Committee savages reef funding decision

The Senate committee examining the Federal Government’s decision to award $443 million to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has tabled a damning report into the allocation of the funds, describing the move as a “highly irresponsible decision”.

The Senate Environmental and Communications References Committee has called for the remaining funds to be returned amid widespread concerns about whether the Foundation was able to manage the funds.

The Committee’s Chair, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, said that the move was “clearly a political decision”.

"This grant was a desperate attempt to cover up this Government’s legacy of reef mismanagement, years of chronic underfunding and disregard for climate change, in the context of an imminent World Heritage ‘in danger’ listing,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.

Some of the conclusions from the Committee were:

  • "The granting of $444 million to the Reef Foundation was a highly irresponsible decision, hastily concocted by relevant ministers, without proper consideration of risks and potential effectiveness, no consultation with key stakeholders, and without having undertaken due diligence."

  • "This 'off-the-cuff' decision has caused massive disruption to existing policy and program delivery, including by existing government agencies. It has all the hallmarks of a government that is not properly managing its responsibility as the guardian of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef."

  • "There were widespread concerns about "whether the Foundation was the right organisation to manage such a significant investment," including "the Foundation's ability to handle such a rapid increase in size and responsibilities, the high cost of administration, and the duplication and governance complexities the Partnership introduces."

  • "The most appropriate action for the Commonwealth to take is to terminate the Foundation Partnership. The committee believes this is necessary to help restore trust in the process of Commonwealth funding for the Reef, if not the entire Commonwealth grants process. The committee also considers that this is necessary to ensure that Commonwealth funding is spent in the best possible way to help protect and preserve the world's largest coral reef system."

The inquiry’s findings can be found here

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