Release of ANAO report on grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation

The Hon. Melissa Price MP

Minister for the Environment

The Australian National Audit Office’s report on the Government’s game-changing investment in the Great Barrier Reef Foundation confirms that the establishment of the Partnership with the Reef Foundation was based on comprehensive policy development and detailed advice.

The Liberal-National Government has acted to protect the Great Barrier Reef, to secure not only its health into the future, but to secure the thousands of jobs in central and north Queensland that are reliant upon our most treasured natural asset.

This is an investment we are immensely proud of; long-term funding to address the most urgent threats to the Reef and to help manage further protection initiatives.

In its detailed report, the ANAO confirmed that “all decisions taken by ministers were informed by written advice prepared by the department”.

It also noted the department had established “relevant and appropriate eligibility requirements” for the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and had “applied adequate scrutiny to factors relevant to the foundation’s ability to scale-up its governance structures and resourcing levels”.

I acknowledge the six recommendations provided by the ANAO, which undertook its review at the request of the Government. These recommendations relate to processes that are either already established, or are now being implemented by the Department of Environment and Energy.

None of the findings or recommendations affect the conclusion that the Partnership is an effective way to boost the health of the Reef.

It needs to be acknowledged that administrative costs are a normal and necessary part of most grants. Administrative funding for this grant is reasonable and consistent with the amount provided for other grants administered through the Reef Trust.

The Foundation has advised the Audit Office that the majority of their partners under the grant will receive no funds for administration of the project from the grant. This is consistent with the past practice in partnering with large organisations. The Foundation will also negotiate administrative costs for smaller community-based organisations.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is getting on with the job. It has already opened two early funding rounds for projects to address water quality and citizen science and has also already delivered its detailed Collaborative Investment Strategy, which, given its unique capacity to leverage private funds, includes its plan to attract an additional $300-$400 million from donors and partner organisations.

This work builds on the Liberal-National Government’s strong record of protecting the Reef through our 2050 plan with the Queensland Government, establishing the Reef Trust and reforming the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Our record stands in stark contrast to Labor whose only policy for the Reef is to take back this game-changing investment which would be detrimental to the significant work underway to protect its longevity.

When Labor left office after six years, five massive dredge disposal projects were planned in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and UNESCO placed the Reef on its ‘in-danger’ watch-list.

Terminating or delaying the $443.3 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, as Labor seeks to do, will only delay the urgent increase in reef protection activities that we know work, like improving water quality and tackling Crown of Thorns Starfish.

Together with the Queensland Government, we are investing a record of over $2 billion for Great Barrier Reef protection and resilience research.

We won’t abandon the Reef, and we won’t abandon the 64,000 jobs and $6.4 billion in economic value the Reef provides every year.

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