be for a form of support for another issue … and this is a payment for it.”
Since her election in 2016, Hanson and her Senate colleague Malcolm Roberts have consistently voted with the Coalition on major legislation, with a few notable exceptions.
Joyce said the “Liberal party has paid a bill out of funds that could’ve gone somewhere else”.
“To the people of Rockhampton I say: ‘Congratulations, well done’. I don’t complain about the asset, I do have concerns about the process.”
Hanson responded that the Nationals “get their knickers in a knot because of their own laziness”.
“It’s just pure jealousy,” she told Guardian Australia. “If they pulled their finger out and did some work around their electorates, they’d be able to make the same or similar announcements I’ve been able to.”
In September, Rocky Sports Club co-founder Gavin Shuker credited both Landry and Hanson for winning the funds.
“Pauline was lobbying Mathias Cormann and talking to the prime minister and Michelle was doing her thing,” he told Guardian Australia.
“It’s pretty unusual, but they’ve secured the money somehow.”
Shuker denied the grant had anything to do with the Queensland election, explaining the pair had lobbied for the funding to do “something for the community”.
The deputy prime minister and infrastructure minister, Michael McCormack, said the government committed $23m to create a “new iconic landmark for central Queensland”.
“This is a prime example of the Nationals in government delivering infrastructure Queenslanders want, need and deserve and it can only be delivered by the Liberal and Nationals in government,” he said.
Labor’s Murray Watt has referred the $23m grant to the auditor general, warning that Hanson announcing the funding with a novelty cheque “raises concerns the government had allowed her to use taxpayer funds to campaign with the Liberal National party for the Queensland election”.
The community development grants program is one of several Labor has accused the Coalition of using for partisan purposes, including the community sport infrastructure grant (CSIG) program, which the auditor general found was skewed to target marginal seats.
Although Morrison has conceded no wrongdoing in the allocation of those grants, in January at the National Press Club and again in September in comments to Guardian Australia, the prime minister held out the possibility unsuccessful clubs could yet be funded. Tuesday’s budget did not contain funding for them.
Labor’s shadow sports minister, Don Farrell, said the budget had “delivered nothing but another big slap in the face to grassroots sports clubs snubbed in the Morrison government’s shameful sports rorts scandal”.
“After building up the hopes of the hundreds of deserving community sports clubs his government ripped off, he has again treated them with complete contempt.”