Coalition senators do not support the findings of the majority committee
There has been exceptional transparency about this grant. Coalition
senators note that:
the then Prime Minister, Treasurer, and Environment and Energy
Minister all made statements detailing the body of policy work that provided
the basis for the grant;
the Department of the Environment and Energy (the department)
made a detailed submission to the committee, setting out the reasons for the
making of the grant and the department's analysis underpinning the grant;
the Grant Guidelines and Grant Agreement have been published in
full on the department's website;
the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has audited the award
of the grant; and
the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (the Foundation) has published all
required milestone planning documents on its website.
The grant builds on years of work that this Government has undertaken to
protect and preserve the Great Barrier Reef (the Reef), including the Reef 2050
Plan. This plan was made jointly between the Australian and Queensland
Governments and provides the overarching framework for managing and protecting
Funding under the grant to the Foundation is directed to the key priorities
under the 2050 plan.
Much has been made of the Foundation's administrative costs for the
grant, particularly the potential administrative costs under sub-contracts for
Coalition senators note that the Reef Foundation responded to the
Auditor-General's findings on this matter. The Foundation clarified that it has
a track record of not supplying administrative funding to its partner
organisations, particularly large organisations, and that it is unlikely to do
so with the projects funded under the grant.
Coalition senators note that some administrative funding may be
appropriate for smaller community organisations delivering Reef-related
Moreover, Coalition senators consider that the Foundation's
administrative costs have been considerably overstated.
This inquiry spent a lot of time hypothesising about why the grant was
made to the Foundation.
However, the statements made by Ministers, the department and now the
ANAO make it clear that the grant was developed following substantial policy work
by the department, which built on the work of an interdepartmental taskforce. It
then went through the ordinary Budget process.
The Government took the view that the grant was the most effective way
to make a significant and urgent investment in the Reef, while also managing
the Commonwealth Budget. This was only possible because this Government's good financial
management meant that the Budget position in 2017–18 allowed for a record
investment in the Reef.
The ANAO audit made clear that the Reef Foundation was identified as the
obvious choice for the grant by the department, based on its experience working
on Reef policy and programs over several years.
There was no Ministerial influence over this decision. Rather, the Foundation
was chosen because of their proven track record of raising philanthropic funds,
their long-standing experience in working with the department and other key
stakeholders and the department's first stages of due diligence.
Coalition senators note that the Reef Foundation has met all milestones
under the agreement, and commenced two early funding rounds for projects to
improve water quality and citizen science.
In conclusion, Coalition senators reject the findings of the majority
report, and support the Foundation's essential work that will protect and
preserve the Reef for future generations.
Senator Jonathan Duniam
Senator for Tasmania
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