Scott Morrison has refused to answer questions about a list of 20 marginal seats that was compiled before allocating winning bids in the so-called car park rorts scandal.
The controversial $660 million fund has come under scrutiny in recent months after a report from the Australian National Audit Office found the process of choosing projects was “not demonstrably merit-based.”
It also found the Minister responsible at the time, Alan Tudge, kept a tracking list of the top 20 marginal seats to help choose where new car parks would be funded ahead of the 2019 election.
Mr Tudge, now the education Minister, on Wednesday denied knowledge of the sheet.
On the defensive and under fierce questioning on Thursday, the Prime Minister repeatedly shifted responsibility to Mr Tudge before walking away from the press conference.
“Ministers make the decisions as they should. that’s the proper authorisation of the process. What Australians are getting are more car parks. Australians are the winners,” he said before turning away.
It’s the second time in as many days a senior government Minister has refused to answer questions on the scheme.
On Wednesday, Mr Tudge walked away from a press conference in an attempt to avoid questioning on the issue.
Last month, ANAO auditor Brian Boyd told a Senate committee that Coalition MPs and candidates were canvassed for potential projects in the lead up to the campaign.
“It started initially termed as being top 20 marginal. The key thing was to touch base with the top 20 marginal through either the member of the House of Representatives if it was an electorate held by the Coalition or the relevant duty senator in four other electorates. ” Mr Boyd said.
“It was to ask them, ‘What projects in your electorate do you think are worthy of being put through this program?
“In lieu of a public call for applications, where you‘ve got a large number of competing applications to compare against, it was already a narrowed-down process of basically saying these — I said top 20 marginal; that’s where it started. It ended up being 23 coalition held plus six other electorates, so 29 electorates.”
An audit office report found none of the 47 projects selected for funding were put forward by the Department of Infrastructure.
The department has since accepted all six recommendations outlined by ANAO in it’s report.