Wednesday, 15 August 2018
Questions without Notice
Great Barrier Reef Foundation
I thank Senator Ketter for his question. I don't have details on the consultancies that may or may not have been engaged by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. I am quite happy to take on notice and provide any further information, if there is some, about such a process. Of course, indeed, you would expect the foundation to be looking, in terms of their work, to make the best out of the generous funding that the Turnbull government is providing for the Great Barrier Reef to ensure they leverage that to the maximum possible extent. That's what we want them to do. We want them to use that funding to ensure that they attract even more private philanthropic contributions to support the reef, as they have done in the past.
We also, of course, want them to deploy the funding, to complement all of the other work that we have undertaken over the last few years—work to improve water quality, work towards better management of the reef, work that has taken the reef off of the endangered list, work that has ensured that we have a reef with a much better management structure in place today than was the case when we took office. This is the next step in building on that work.
We will not let up, as a government, in terms of our efforts to protect and preserve the Great Barrier Reef for future generations, to ensure that it gets the support that it deserves. I just find it remarkable that the Australian Labor Party would come in here and consistently wish to undermine the work of protecting the Great Barrier Reef. They are selling out the Great Barrier Reef. They seem to have no care—
Complementing work on water quality, on tackling crown-of-thorns starfish issues, on reef science matters—these are all things our government has proudly invested in, supported and tackled to date, and we want to make sure that that continues in the future. We will welcome every single private dollar that comes alongside those taxpayer dollars to get the best possible outcome for the Great Barrier Reef.
Thank you very much and I look forward to the minister's response on that matter. If the foundation is an expert fundraiser, as the government has claimed, why does it need to employ a consultant to develop a fundraising plan?
I don't know how much money Senator Ketter has ever raised for charitable organisations for the Great Barrier Reef in his career, but it, of course, is not unusual; it's not unusual for government departments to employ contractors for specific purposes, it's not usual for non-government organisations to employ contractors and it's not unusual for foundations to employ contractors. This is all just part of the Labor Party's mudraking, smearing campaign.
My point of order is on direct relevance. I know the minister wants to avoid the question and abuse people, but the question is: if they are so good at fundraising—which is why you gave them half a billion dollars—why do they have to appoint a consultant?
Senator Wong, with respect, I think Senator Birmingham was actually addressing the issue of a consultant or a contractor and was being directly relevant.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Unless I missed the last bit.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Well, after that, he was specifically referring to a contractor.
As I was highlighting, I'm sure the Department of the Senate probably employs contractors to help with different aspects of work that you could say was their core activity. It's not usual for a whole range of organisations. The Labor Party and the trade unions probably employ contractors from time to time as well, I'm sure. But, ultimately, we want to ensure they get every additional extra private dollar to help the Great Barrier Reef, alongside the record investments the Turnbull government is making.
Minister, given the private foundation lacks the key competency the government is using to justify its gift of almost half a billion dollars of taxpayers' money, without tender or process, will the minister own up to the parliament and Australian taxpayers about the real reason for the grant?
I reject the premise of that question outright. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has a track record of raising millions of dollars. Senator Keneally wants to come in here and say, 'Was it $60 million? Was it $80 million? Was it $90 million?' I'm sure that's $60 million, $80 million or $90 million more than Senator Keneally has ever raised for the Great Barrier Reef—or any other charity, probably. It's more than Senator Ketter would have ever raised. The Labor Party are just engaged in trying to smear this organisation for cheap, base political purposes, rather than recognising that this is a genuine record investment into the Great Barrier Reef and that this complements years of work by the coalition government, championed by the likes of Senator Macdonald. We have made sure that we've continued to support the reef and deal with the real issues facing it in terms of reef quality, crown-of thorns starfish and the like. This investment will continue that good work for years to come.