Liberal politician scores $150k grant for rowing club where daughter is a member

A taxpayer-funded grant announced by Liberal candidate Madeleine Ogilvie during the 2021 Tasmanian state election campaign funneled $150,000 into the rowing club her daughter is a member of.

Ms Ogilvie, now a minister in Tasmania’s Liberal government, announced on April 26 last year that the Sandy Bay Rowing Club would receive the funding for a floating pontoon if the Liberals won re-election.

The grant was to come from the Liberals’ Local Communities Facilities Fund — a controversial grants program that was also an election promise and had not been formally established.

Successful recipients of money from the fund were decided by an internal Liberal Party policy team, after candidates made applications on behalf of community groups and organisations.

Formed in 1906, the club says its facilities includes a “boat shed, gymnasium and club rooms that lie on the edge of the river Derwent”.,Sandy Bay Rowing Club,

During parliamentary Budget Estimates hearings on Wednesday, Sports Minister Nic Street was asked to confirm that Ms Ogilvie’s daughter was a member of the Sandy Bay Rowing Club at the time the $150,000 commitment was made.

Mr Street, who was only elevated to cabinet this year, responded that he “could not possibly” know the answer.

“I am not going to comment on conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest that other ministers might have,” he said.

The government has since confirmed that Ms Ogilvie’s daughter was a member of the club, saying that the situation had been “disclosed” to the Liberal Party at the time.

Madeleine Ogilvie's Facebook post about Sandy Bay Rowing Club grant.
Liberal MP Madeleine Ogilvie’s Facebook post about the $150,000 grant.,Facebook: Madeleine Ogilvie MP,

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said it was a “very obvious” conflict of interest.

“The revelations surrounding Ms Ogilvie’s involvement in securing $150,000 in funding for her child’s sports club during the last state election are a very bad look for the Liberals,” Ms O’Connor said.

“It beggars belief that the Rockliff government would say, ‘Everything is fine,’ because Ms Ogilvie told the Liberal Party it would benefit her daughter.”

The Liberals’ Local Communities Facilities Fund was the subject of a series of heated exchanges at the Estimates table, following allegations engaged in April that the party in electoral bribery by using the fund to make election commitments.

Earlier that same month, a bombshell report by Tasmania’s Integrity Commission into electoral bribery, or pork-barrelling, during the 2018 state election campaign raised questions over tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money handed out by the Liberal Party in 2018, drawing comparisons to the Commonwealth’s so-called “sports rorts” saga, but pointing out there were fewer rules governing the practice in Tasmania.

A woman stands smiling with a liberal party t-shirt on.
Labor, turned independent, turned Liberal member Madeleine Ogilvie with her party colleagues.,ABC News: Jessica Moran,

The integrity watchdog raised concerns that there was no publicly available information about how grant recipients were chosen in 2018, the fact the promises were never assessed by the public service, and that there was no process to determine whether the grants were a good use of public money.

In the case of the 2021 grants, Mr Street said they were assessed by the Liberals’ policy team, based on criteria.

He did not outline the criteria, but a government spokeswoman later said they included how projects would improve economic activity, create jobs, support local businesses, and improve community amenity.

Sandy Bay Rowing Club structure.
Liberal MP Nic Street said all the grants promises were included in last year’s state budget which passed through state parliament.,ABC News: Jordan Young,

Mr Street was unable to say how many projects received funding in this way, how many applicants missed out, which other Liberal Party candidates applied for and received grants, or whether there was a limit on how much funding the program would provide.

He told the Estimates hearing the election commitments were informed by community feedback and consultation.

Mr Street said the Liberal Party director wrote to all of the party’s candidates in early April to let them know of the Liberals’ policy to establish the grants fund, saying it was “merely a vehicle for a process for managing requests from local candidates on behalf of local community groups and organisations”.

Mr Street said all the grants promises were included in last year’s state budget which passed through state parliament.

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