Turnbull ‘throws PM un­der bus’ on reef grant

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - ROSIE LEWIS

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”.

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