The last two evenings have seen the PM and the head of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation trying to justify/sell Turbull’s captain’s call on 7:30 report.
First up was Malcolm looking distinctly uncomfortable – so uncomfortable that he forgot Tony Burke’s name as he lamely, and so excruciatingly predictably, tried to blame Labor.
When asked why there was no grant application or tender process, Malcolm said “Well it was a very thorough process, a whole cabinet process leading up to the budget.”
When asked if this happened before or after he offered the money on April 9, the PM lied by saying “No it all went through beforehand.”
That is just not true.
Malcolm is trying to suggest that, because the Budget Appropriations Bill passed (as it always does), that the grant had been considered and approved, not only by the cabinet, but by the parliament which is, of course, rubbish. It appears it was not specifically discussed at all before the offer was made. Sure, there may have been funds committed to the reef, but that does not imply approval to give it all immediately to a small charity who also get to keep the interest they earn over the next six years.
When asked how it was decided that this group were the best people to receive the grant, Malcolm said “They were clearly the best team to do it.”
Pressed as to how we can know that without any competitive tender, Malcolm replied “That’s because it’s the judgement we took as government.”
Righto then. The decision was not based on any comparative appraisal by the Environment Department. And how could it be? The charity has no idea yet what they are going to do with the money except hire a shitload more people.
Malcolm was so clutching at straws that he reached for the security blankie of blaming Labor. Quelle surprise.
Apparently, the only reason that Labor are questioning this grant is because they are “embarrassed.”
“Under the Labor Party’s watch, the reef was put on the endangered watch list by UNESCO. Because of our good management, the reef has come off the endangered watch list.”
Well actually, a 2015 UNESCO report said (remembering this was before the bleaching events in 2016-17):
“The 2014 GBR Outlook Report concludes that climate change, poor water quality from land-based run off, impacts from coastal development and some remaining impacts of fishing are the major threats to the property’s future health. As a result of these cumulative impacts, further exacerbated by recent major storms and floods that are expected to become more frequent, key habitats, species and ecosystem processes in the central and southern inshore areas have deteriorated.
The report further concludes that the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is “poor, has worsened since 2009 and is expected to further deteriorate in the future” and that substantial reductions of pressures are required to prevent the projected declines and improve the property’s capacity to recover from the effects of climate change.”
The only thing that saved the Reef from being put on the endangered list, aside from some serious wining, dining and resort-hopping of delegates, was the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, which “proposes 7 major outcomes for the property to be delivered by 2050 and sets out concrete actions that are linked to defined targets by 2020 and medium-term objectives by 2035.”
Yup, we sure make a nice glossy brochure.
Interestingly, the UNESCO report goes on:
“The plan was subject to public consultation, including a multi-stakeholder partnership group. The plan states that adequate finance will be provided and outlines proposals for an investment framework that will be established in 2015-16 to determine investment priorities and optimization of resource allocation across all partners to ensure effective implementation. Implementation will be overseen by the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum, supported by an intergovernmental operational committee, and will be guided by a Reef Advisory Committee and an independent expert panel.”
Or else Malcolm can just sling it to some corporate mates.
Speaking of which, a very articulate and sincere Anna Marsden, managing director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, appeared the next night to reassure us that climate change was the greatest threat to the reef.
When asked what would happen if required policy/action was in conflict with corporate sponsors’ businesses, she was not quite as convincing in her denial of any conflict of interest, saying that they had no say in project choice or design and were committed to saving the Reef.
Excuse my scepticism when I ask how committed the fossil fuel companies who have actively funded climate change denial really are. It all sounds like a PR cover to me.
When asked about Labor figures questioning their fund-raising past and suggesting much of the money would be wasted on administration, Ms Marsden earnestly promised that 90% of the funds would go to reef projects. Even if that is true, they are skimming off $44 million (plus 10% of any donations presumably) to be middlemen.
The GBRF site says “We’re collaborating with our partners including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australian Institute of Marine Science and CSIRO to develop and fund future projects that will give the Reef its best chance.”
Why not have the Department of Agriculture administer the funds and deal with those bodies directly? Why do we need the GBRF?
Ms Marsden tells us they are great at fund-raising. Well I know a way we can raise $44 million without having to host any dinners or give out any free holidays.