McKenzie refusing to resign over scandal

The prime minister's department is investigating Bridget McKenzie over the issuing of sports grants.
The prime minister's department is investigating Bridget McKenzie over the issuing of sports grants.

Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie is digging in amid intense political pressure to quit over a sporting grants scandal engulfing the federal government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed to take whatever action is necessary after the head of his department investigates if ministerial standards have been broken.

Senator McKenzie is under fire for her actions as sports minister following a damning auditor-general's report.

It found a $100 million grants program favoured marginal and targeted seats, with the minister ignoring 73 per cent of Sport Australia's recommendations before the last election.

Senator McKenzie's cabinet colleague Peter Dutton doesn't think this is enough for the minister to resign.

"If you strip away the emotion and look at the facts as we should do, I don't think that a case has been made for her removal," he told the Nine Network on Friday.

"We all make decisions in our portfolios. That is exactly what she has done."

Mr Dutton expects the review to be complete over the weekend or early next week.

Mr Morrison has referred the issue to Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens to see if ministerial standards were breached.

"I'm not going to prejudice the outcome of that report, I think that would be unfair to that process and to the secretary," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

"I'll let him do his job and then I will look at that advice and take whatever action is necessary."

Senator McKenzie's spokeswoman says the minister is not resigning.

"She is actively engaging in the process and is confident there has not been a breach in ministerial standards."

Mr Gaetjens' investigation will also look into a $36,000 grant given to a shooting club of which Senator McKenzie is a member.

The minister did not disclose her membership on her register of interests, with her office arguing that was unnecessary because it was a gift worth less than $300.

Mr Morrison said the shooting club issue was "very, very different" to the broader controversy surrounding the grants scheme.

The deepening scandal has cast doubt on Senator McKenzie's deputy leadership.

But Nationals leader Michael McCormack says he's sticking by her.

"We've had long discussions about what's taken place," he told The Australian.

"Why should she step down? Let's let the reviews that have been called for take their natural course. Everybody's innocent until proven otherwise."

Nationals MP Keith Pitt refused to buy in to speculation Barnaby Joyce could seek a return to a leadership role if the axe falls on Senator McKenzie.

Labor's shadow special minister of state Don Farrell has written to Mr Gaetjens warning him against conducting a "sham" investigation to serve the government's political interests.

Australian Associated Press