SUBJECT: Government donation of $444 million to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation
TONY BURKE: The entire basis the Government gave for it’s cash give away to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has collapsed overnight. The reason the Government gave was they repeatedly said that this Foundation was capable of leveraging $80 million or $90 million worth of private money. The Foundation has been claiming $80 million, the Government’s been claiming $90 million. The Minister for the Environment put it in these terms, when justifying why on earth all this money that would normally go to the Marine Park Authority, the CSIRO and the Department and channelled through those sources, why it had been given away in a single bank transfer to a private foundation. His argument was this and I quote “because they are the best organisation to leverage off the private sector now they have raised more than $80 million themselves”.
Kristina Keneally has been questioning that $80 million number through the Senate Inquiry and I’ve been questioning it through the media. The foundation, when they have been asked well hang on how can we know that you have raised this sort of money, because the annual reports that are on their webpage don’t add up to $80 million they’ve said it’s full audited it’s on their web page. Their webpage merely contained a statement that said they’ve raised $90 million.
Until last night, late last night the Great Barrier Reef Foundation changed the figures on how much money they claimed to have raised and they added these words at the end, late last night on their webpage. Not simply $90 million but now they have acknowledged only 64 per cent of that is from corporate and private philanthropy. What they have been doing is including money that’s been given to them from Government sources and claiming that’s part of what they are able to leverage from private sources. At this exact moment if you go to the Environment Department’s website they are still claiming that this Foundation has generated $80 million from private and philanthropic sources.
Even though the Foundation itself right now is saying that that is not true. You have Government departments right now claiming the Foundation is capable of getting money from private sources that the Foundation itself overnight has acknowledged is not true. This money was gifted from Malcolm Turnbull to the private foundation in a private meeting based on a lie. The claims the Foundation have been making that they had been raising all of this money from private sources are simply not true. The $90 million figure that they have claimed is not true, their website now acknowledges it. The Government is still claiming $80 million from private sources, which the Foundation itself is no longer claiming to be true. This entire gift of the privatisation of the responsibility for the Great Barrier Reef has been based on a lie and even the foundation itself has acknowledged that on it’s own webpage overnight.
The money should be given back to the Government it should be given back to the Government and the Government should still be spending the money on the Great Barrier Reef but spending it through the CSIRO, through the Marine Park Authority, through projects that are managed by the Department. Instead of having a false claim that even the foundation itself has stopped making overnight, that was the very reason they got this money in the first place. The money should still go to the reef but it should go managed by the Government not managed by a private foundation and at the same time when it’s managed through the Government you no longer have $44 million in administration fees that the Foundation has acknowledged it will take for itself, taxpayer money going straight to the Foundation for the Foundation to manage itself.


Tony Burke