Bridget McKenzie (born 27 December 1969) is an Australian politician. She was elected to federal parliament in 2010 and took her seat as a Senator for Victoria on 1 July 2011. She won re-election at the 2016 election. In December 2017, she was elected deputy leader of the National Party in place of Fiona Nash, who had been ruled ineligible for election to the Senate by the High Court. As a consequence of the terms of the Coalition agreement with the Liberal Party, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull immediately appointed McKenzie to cabinet as Minister for Sport, Minister for Rural Health, and Minister for Regional Communications. When Scott Morrison replaced Turnbull as Prime Minister, he reshuffled the ministry and abolished the latter two positions. McKenzie retained the sports portfolio and also became Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government until the 2019 Federal election, after which she became the first woman to be appointed as Minister for Agriculture.
In the lead-up to the 2019 election, McKenzie oversaw a controversial $100 million grant program that led to claims of pork-barrelling after the Member for Isaacs Mark Dreyfus asked the Auditor-General to audit the Liberal candidate for Mayo’s presentation of a cheque to the Yankalilla Bowling Club.
A report by the Australian National Audit Office stated that the administration of the program "was not informed by an appropriate assessment process and sound advice." Sports Australia made determinations as to which applications were most deserving of funding, but the allocation of grants was subsequently determined by ministerial discretion and the Auditor-General's report noted that it was unclear whether this was within McKenzie's legal authority. The allocations went disproportionately to marginal electorates held by the Coalition or to electorates that the Coalition was targeting in the election and critics alleged she had unlawfully spent taxpayer funds with the aim of improving the coalition's electoral prospects. No evidence was supplied. Morrison ordered an investigation when claims were made that McKenzie had acted with a conflict of interest in directing funding to a club of which she was a member. McKenzie resigned from her positions as Minister for Agriculture and deputy party Leader on 2 February 2020.
Prior to entering politics, McKenzie started a family and then attended Deakin University as a mature-age student, where she served as the president of the student association in 2003. She stood for the House of Representatives seat of McMillan at the 2004 election, but was unsuccessful. Prior to becoming a Senator, McKenzie worked as a school teacher in the Gippsland region of Victoria and later at Monash University where she lectured in Education. Between 2006 and 2009, McKenzie was a junior vice-president of the Victorian branch of the National Party, which she had joined when she was 18 years old. After entering the Senate, McKenzie served as party whip from 2013 to 2014.
McKenzie was born in Alexandra, Victoria. She grew up in Benalla, where her mother was a primary school teacher and her father was a dairyman. She attended Tintern Grammar, where she was a house captain and swimming captain. After starting a family, McKenzie began studying at Deakin University as a mature-age student, completing a double degree in applied science (specialising in human movement) and teaching (specialising in mathematics). She served as the president of the Deakin University Student Association in 2003. McKenzie subsequently taught physical education and mathematics for several years at Yarram Secondary College, Gippsland. She later lectured in education at Monash University.
McKenzie joined the National Party at the age of 18, and was a junior vice-president of the Victorian branch from 2006 to 2009. She first stood for parliament at the 2004 federal election, unsuccessfully standing for the House of Representatives in the Division of McMillan. At the 2010 election, McKenzie was elected to the Senate in the third place on a joint Coalition ticket. Her term began on 1 July 2011.
McKenzie was her party's Senate whip from September 2013 to June 2014. She was elected deputy leader to Barnaby Joyce in December 2017, replacing Fiona Nash after her disqualification from parliament due to dual citizenship. Under the terms of the Coalition Agreement with the Liberals, McKenzie was elevated to cabinet as Minister for Sport, Minister for Rural Health, and Minister for Regional Communications.
When Scott Morrison became prime minister in August 2018, McKenzie was appointed Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government. She also retained the sport portfolio. After the Coalition retained office at the 2019 election, she was appointed Minister for Agriculture, the first woman to hold the position.
McKenzie is a shooting enthusiast, and is chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting. She is opposed to same-sex marriage, and publicly campaigned for the "No" vote in the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. McKenzie's gay younger brother confronted her on her views in a letter to the Bendigo Advertiser and on the panel discussion program Q&A.
