Australian Minister of Sports resigns

Student writer Zach Short details the politics and complicated implications of the Bridget McKenzie’s wrongdoings, and how they were dealt with.

They say the brightest flames burn the quickest, and such seems to be the case with Australia’s newly-resigned senator Bridget McKenzie. The relatively young politician shot to prominence quickly in the Australian nationality crisis that began in late 2017, when the High Court of Australia ruled that persons maintaining a dual citizenship could not serve in the Australian parliament, citing a clause in the constitution that demanded officials display allegiance solely to Australia. That ruling created a small crisis when it ultimately resulted in the exits of 15 active members of the parliament. With the tumult in the government, McKenzie was able to rise through the ranks faster than she could have otherwise, and she joined the Ministry in the Australian government in December 2017.

In the 2019 elections, she achieved a long-held goal of hers when she became the Minister of Agriculture. The realization of that dream, however, was short-lived, when scandal hit her almost immediately upon her taking office. Allegations of misconduct in the dispersal of government grants during her time as Minister of Sports started to gain traction as people began connecting the dots.

McKenzie has maintained a friendship with the Coalition Party’s Nigel Scullion, and the two are fellow shooting enthusiasts. Scullion is a registered member of the Northern Territory Shooting Club, an organization for gun enthusiasts which has hosted many events at which McKenzie made an appearance. McKenzie herself is not an official member of the club, but is a member of the umbrella organization, Field and Game Australia.

Closely preceding the May 2019 elections, McKenzie authorized a government grant of $500,000 to the Northern Territory shooting club, which appears to have been a large instigator for all further investigation. Preliminary research that led to allegations and the official inquiry that followed those allegations have uncovered that, during her time as Minister of Sports, McKenzie granted a disproportionate amount of money to shooting clubs. It has also been uncovered that the former senator never disclosed her membership of Field and Game Australia, a fact that would have necessitated her recusal from the situation.

The turmoil only arose recently, gaining steam near the end of 2019, but it reached a head with the Feb. 2 resignation of McKenzie, who stepped down following the growing knowledge of the scandal in which she had become embroiled.

In relation to American politics, the entire saga stands in deep contrast, and not just to the plethora of micro-controversies of the present administration. The second Bush administration is guilty of a similar transgression with the allocation of funds to religious organizations, a move that is both unconstitutional and openly linked to personal religious affiliations. Regardless, no repercussions ever reached the president nor anyone else in the administration for the money moved there.

While the scandal in Australia has become large enough to make news on the opposite side of the world, it is still worth noting how unoriginal the scandal actually is when taken in comparison to other eyebrow-raising exchanges of funds in politics around the world. The characteristic that separates this scandal from others is not its nature, but rather the swift action that was taken once it was uncovered and the shame bestowed upon all involved.

Post Author: Zach Short