Senator Farrell said documents leaked to the ABC this week showed female footballers at South Adelaide Football Club, in the Labor seat of Kingston, had their application for a grant to fund female change rooms rejected.
But in the same round, he said, a grant for female change rooms at a rugby club with no female players was approved in the Coalition-held marginal seat of Sturt.
“The Prime Minister should give up the marketing messages and take some responsibility for the appalling way his government has treated Australians in communities whose votes his government thought it didn’t need,” Senator Farrell said.
The opposition is threatening to turn a potential Senate inquiry into the affair into a side-show similar to last year’s parliamentary probe into Labor’s franking credits policy, in which Liberal MP Tim Wilson held numerous hearings around the country in disaffected communities before the federal election.
Senator McKenzie has been engulfed in the scandal surrounding the $100 million Community Sports Infrastructure Fund for more than two weeks after a report from the Auditor-General revealed she ignored recommendations from Sport Australia to instead splash cash on projects in marginal and targeted seats.
A report from the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, into whether Senator McKenzie breached ministerial standards during her administration of the scheme will be handed to Mr Morrison within the next 36 hours. There is now a growing expectation among government MPs that its findings will lead to her removal from the ministry.
Mr Morrison hinted on Wednesday that the government may fund meritorious projects overlooked during the program, as he sought to contain the fallout from the scandal.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton again pledged on Thursday his strong support for Senator McKenzie to continue in her role, and said the review into her conduct would “leave some of the emotion to one side” and “look at the facts”.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who has pledged her support for the Senate inquiry to be established as soon as next Wednesday, said Senator McKenzie was not up to the job and was only “up to the quality of being on the backbench”.
“She’s a nice lady … but the whole fact is, is she a good minister?” “No, I don’t believe she is,” Senator Hanson told Sky News Australia.
Ms Hanson said she felt Resources Minister Matt Canavan could be the only person she could see who would potentially replace Senator McKenzie as deputy leader of the party.
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra