House debates

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Questions without Notice

Great Barrier Reef Foundation

2:51 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. In question time on Monday, the environment minister claimed that his department undertook a 'first phase of due diligence' which failed to contact the Great Barrier Reef Foundation but looked at its 'fundraising history'. In his brief for the 9 April meeting where he offered almost $500 million in taxpayers' money, what amount was the Prime Minister advised the foundation had raised from corporate or private sources over its entire history? What was the figure that due diligence told him they had raised?

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll ask the minister for the environment to answer the question, but I just want to remind the honourable member that when he was minister for the environment in 2012, he made a substantial grant to that foundation which resulted in the department working closely with the foundation for all of the period since then. So the department was, and remains, very familiar with the work of the foundation and has had extensive experience which may well have predated the minister's intervention in 2012 but was certainly enabled and accelerated by the minister's decision to make a $12 million grant to the foundation.

2:52 pm

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

It's very well known that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has been the largest charity with the reef. And how do we know that? Because in 2012 when the member for Watson gave millions of dollars to the foundation, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority announced that it was the most successful charity. We know that the head of the charity, Anna Marsden, has told 7.30 that it has been able to raise over $90 million from a range of sources—about $25 million of which is from government sources, both federal and state; and tens of millions of dollars are from the private sector and philanthropic means.

The question is: why didn't we get any questions yesterday from the member for Watson? Maybe because there was a headline in The Australian. The member for Watson denies the double standard of—

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

The minister will resume his seat and the Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. I've got to say to the minister candidly: the question isn't why there wasn't a question yesterday. That's not the question at all. The subject matter he's now introducing does not relate at all to the Great Barrier Reef—it couldn't be further away. The minister needs to be relevant to the question.

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

The reality is that the foundation is the largest reef charity. The reality is that more than $200 million is going to improving farming practices and preventing sediment, nitrogen and pesticide run-off. The reality is that $100 million is going to the best available science. The reality is that money is going to tackling the crown-of-thorns starfish. This will create jobs in the member for Herbert's electorate. This will create jobs in the member for Flynn's electorate. This will create jobs in the member for Leichhardt's electorate. That is why the heads of the tourism bodies up in the reef area welcomed our announcement and said it underpinned regional jobs.

I remind the House that my department told me in writing that this contribution to the reef foundation would ensure that we would meet our objectives in protecting the reef, that it represented value for money and that it was consistent and compliant with our accountability act. So the Labor Party are only raising this issue because, when they were in government, they abandoned the reef.