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Scott Morrison defends Peter Dutton over rorting allegations

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended Peter Dutton over allegations of pork-barrelling through community safety grants.

The home affairs minister is accused of diverting grant funding into hand-picked safety upgrades in marginal seats ahead of the last election.

Scott Morrison rejected the allegations.

“There’s nothing in front of me which says he’s done anything outside the rules,” Mr Morrison told 3AW radio on Friday.

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“It’s an allegation that hasn’t been backed up by any breaches of any rules.

“I’m not aware of any breaches of any rules or regulations in relation to the administration of that program.”

Mr Dutton rubbished the accusations and attacked the ABC journalist who first reported the issue, accusing them of “trying to do a hatchet job”.

“It’s just absurd, honestly,” he told Nine.

Mr Dutton said he intervened in the community safety scheme to ensure more councils could access the money.

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

“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.”

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Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles described the program as “sports rorts mark two”.

“They deliver their money on the basis of the marginality of seat, not on the basis of merit,” Mr Marles said.

“There’s a blurred line after eight years between public money and the Liberal Party’s money.”

Former cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie is set to be grilled over her involvement in the infamous sports rorts scandal.

A Senate committee will on Friday hear evidence from Senator McKenzie, who was sport minister overseeing the $100 million program.

Bridget McKenzie

AAP

In January last year, the auditor-general found the scheme favoured coalition and marginal seats in a scathing report that triggered a political firestorm.

Senator McKenzie has agreed to appear before the committee for an hour but warns she has nothing to add to written submissions provided to the inquiry last year.

She has described the push to have her give verbal evidence as a cheap political stunt.

Various organisations, including a football and tennis club that will give evidence on Friday, missed out on funding despite receiving high scores in the assessment process.

Labor sport spokesman Don Farrell said clubs and communities hurt through the scandal deserved answers.

“The cover-up really kicked into overdrive when evidence to the Senate inquiry revealed Scott Morrison was in the rort up to his neck,” he told AAP.

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“It took an unprecedented order of the Senate to compel senator Bridget McKenzie to appear before the inquiry, more than a year after the auditor general’s report.”

The upper house voted in December to compel the former minister to appear before the committee.

Senator Farrell said the government was still trying to pretend it did nothing wrong.

“Scott Morrison and his ministers must be held accountable for their improper use of taxpayers’ money to pork-barrel marginal and target seats.”

Senator McKenzie is expected to face questions about involvement from the prime minister’s office in deciding which clubs receive grants.

She resigned from cabinet after it emerged she had membership of two gun clubs that received grants through the program.

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