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Senate tables inquiry report on $444m grant to Great Barrier Reef Foundation

Media Release
Peter Whish-Wilson 14 Feb 2019

The Senate Environment & Communications References Committee inquiry report into the Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership Program was tabled today by the Chair of the inquiry, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson. 

 

Senator Whish-Wilson said, "This was the Senate at its best, acting swiftly and working cooperatively to scrutinise, in full, government policy of significant public importance.

 

"This grant was a desperate attempt to cover up this Government’s legacy of reef mismanagement, years of chronic underfunding and disregard for climate change, in the context of an imminent World Heritage ‘in danger’ listing.

 

"It was clearly a political decision made with no consultation, due diligence or regard for proper process.

 

"It’s a textbook case of how not to implement public policy, and a perfect example of why we shouldn’t trust the future of a dying reef to a government intent on outsourcing public policy.

 

"This report and its recommendations are a good opportunity to press reset and build the best blueprint for future reef management, in full consultation with all stakeholders.

 

Some of the conclusions from the Committee were:

  • "The granting of $444 million to the Reef Foundation was a highly irresponsible decision, hastily concocted by relevant ministers, without proper consideration of risks and potential effectiveness, no consultation with key stakeholders, and without having undertaken due diligence."
  • "This 'off-the-cuff' decision has caused massive disruption to existing policy and program delivery, including by existing government agencies. It has all the hallmarks of a government that is not properly managing its responsibility as the guardian of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef."
  • "There were widespread concerns about "whether the Foundation was the right organisation to manage such a significant investment," including "the Foundation's ability to handle such a rapid increase in size and responsibilities, the high cost of administration, and the duplication and governance complexities the Partnership introduces."
  • "The most appropriate action for the Commonwealth to take is to terminate the Foundation Partnership. The committee believes this is necessary to help restore trust in the process of Commonwealth funding for the Reef, if not the entire Commonwealth grants process. The committee also considers that this is necessary to ensure that Commonwealth funding is spent in the best possible way to help protect and preserve the world's largest coral reef system."

Report available here.

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