Event: The Sports Rorts Affair (1993 - 1994)

December 1993
February 1994


"Sports rorts" was the name by which the Australian media, public and political commentators came to refer to a series of events during late 1993 and early 1994, where the then Sports Minister, Ros Kelly, was unable to appropriately explain the distribution of federal sporting grants to marginal electorates held by the governing Australian Labor Party.

In evidence to a House of Representatives Committee, Kelly admitted she had assessed 2,800 submissions for funding on the basis of verbal advice from her staff, and that decisions on short-listed applications had been made on a "great big whiteboard" in her office, having been erased without permanent record once the decisions were made.


In December 1993, the Auditor-General complained about the manner in which the Department of Environment, Sport and Territories had administered thirty million dollars of grants under the Community Cultural, Recreational and Sporting Facilities Program. The Auditor-General reported that he could not find any documentation explaining the rationale for grants made by Kelly's department, and therefore could not assess her decision-making procedures. The Federal opposition claimed in Parliament that the money had been directed into marginal Labor-held electorates before the 1993 federal election as a pork barrelling exercise.

Initially, Kelly avoided answering questions on the matter, but she relented following threats by the Australian Democrats to vote for a Liberal proposition establishing a Senate inquiry if she did not give evidence to a House of Representatives committee. The Committee ultimately found that her actions were not illegal, but her administration was "deficient".

On 28 February 1994, Kelly resigned from her ministerial position under consistent pressure from the Australian Democrats and the Liberal opposition. Ultimately, the controversy also led to her resignation from Parliament. The resulting by-election on 25 March 1995 saw the loss of the safe Labor seat of Canberra with a swing of over 16% to the Liberal Party; although it was subsequently reagined by Labor in the 1996 federal election.

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