Reef funding to end if Australian Labor Party wins

Canberra: A controversial funding handed to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) will be rescinded if the opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) wins in the next election.

The Australian government in April handed the GBRF a $318.5 million grant, the largest donation to a private foundation from the government till date, without first subjecting the organisation to a competitive tender process.

Tony Burke, the ALP’s environment spokesperson, on Wednesday wrote to John Schubert, chairman of the foundation, warning him that the government can compel the GBRF to return the money.

Burke said that as per the grant agreement, the Department of Environment and Energy can terminate the agreement if there is “a material change in the Australian government policy”.

Burke said that an ALP government would change the environment policy.

“We can’t fix what’s happened right now, but if Labor wins the election there will be an immediate policy change and the obligation will be on the foundation to return every single dollar that hasn’t been spent,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Schubert and fellow board members of GBRF are due to appear before a Senate inquiry on the circumstances surrounding the grant on September 18, Xinhua news agency reported.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who made the decision, is also expected to front the inquiry.