House debates

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Questions without Notice

Great Barrier Reef Foundation

2:44 pm

Photo of Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Preventing Family Violence) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that, after he offered the Great Barrier Reef Foundation almost half a billion dollars of taxpayers' money, it held a chairman's panel weekend at a Hamilton Island resort which reportedly charges more than $2,000 a night, with an itinerary featuring sunset drinks, a bonfire on the beach and transfer to the yacht club? Is that what the government means when it says the foundation has a track record in leveraging philanthropic support?

Mr Bowen interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McMahon has already been warned. Member for McMahon, zip it!

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I wouldn't be talking about foundations. Everyone remembers that snorkelling tour the Leader of the Opposition took: a $17,000 freebie!

The foundation has put out a public statement today, and I will read from it. 'The foundation has 56 members on our Chairman's Panel. Engagement with the Chairman's Panel allows the foundation to explain the complexity of the challenge, the threats the reef faces and how scientists are responding. In turn, the members of the panel lend their personal and organisational expertise. The infrastructure, skills and resources of member companies are invaluable in enhancing the science effort through access to technology, funding and knowledge.'

This is the key point: 'Costs associated with this are fully paid via their membership fees, and no taxpayer dollars, grants or other donations received by the GBRF are used. The purpose of this event is to provide a forum for business leaders to directly engage with science, scientists and researchers. Members of the Chairman's Panel have no role in selecting projects that are funded by the GBRF. Project selection and oversight is the responsibility of the International Scientific Advisory Committee.'

At the end of the day, this is the final bit: the foundation's Independent Scientific Advisory Committee, with many professors, people with doctorates and leading experts in the field, 'is made up of leaders of research and management of the reef, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the University of Queensland, James Cook University and CSIRO'.

That is why, on the day we announced half a billion dollars of investment in the reef, the chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority described it as a game changer. That is why, on the day we announced this record investment, the head of the tourism operators in the reef and surrounding areas said it would underpin regional jobs in Queensland. And that is why Australia's Chief Scientist, when we announced the half billion dollars, said this was a great day for science, this was a great day for the reef.

The Labor Party is trying to cover up the fact they were absent when they were in government in supporting the reef. In contrast, we have put money on the table, we are funding the experts and we are helping to protect jobs and the reef.