Senate debates

Thursday, 23 August 2018


Great Barrier Reef Foundation; Consideration

6:05 pm

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Document No. 9 on the Notice Paper is a letter to the President of the Senate from the former Minister for Finance and former Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Cormann, responding to an order back on 20 June 2018 regarding the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. There is not a lot to speak to in terms of the document itself, because it's just a couple of paragraphs in regard to the Senate order for the production of documents, as well as some further information following on from a question asked by Senator Carr earlier this week. The government's response is basically that the wide scope of the order means the government needs more time. Given that the order of the Senate was back in June, the information really should have been provided in much more detail by now. We're seeing this with the government's dodging and weaving in regard to the Senate committee inquiry and other attempts to examine what the hell is going on with this massive grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

It is an extraordinary thing, and it's been raised a number of times in this place, even amongst the extraordinary scenes of today, yesterday and earlier this week. We've had a bit of talk today about what the legacy of the Turnbull government might be. Well, the legacy of this extraordinary—I think unprecedented—massive, monumental $440 million grant to a very small organisation, all dropping out of the sky in one year—not even spread out over 10 years, five years or four years—has to be one of the most extraordinary things that we've seen in regard to the distortion and perversion of proper public policy process under this government. It shows again why they're so fractured and why they've got so disintegrated when it comes to any idea about how to do anything properly or about respect for due process and for the institutions that conservatives like to pretend they care so much about.

Of course, as a Queenslander, I'm happy when money is made available to invest in any sort of activity in northern Queensland, whether it's money to be spent on mitigation measures in the marine park itself or, perhaps even more importantly, money to support land management and mitigation measures and catchment management measures on land. There is some significant and positive work being done there, and it does need resourcing. But, when you're going to resource it, you want to ensure that the process for spending that money—any money, let alone something as enormous as this—is done properly. Again, it's impossible to ignore the linkages there to people with backgrounds in the fossil fuel lobby and people who are big donors to the coalition—another reason, among all the many, many other ones, why we need to get big corporate money and donations out of our political process.

The other inevitable thing that has to be said about this is that you can pour all the money you like into mitigation measures, even if you do it through a proper process rather than the extraordinary, perverted process that's been used on this occasion, but, unless you have a credible plan to address and prevent climate change, it will be for nought. Even in my brief period back here, time and time again, when the government's own environment department officials at Senate estimates are questioned as to what is the No. 1 threat to the Great Barrier Reef and the marine park—not just the reef itself but all the other ecosystems in that marine environment—they say without hesitation, pause or equivocation that the No. 1 threat is climate change. None of this is going towards climate change. I listen to some on the government benches. Some of it is going to run ridiculous PR campaigns, trying to suggest that the reef is as healthy as ever, when everybody knows it's not.

Let's not forget that 70,000 jobs in Queensland depend on that healthy reef in the marine park, most of them through small businesses. They're willing to ignore the economic and social harm to people and the risks to jobs in Northern Queensland, where we're already seen another person with links to the fossil fuel lobby, Mr Palmer, wreak so much damage and so much hurt and so much harm economically to people's lives in that region. Letting that go unaddressed is the height of irresponsibility and shows just how much in thrall to the fossil fuel lobby this government is. We do need to keep digging for information about what the hell is behind this. Just because there's a change in Prime Minister about to happen, nobody is going to let up on digging until we get to the full facts with regard to this issue. I seek leave to continue my remarks later—or someone else may continue them, I suspect.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.