Why is $100M in Sports funding worth more than $5B in Indigenous funding?

As the $100M sports grants scandal heads in to its third week, media seem to be finally gearing up to deliver the death blow, with sensationalised hints that the PM’s office was more directly involved than previously thought.

It’s an important story, and on appearances seem to a horrific abuse of power that highlights the levels of brazen misallocation of funds that can occur within the hallowed halls of power in this country.

The excuses have been pathetic, from calls that this money will ensure “that girls didn’t have to change out the back of the shed” even though a club that got money for women’s change rooms doesn’t actually have any female players, and one club that does and ask for the same funding got rejected.

The only notable difference in the ‘merit’ of these applications, apart from one team not actually having any female players, is that the approved grant was in a marginal seat and the rejected grant was in a Labor seat.

However, much of this story seems eerily reminiscent of similar stories last year about the processes and outcomes of the $5,000,000,000 (five billion) Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

It has all the same elements of the sports scandal – PMO involvement (the entire portfolio of Indigenous Affairs was moved into PM&C), not following expected process but still technically ‘not breaking the rules’ (rules that they wrote of course), cash for mates (a company that employed the CLP president, groups that Scullion had connections to, and even Warren Mundine was given $200,000 for a tv show on Sky News).


Where it stands above and beyond the Sports rort story though, is when funds were given to non-Indigenous groups to oppose Native Title, or the large number of organisations who received funding who were non-Indigenous.

That’s the equivalent of finding out that big chunks of the sports funding went to groups who had nothing to do with any sort of sport, and even a few groups who actively oppose sports.

The IAS was created by Abbott in 2014, it consolidated more than 150 programs and cut around $500M from the budget. In true Indigenous Affairs style, it was done as a complete rush job with no planning, preparation, or adequate processes for evaluation or accountability.

In 2019, a National Audit Office audit found that “Five years after the introduction of the IAS, the department is in the early stages of implementing an evaluation framework,”

So why is it that $100,000,000 has captured the anger of Australia in a way that $5,000,000,000 (which is 50x more, by the way) failed to do?

Now, I know what some people are thinking, “but Aboriginal communities are tricky. There’s alcohol and gambling and abuse issues, whereas sports… oh, that’s right. Never mind”

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