Minister for Agriculture
As Agriculture Minister McKenzie was instrumental in protecting Australia’s pork industry from African Swine Fever. On 11 December 2019 McKenzie announced $66.6 million    to boost Australia’s defences against the virus which has a high mortality rates in domestic pigs. Australia’s ASF Response Package saw 130 more frontline biosecurity officers deployed from January 2020 to do half a million more passenger screenings a year; Six new detector dogs deployed at airports and mail centres and two new 3D x-ray machines at Melbourne and Sydney mail centres. Biosecurity officers were given a new capability to issue infringement notices on the spot at airports.
On 12 September 2019 the Australian Senate passed the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 which introduced new offences for the incitement of trespass, property damage, or theft on agricultural land. McKenzie said the Bill sent a clear message that animal activists who use the personal information of farmers to incite trespass risked jail. “Australians expect the farmers who feed and clothe us – and many millions around the world – should not be harassed, or worse, as they go about their work. The time has come for activists to understand that you can’t just descend on someone’s place of work and home, interfere with their business and steal their animals—and think that you can get away with it. When protests become acts of trespass and theft, you’re not a protestor, you’re a criminal and deserve to be punished." Australia’s peak agricultural body the National Farmers Federation welcomed the new laws and said the Bill sent a clear signal to anti-farming activists that the invasion of farms and harassment of farmers, their families and workers, running lawful businesses, would not be tolerated.
In December 2019 McKenzie announced Australia’s first national Mandatory Dairy Industry Code of Conduct. A Mandatory Dairy Code was a key recommendation of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s 2018 Dairy Inquiry and its introduction was welcomed by the ACCC and greeted with almost universal approval from farmer bodies. Among provisions the code unveiled by Minister McKenzie included were that: All parties must deal with each other fairly and in good faith; Bans retrospective step-downs; Stops processors from making unilateral changes to agreements; Bans processors from withholding loyalty payments to farmers if a farmer switches processors; and Introduces a dispute resolution process for matters arising under or in connection with agreements.
During a historic address to the Australian National Press Club on 20 March 2019 broadcast from her home town of Wodonga when the Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation, McKenzie announced a pilot Regional Deal for Albury Wodonga.
It was the first cross-border deal, involving state and local governments from NSW and Victoria, ever made and aimed to harmonise some of the regulatory barriers faced by these two cities to drive more growth and productivity locally.
The federal, NSW and Victorian governments and Albury and Wodonga councils agreed to sign the statement of intent on 6 July 2020.
Hers was the first time the nationally broadcast address was hosted outside a capital city, and McKenzie used the occasion to focus on the opportunity regional Australia offered for national economic growth, saying regional Australia was a place of opportunity with unlimited potential.
Community Sport Infrastructure Grants
In January 2020, McKenzie was widely accused of pork-barrelling by the Australian Labor Party following its humiliating 2019 Australian federal election defeat. Labor referenced a report by the Commonwealth auditor-general which found that a $100 million sports grant program she oversaw in the lead-up to the 2019 Australian federal election was administered in a way that "was not informed by an appropriate assessment process and sound advice". The auditor-general's report noted that it was not clear what the legal authority for the particular allocation of grants was.
In a submission to a Senate Select Committee on Administration of Sports Grants, McKenzie stood by her Ministerial discretion which "saw grants distributed more evenly by state, region, sport, organisation type and funding stream than if the recommendations of Sport Australia or the methodology seemingly favoured by the Auditor-General were adopted". McKenzie's submission further confirmed Ministerial discretion saw 27 per cent more success in ‘marginal’ and ‘targeted’ seats but 39 per cent more success in all the other electorates.
