Labor demands investigation after ‘photo stunt’
Labor is demanding a top level investigation of an election campaign stunt in which a prominent Liberal candidate appeared to hand out taxpayer money as if it was her own.
Georgina Downer, in her scone attempt at the South Australian seat of Mayo, was Friday photographed with happy members of the Yankalilla Bowling Club which had just received $127,373 under a government sports grants scheme.
However, Ms Downer was holding a large novelty cheque which credited the grant to the Liberal Party and featured her photograph.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus today called on the Auditor-General investigate the suggestion that taxpayer money had actually come from the Liberal Party and Ms Downer, daughter of former Mayo member and foreign minister Alexander Downer.
And an inquiry could draw in Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie who was responsible for the grants program.
Mr Dreyfus said in a letter to Auditor-General Grant Hehir the money "was not a gift from Ms Downer or the Liberal Party.
It was in fact a grant from the Australian Government under the taxpayer-funded
Community Sport Infrastructure Program.
"Further, I understand Ms Downer 'announced' the grant to the Yankalilla Bowling Club before the elected local Member of parliament, Ms Rebekha Sharkie, had even been advised that the grant application was successful.
"It is questionable whether this is compliant with Community Sport Infrastructure Program Guidelines, particularly given the Yankalilla Bowling Club's successful application under the program was sponsored by Ms Sharkie and relied on a letter of support from her."
Ms Downer, who in recent years has lived in Melbourne, failed in a bid for Mayo in the July by-election last year won by Ms Sharkie, Mr Dreyfus accused her and the Liberal Party of attempting to "treat taxpayers' money as if it were their own".
He accused them of wanting to "deceive Australians about the true source of this taxpayer-funded grant".
Trade Minister and fellow South Australian Simon Birmingham defended the cheque stunt as a promotion used frequently.
"That type of self-promotional act is what members and candidates do right across the country all the time to help raise the awareness of the fact that they're working and fighting for their local community," Senator Birmingham told Sky News on Sunday.
"She's highlighting, quite rightly, commitments that our government has made."