Turnbull ‘throws PM under bus’ on reef grant
Labor has accused Malcolm Turnbull of “throwing Scott Morrison under the bus” after he confirmed his prime ministerial successor was largely responsible for the Coalition’s $443.3 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
A letter obtained by The Weekend Australian and published online from the former prime minister to Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson, chair of the Senate inquiry looking into the one-off payment, acknowledged more taxpayer funds could be paid to the charity in the next six years.
Mr Turnbull said his government rejected the Environment Department’s initial two proposals for extra funding to support the health of the reef, and the expenditure review committee sought an “alternative” to create a tied reef fund with an organisation outside of government.
“This approach was taken because the treasurer (Mr Morri- son) and Finance Minister (Mathias Cormann) were open to funding a substantial package for the reef so long as it was expensed in 2017-18,” he said.
“This was because government revenues were promisingly strong in 2017-18 and they believed the budget in that year could accommodate the substantial investment proposed for the reef.
“This was the reason why a partner outside the commonwealth government sector was sought; it also brought with it the possibility of leveraging the commonwealth’s contribution with private sector contributions.”
The Prime Minister took responsibility for the grant nearly two weeks ago in trying to get on the front foot after months of pressure from Labor and the Greens.
Opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said “reefgate” was “nothing short of financial maladministration … Malcolm Turnbull has just thrown Scott Morrison under the bus by declaring him responsible for this abuse of the budget”.