Tuesday, 18 September 2018
Questions without Notice
Great Barrier Reef Foundation
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. The chair of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Dr John Schubert, told a Senate inquiry this morning that he was invited to a private meeting on 9 April with former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull by Mr Turnbull's appointment secretary with two days' notice. He was given no prior notice of what the meeting was about. The meeting took place in Mr Turnbull's prime ministerial office in Sydney. Mr Turnbull chaired the meeting and offered $444 million to the foundation. With Mr Turnbull safely exiled in New York, will the minister now reveal whose idea it was to give $444 million to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation?
The Hansard record will show I have answered that question on a number of occasions. This is a policy proposal developed through the usual budget process and it is indeed one of the measures included in our last budget. This government makes no apologies for investing in the reef and doing it in partnership and providing long-term certainty in a way that ensures we can leverage additional private sector investment to support the reef.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Dr Schubert told the Senate inquiry that the private foundation had no discussions with anyone in government about the grant prior to 9 April and there was no discussion of due diligence at the meeting. Why was there no due diligence conducted prior to the government's giveaway of nearly $500 million?
The government made a policy decision following proper budget process deliberations, relying on advice from relevant departments and relying on advice from relevant stakeholders. We made a decision. By the account that Senator Keneally is giving of the meeting, it was a decision that was communicated at that meeting. That wasn't a meeting to make a decision; it was a meeting to communicate a decision. Maybe Senator Keneally finds it very hard to understand the difference.
Dr Schubert told the Senate inquiry that the meeting only lasted between 30 minutes and an hour. Can the minister confirm it only takes 45 minutes of the government to give away half-a-billion dollars of taxpayer money, and will the minister now admit that the $444 million grant is just a public relations exercise designed to make Mr Turnbull and Minister Frydenberg 'look like heroes'?
The answers to the questions are: no and no. Again, clearly Senator Keneally had pre-drafted her second supplementary question before she heard the answer that I provided. She clearly wasn't nimble enough, agile enough, to adjust the supplementary question to deal with the content of the answer. Maybe, in future, when you ask a question, try to listen to the answer and try to adjust the supplementary questions accordingly.