Lawyers call on Australian Sports Commission to urgently release key documents relating to sports rorts scandal

3 February 2021
Lawyers acting in a Federal Court test case regarding the sports rorts scandal have applied to the Federal Court for orders compelling the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) to urgently hand over key documents relating to the role of former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie in the affair.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers is acting for the Beechworth Lawn Tennis Club (BLTC) in challenging the legality of the community sports grants program.

Specifically, the case seeks to overturn a decision from the ASC to reject the club’s grant funding application, with the Court to consider if the ASC acted unlawfully by delegating its decision-making to Ms McKenzie and/or whether the ASC acted under the dictation of the Minister in awarding sports grants to community organisations.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Josh Bornstein, who is acting for the BLTC, urged the ASC to hand over key documents to allow the case to continue to proceed.

“Unfortunately, we have been unable to reach agreement with the ASC over access to what we say are highly relevant documents regarding the former Sports Minister’s role in the grants program,” Mr Bornstein said.

“As a result, we have had to apply to the Federal Court for orders.

“Specifically, we are seeking all documents relating to the former Minister’s role in any decisions regarding funding approvals for the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant (CSIG) program; including communications, recordings of meetings or phone calls, as well as phone records or notes of conversations between the ASC and the former Minister and her office about these matters.

“It of course remains open to the ASC at any time to provide these documents willingly and we again urge them to do so – if there is nothing to hide then there should be no reason not to hand these documents over so that this important test case can continue to proceed.

“As we have said throughout this case, while the misuse of taxpayer funds in the sports grant process in order to assist the Liberal and National Parties in the last election has been highlighted by a report from the Auditor General and aired in the Parliament, those responsible have not been held to account.

“Through this test case we are hoping to have the decision to reject BLTC’s application overturned and in doing so, our client hopes to ensure that there is appropriate accountability for those who allowed the sports rorts saga to happen.

“Securing all relevant documents from the ASC is crucial to those efforts,” he said. 

The Court will determine the application after considering written submissions from both parties.

Further information about the BLTC case

In September 2018, the Indigo Shire Council, on behalf of the BLTC, applied for a grant of $500,000 under the Community Sports Infrastructure Grant Program for the purpose of building new tennis facilities and a clubhouse.

The grant was rejected, despite qualifying under the ASC criteria.

The Federal Court challenge on behalf of the BLTC is an important test case into the legality of the entire sports rorts scandal, that if successful will likely benefit other clubs who should have received grants on merit.

Media inquiries: Jade Knight at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers – 0417 969 438