A disproportionately high percentage of funds were allocated to sporting clubs in marginal Coalition electorates. One Adelaide rugby union club was awarded a $500,000 grant under the scheme for new female change rooms, despite not fielding a women's team since 2018 when it was embroiled in a sexism controversy. The club, located in the marginal Coalition-held seat of Sturt, was awarded the scheme's maximum available grant just weeks before the election. A football club in the marginally held Coalition seat of Brisbane was given $150,000 for a project that had already been funded. More than $1 million in grants were allocated to sports clubs with links to clubs Coalition MPs as members or patrons: three linked to Indigenous affairs minister Ken Wyatt, one tied to treasurer and deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg, and two associated with senator Sarah Henderson. Nationals leader Michael McCormack's son's football club in the NSW Riverina also received a $147,000 grant under the program. In some cases, the funds were presented as oversized novelty cheques by the Liberal candidate for the seat in question, rather than by the sitting member.
Item 38 of McKenzie's submission showed the Auditor-General’s process for funding according to rank would have seen 30 Coalition electorates receive nearly half of all funding and 22 electorates, including 14 Labor-held electorates, would have received no money, while item 46 showed Sport Australia’s recommendations would have seen 30 electorates receive no grants. Ministerial discretion reduced this to five electorates and three of them had no applications submitted.
Calls for resignation
The Opposition called for McKenzie to resign from the federal ministry because of the bias in the funding allocated. She maintained that "no project that received funding was not eligible to receive it" and that "no rules were broken in this program". The Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese stated that what McKenzie had done "fails every test" and she must be sacked.
The government steadfastly supported McKenzie throughout the scandal. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Michael McCormack, Peter Dutton and other high-profile Coalition ministers repeatedly spoke out in her defence.
Following the revelation that McKenzie awarded a $36,000 grant to a regional Victorian shooting club without declaring that she was a member, on 22 January 2020 Morrison referred the matter to the Commonwealth Auditor-General and the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for advice in relation to the conduct of ministerial standards. On 29 January, Morrison attempted to distance himself from the scandal after being asked questions at a National Press Club meeting. Morrison was asked why his office had approved an extra $42.5 million for the sports grants scheme in March 2019, but did not explain.
The report by the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet determined that McKenzie had breached the ministerial code of conduct and, on 2 February, she tendered her resignation as Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Leader of her party. She remained as leader of the Nationals in the Senate, along with Matt Canavan as deputy, as the other 3 Nationals senators were first-termers.
In 2017, McKenzie was accused of using parliamentary travel entitlements for personal benefit, in a weekend trip to the Gold Coast in September 2014. Also questioned was a February 2017 trip to Sydney to speak at a Shooting Australia awards ceremony, which was claimed as "electorate business"; media reports suggested that it did not fall under the usual category of parliamentary business, and the city of Sydney is not located in the state of Victoria which Bridget represents.
McKenzie's electorate office was in the regional city of Bendigo, and she was described in media headlines[by whom?] as "Bendigo-based" on a number of occasions. In 2018, after maintaining the office in Bendigo as "a National Party campaign office" for some months following her ascension to Cabinet, McKenzie relocated her electorate office to Wodonga, some 250km away in the federal electorate of Indi, which led to media rumours she would contest the seat, at the 2019 federal election. Although the move rankled Indi-based Liberal Party members, McKenzie had planned to relocate to North East Victoria for many years and was waiting for Department of Finance approval. McKenzie is the only Victorian Senator based outside Melbourne and the Electorate office relocation also incorporated the inclusion of a Ministerial office. The move cost taxpayers more than $500,000. In 2016 it was noted that her primary residence was a flat in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Elwood, and she stayed in hotels when she visited Bendigo.
McKenzie has four children from her marriage to Tim Edwards, a former Police officer and now massage therapist in Ballarat, which ended in divorce  She was subsequently in a long-distance relationship with David Bennett, a member of the New Zealand Parliament and both are members of their respective countries' National Parties.
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Deputy Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie joins Cabinet as Minister for Sport, Rural Health and Regional Communications. Bridget has long campaigned for better services for regional communities.
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as Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources
| Minister for Agriculture
| Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government
| Minister for Sport
| Minister for Rural Health
as Minister for Health
| Minister for Regional Communications
as Minister for Communications and the Arts
|Party political offices|
| Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia
| Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate