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Reef foundation under fire

Malcolm Turnbull insists the Government’s nearly half-a-billion-dollar donation to a private foundation with links to big resources companies has been done transparently, despite the body itself not asking for the money, ABC News reports.

In April the Government announced it would give the Great Barrier Reef Foundation $444 million to fund projects to improve the health of the reef.

The foundation had only six staff when it was told it was getting the huge grant, which managing director Anna Marsden told Radio National was an “absolute surprise”.

The $444m donation is the largest Government donation to a private foundation in Australian history, and Federal Labor is demanding an explanation of why no tenders were called.

Mr Turnbull defended the decision on Friday, calling it the “single biggest contribution and investment in the health of the Great Barrier Reef ever”.

“The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is an outstanding organisation, this has been done completely transparently,” Mr Turnbull said.

“There is nearly a 100-page agreement between the Government and the foundation as to how the money will be invested and spent, and it will all be subject to oversight both by Government and the Australian national audit office.

“This is a wonderful investment in ensuring that we maintain the health of the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.

But Federal Labor called the money a “cash splash” that was done without “process, probity or foundation”.

Environment Spokesman Tony Burke has demanded to know why the money did not go to government agencies like the CSIRO, the Environment Department or the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

FULL STORY

Malcolm Turnbull defends surprise $444 million Government donation to tiny reef body (ABC News)

Cherry-picked charity to pocket at least $22.5 million in taxpayer funding for reef (Sydney Morning Herald)

PHOTO

Blue-green damselfish on the Great Barrier Reef off far north Queensland. (Supplied: Dr Jodie Rummer)