ACT News


ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr insists no need to declare free tickets to the AFL

Former Cricket ACT chairman Ian McNamee says sporting events are "where the deals get done", and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr's annual trips to the Sydney cricket Test landed Canberra's historic first Test match.

Mr McNamee said all the key players attended events such as the Sydney Test, making them the logical place for powerbrokers to meet, and "not a lot of cricket was watched", with most of the time devoted to behind-the-scenes meetings.

Not only did Mr Barr attend this year's Sydney Test, but he also attended two GWS Giants' AFL games in Sydney - one of which was an annual "CBR brand activation" game, where Canberra and Sydney businesses are brought together to investigate opportunities.

Federal ministers have been under fire for billing taxpayers to attend AFL grand finals and Sussan Ley was forced to resign from Malcolm Turnbull's ministry for travel claims to the Gold Coast.

The Canberra Times reported on Monday that Mr Barr is a regular at AFL matches in Melbourne and one in Launceston, especially when his favourite team Hawthorn is playing. He has attended at least seven games during taxpayer-funded trips in the period since 2009 covered by online travel reports - although his reports only refer to his attendance at the games in three cases.

Mr McNamee said while some politicians might be "cheating the system", sports games were "where the deals get done", and he backed Mr Barr's visits to sports games.


Manuka Oval's first Test between Australia and Sri Lanka in the 2018-19 summer, was a deal done at the SCG. Another was Australia playing one-day internationals in Canberra.

"That's where it all happens. A lot of the things that happen in ACT cricket happen at the Sydney Test match," Mr McNamee said. "There's not a lot of cricket watched, a lot of hard work is done."

Mr Barr meets with Giants and AFL officials before games in Sydney and at Manuka.

Mr Barr's spokesman said there were "clear outcomes".

"Direct outcomes have included the Test match last year and this year was having discussions around the cricket schedule for Canberra in 2017 and beyond," he said.

Mr Barr does not declare the free tickets and hospitality he gets for AFL matches, but he insists he doesn't need to because he is attending in his "official capacity".

"As we have said previously, when attending matches in an official capacity, they do not need to be declared on the Assembly declarations of interests," Mr Barr's spokesman said on Monday.

Other ACT ministers, though, declare sport tickets and other gifts.

The guidelines require ACT politicians to declare gifts valued at $250 or more from "official sources", such as organisations, and $100 from other sources, but there is no consistency in how the rule is interpreted.

Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury makes detailed declarations of tickets to events, and for gifts and hospitality. His declarations include box and VIP tickets to sports games, including to the Giants, theatre tickets, and a lunch in Portland, Oregon.

Deputy chief minister Yvette Berry's practice is to declare gifts of all descriptions, including those well under the $250 threshold, although she has declared none since the October 2016 election. Senior minister Meegan Fitzharris declared tickets to a property council dinner and the Ronald McDonald ball last year. She has made no gift declarations since the election. Gordon Ramsay, new to the ministry this term, has already declared VIP tickets for himself and his spouse to Voices in the Forest, the circus, and the opening of the Versailles exhibition.

Mr Barr also insists there is no requirement to report staff or public servant travel when they accompany him on the trips. In 2014, travel reporting was "streamlined" to only include ministerial travel, his office said.

The Remuneration Tribunal sets the broad guidelines for members' travel and says the chief minister may provide guidelines for ministers on the details.

But asked for the guidelines, Mr Barr's office referred only to the requirement to report travel twice a year on the parliamentary website. The reports provide costs and dates but only very brief pointers to the reasons for travel.