Nationals leader Michael McCormack says clubs that missed out on grants through the sports rorts saga should simply re-apply, as he defended ex-sport minister Bridget McKenzie's decision not to award a grant to a roller derby in a safe Nationals seat.
Mr McCormack, who was visiting Cowra in regional NSW on Wednesday, also continued to back Senator McKenzie despite revelations she oversaw a grants program where drought funding went to councils that did not meet employment or rainfall criteria.
The government disputes that the councils were ineligible, as the minister had discretion under the grant guidelines, and councils either met one or both of the criteria.
Mr McCormack said instead of a "continual pile-on", Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Phil Gaetjens should be allowed to continue his investigation into Senator McKenzie "without speculation from her colleagues, her opponents, from anyone else".
"Essentially we just need clear air it probably won't take much longer and let's see what he comes up with," Mr McCormack said.
Mr McCormack also refused to guarantee all 52 councils awarded drought funding on Tuesday under the same program were eligible.
"Any funding that comes up is very valued by the communities that receive it," Mr McCormack said.
"At the moment we can't give enough money to drought-affected communities because they are doing it tough."
However a government spokesman confirmed all councils were eligible.
Those projects and organisations that haven't been funded this time, I say to them reapply next time.Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack
It came as fresh details emerged about which sporting clubs were overlooked for grants under the $100 million Community Sport Infrastructure Grant program.
Under Senator McKenzie's "parallel" assessment process, a roller derby upgrade in the safe Nationals seat of Gippsland did not receive a grant despite receiving a 98 out of 100 rating from Sport Australia - the highest score recorded under the program.
Meanwhile, a football club in the marginal Liberal seat of La Trobe received a $500,000 grant with a score of just 50 out of 100.
Veteran Affairs Minister Darren Chester, who is the federal member for Gippsland, refused to back Senator McKenzie during an interview on ABC Radio on Wednesday morning.
"It would be fairly churlish to talk about Bridget, whether she has my support or not," Mr Chester said.
But Mr McCormack said Senator McKenzie was right to overlook the application.
"If the roller derby had been funded I could imagine a metropolitan journalist or any journalist pointing the finger and said why does a safe National's seat get funded and a seat in a marginal electorate doesn't," Mr McCormack said
"There are always ways people can look at these and pick and choose and say which should have been funded and which shouldn't but it remains clear the minister had the power to make discretionary decisions based on the evidence put before her.
"Heaven forbid a person elected by the people of Australia and making a decision, not outsourcing to the bureaucracy."
Mr McCormack also foreshadowed future rounds of funding for community sport.
"When you have a responsible government as we do in Canberra making sure that we've got the sort of money we can spend on regional programs on these sorts of sporting programs we'll put these programs as rolling funds and go from there," Mr McCormack said.
"So those projects and organisations that haven't been funded this time, I say to them reapply next time."
His comments came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison faced a battering after his first Press Club address for the year over the sports grants program.
The speech had been intended as a reset, with parliament set to resume next year.
But Mr Morrison was dogged with questions over the scandal.
"As the Auditor-General found, the rules were followed. Guidelines are separate issues," Mr Morrison said.