PM Defends Peter Dutton Over ‘Absurd’ Pork-Barrelling Allegations

February 12, 2021 Updated: February 15, 2021

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton over allegations of pork-barrelling community grants.

Speaking on 3AW radio on Friday, Morrison rejected the allegations against Dutton.

“There’s nothing in front of me which says he’s done anything outside the rules,” he said. “I’m not aware of any breaches of any rules or regulations in relation to the administration of that program.”

Morrison then addressed comments from the opposition Labor Party on the allegations.

“If the Labor Party thinks there has been, they should actually make an accusation with substance rather than just throwing mud around,” Morrison said.

Dutton was first accused of diverting community safety funding to a list of hand-picked projects in electorates rather than follow the departments’ recommendations, in a report by the  ABC’s 7:30 program. It published a home affair department briefing, detailing the top projects available for the safety grant funding and suggested Dutton chose to veer away from the department recommendations to push funds into areas of political gain.

Dutton has called the allegations absurd, saying he intervened in the scheme to ensure more councils could access funding.

“It meant we got bigger bang for our buck and any suggestion beyond that is just ridiculous,” he told Today.

“I’ve been in public life 20 years and I pride myself on my integrity, I don’t care what mud they throw. I take it very seriously, my responsibility, and the allegations are a complete nonsense.”

The ABC wrote Dutton had been warned by the department, in a prior confidential ministerial briefing, that ignoring their recommendations could draw scrutiny from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and the media.

This comes as former cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie is set for questioning over her own involvement in a rort scandal.

A senate committee will hear from McKenzie, previously the sports minister who oversaw a AU$100 million (US$77 million) infrastructure grant program.

In a report published by the ANAO, it was found the scheme approved more funding to projects in marginal seats.

McKenzie stepped down from her position due to a breach in ministerial standards for her failure to declare membership of two gun clubs, one of which received a grant.

She has agreed to appear before the committee for an hour but has warned that she has nothing to add to written submissions provided to the inquiry last year. Mackenzie has also described the push to have her give verbal evidence as a cheap political stunt.