SA government denies accusations of pork barrelling over $84 million in sports grants

The South Australian government has denied accusations of pork barrelling over more than $84 million for local sports grants, almost all of which was allocated to Labor-held seats.

An ABC News analysis of the grants revealed almost all of the money earmarked to date would be spent in Labor-held seats, or in electorates the party seized from the Liberals and independents on March 19.

Premier Peter Malinauskas insisted Labor had not engaged in pork barrelling with the grants, with the accusation coming during a wider national discussion around the practice.

In the months leading into the state election, Labor MPs and candidates frequently posted on social media, making what then-opposition leader Mr Malinauskas described in November 2021 as “funding commitments”. Sport clubs featured heavily.

After winning office, the new government’s budget on June 2 allocated $84.4 million for local sporting club upgrades, with the budget papers stating “this initiative delivers on the government’s election commitment”.

Analysis of the programs reveals 69 of the 72 grants allocated to date were in Labor-held seats.

Marginal seats got more funding

All bar two non-Labor seats, Black and Hartley, which were held by Liberals David Speirs and Vincent Tarzia respectively, have missed out.

More than half the money — $44 million — was allocated to marginal seats that Labor was either trying to hold or take from the Liberals.

Only three of the grants would be allocated to projects outside the metropolitan or peri-urban area, on Kangaroo Island and in Whyalla and Yankalilla.

Seven people holding a giant cheque addressed to the Tilley Recreational Park
Tilley Recreation Park sits just inside the seat of King and is set to be upgraded for $4.75 million.(Supplied)

The battleground north-eastern suburbs were a focus of campaigning and projects.

$16.5 million will be spent on eight programs across three marginal seats. Labor managed to take two of those electorates from the Liberals – Newland and King – and held Wright, which helped set up victory on March 19.

Tilley Recreation Park in Surrey Downs sits just inside the seat of King and on the boundary of Newland and Wright. It is set to be upgraded with the help of $4.75 million from state taxpayers.

Under the plan, new clubrooms and change rooms will be built for a soccer club, as will new public amenities, while tennis courts will also be resurfaced.

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