Wangaratta gun club membership trigger for Senator Bridget McKenzie to resign from federal government ministry

Gone from cabinet: Senator Bridget McKenzie has resigned her position a minister in the federal government after being found to have breached standards.
Gone from cabinet: Senator Bridget McKenzie has resigned her position a minister in the federal government after being found to have breached standards.

WODONGA Senator Bridget McKenzie said her membership of a Wangaratta gun club did not influence her decision-making as she resigned as a minister on Sunday.

The Nationals deputy leader quit after it was found she had breached ministerial standards by failing to declare she was a member of the Wangaratta Clay Target Club before as sport minister awarding it $36,000 for a new toilet block last year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison accepted Senator McKenzie's resignation after receiving a report examining her awarding of sport grants which found conflicts in relation to membership of the club and Field and Game Association.

"I maintain that at no time did my membership of shooting sports clubs influence my decision-making, nor did I receive any personal gain," Senator McKenzie said in a media statement following her resignation.

"However, (I) acknowledge that my failure to declare my memberships in a timely manner constituted a breach of the Prime Minister's ministerial standards."

Senator McKenzie had been agriculture minister since last year's election.

She said she was "committed to remain as a Victorian National Party senator and to keep fighting for the needs of rural and regional Australia".

Mr Morrison said Senator McKenzie had "honoured" the statement of ministerial standards by resigning.

Wangaratta Clay Target Club vice president Brian Reid said "if we all had a crystal ball on that day" Senator McKenzie took up membership "perhaps things would have turned out differently".

Flashback: Clay target club vice president Brian Reid (second from left) with other Wangaratta figures at the reopening of the club in 2017 following an investigation into lead contamination by the EPA.

Flashback: Clay target club vice president Brian Reid (second from left) with other Wangaratta figures at the reopening of the club in 2017 following an investigation into lead contamination by the EPA.

Mr Reid said the fallout was "not something a little club like us, run by volunteers, wants to be involved in".

"Personally I'm disappointed for her, but greater powers have looked at the whole situation and that's the decision they have come up with," Mr Reid said.

He said Senator McKenzie, who has since let her club membership of about $180 lapse, was welcome to return to the range which now has its new toilet built.

"We'd love to see her back, but we'll let the dust settle for awhile and see what happens," Mr Reid said.

The resignation of Senator McKenzie followed the auditor-general investigating the sports grants program she administered and finding there had been a bias which saw projects deemed meritorious snubbed for funding.

Subsequently Mr Morrison ordered a report from top bureaucrat Phil Gaetjens, which was the catalyst for the minister's resignation.

Mr Morrison said Mr Gaetjens had deemed the grants distributed by Senator McKenzie were not clearly in favour of particular seats.

"When he went to the actual statistics what he found was there was no material difference between those that were marginal electorates and those that were not," Mr Morrison said.

"That's just a simple statement of fact."

The PM said he would accept a recommendation of the auditor to change the rules and guidelines around grant approvals to ensure a uniform framework applied to ministers and corporate Commonwealth entities.

This story Gun club membership triggers Bridget McKenzie resignation first appeared on The Border Mail.