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Labor calls on Malcolm Turnbull to return the Reef money



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THE HON TONY BURKE MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS

MEMBER FOR WATSON

LABOR CALLS ON MALCOLM TURNBULL TO RETURN THE REEF MONEY

Last night on the ABC program 7:30, the Prime Minister was unable to point to any policy or probity behind his decision to award almost half a billion dollars of taxpayers money to a Foundation with six staff. He then went on to make a series of misleading claims.

Turnbull claim: Under Labor, the Great Barrier Reef was put on the ‘Endangered Watch List by UNESCO’ Fact: There is no “Endangered Watch List”. UNESCO has a ‘World Heritage List’, a ‘Tentative list’ and an ‘In Danger List’. The Government has repeatedly referred to a Watch List but UNESCO has no such list.

Turnbull claim: The Great Barrier Reef is now off the in danger list Fact: the Reef has never been on the in danger list.

Turnbull claim: This was approved by the Parliament in legislation when the appropriations bills were passed. Fact: It is difficult to think of a more absurd claim. The appropriations bills if blocked bring all Government spending to a halt. A claim that the Parliament approves of every government spending decision unless it blocks supply and brings the nation to a halt is ridiculous.

Responsibility for this cash splash lies squarely with the Prime Minister and it has been a careless use of taxpayer’s money. There are massive holes in the contract and secrecy provisions that are in perpetuity. We will never know how some of it is spent.

When asked how will the public know that this Foundation will be the best to handle half a billion dollars of taxpayer’s money, the Prime Ministers response was "that's the judgement we took as Government.”

It is clear even the Foundation thought that this was not a proper process, their response was to say - ‘it was like winning Lotto’. This is not the way to run a

Government. It is a grossly irresponsible way to treat our most precious and fragile environmental asset.

Labor launched a petition today calling on the Prime Minister to secure the return of the $444 million of public money he gifted to this small, private organisation.

All roads lead back to Malcolm Turnbull and he needs to clean up this mess.

TELEVISION INTERVIEW ABC 7:30 MONDAY, 6 AUGUST 2018

LEIGH SALES (HOST): Let's whip through other things that people will likely talk about when you resume next week. Can you explain why you gave a $500 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation without any tender process, grant application or competition?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well it was a very thorough process, a whole Cabinet process leading up to the budget.

SALES: Before or after you offered the money, did the Cabinet process happen?

TURNBULL: It all went through before hand. We had a whole ERC process. We concluded we wanted to offer the Great Barrier Reef Foundation…

SALES: How did you settle on them? They said they never asked for money.

TURNBULL: Well, that is right. But They are an outstanding reef charity. They have had substantial money from the Federal Government before, including from a federal Labor government.

SALES: But we have to take your word on that because there wasn’t a tender process.

TURNBULL: You don't have to take my word for it, it's a fact. Tony was the former Environment Minister...

SALES: Burke.

TURNBULL: Yeah, Tony Burke, he provided I think $12 million to it.

SALES: But how do we know that for the use of this money, an enormous investment in the reef, how do we know that they are the best to spend that $500 million?

TURNBULL: That's the judgement we took as Government.

SALES: Why wouldn't you put that to competitive tender?

TURNBULL: Because they were clearly the best team to do it. Can I say to you, Leigh, what the Labor Party are doing now is they are embarrassed they did not put serious funding into the reef. Under the Labor Party's watch, the reef was put on the endangered watch list by UNESCO. Because of our good management it has come off the endangered list. The management of the reef is regarded as the best in the world. We put this substantial amount of funding into it. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation attracts substantial funding from the private sector, it has support from the Queensland State Government and this grant, by the way, not only went through a Cabinet process, it actually went, it's in the budget, it was voted on in Parliament. It's in an appropriations act.

SALES: In an appropriations act, not as stand-alone legislation.

TURNBULL: It's been considered and approved by the Parliament.

TUESDAY, 7 AUGUST 2018

MEDIA CONTACT: GRACE CRAMER 0431 021 105