In extraordinary new revelations, the Australian has today reported that the Expenditure Review Committee determined to “seek a commercial partner for a (Great Barrier) reef plan” on 28 March 2018. This was 11 days prior to the meeting with the Prime Minister, Josh Frydenberg and Dr John Schubert where he gave the foundation $444 million of public money.
The following questions need to be answered.

  • During those 11 days who else did the Government meet with to consider who would be the best business partner?
  • Given the Environment Department has said it did not look at annual reports before 2011 how did the Government ascertain how much money it believed the Foundation was capable of leveraging?
  • Did the Government conduct any assessment on the cost to the taxpayer of the duplication of administration costs?
  • Did the Environment Department, as is normal practice, undertake a risk assessment of the grant and the Foundation?
  • Where is the documentation, from the Environment Minister or the Environment Department, that outlines why a different approach to competitive tendering was used for the grant?
  • Did the Environment Minister write to the Finance Minister regarding an ad hoc one off grant? Or did the Environment Department consult with the Department of Finance?
  • What date did the Government make contact with Dr Schubert to organize the meeting to tell him of this half a billion dollar funding announcement?

Labor is pleased to see that the Auditor General is considering undertaking an audit of the design of the grant. Labor has raised serious concerns about the way the grant was awarded to the Foundation. The Auditor General also needs to consider reviewing how the decision to award nearly half a billion dollars was made, why the Foundation was chosen and what analysis was undertaken by the Environment Department to determine the Foundation’s fitness to award a grant of this size.
All of these questions have one thing in common, and that is who was at the centre of every one of these questions? Mr Turnbull.
Labor has launched a petition calling on the Prime Minister to secure the return of the $444 million of public money he gifted to this small, private organisation.


Tony Burke