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Malcolm Turnbull blames Morrison, Cormann for $443m Reef Foundation grant

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has blamed the rush to grant almost half a billion dollars to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation in one hit on his successor, Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

In a written response to a Senate inquiry into the controversial $443.4 million outlay to the tiny non-profit group, the ex-PM said Mr Morrison, the then treasurer, and Senator Cormann “were open to funding a substantial package for the Reef so long as it was expensed in 2017/18″. (Italics in the original.)

The powerful Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet met on March 6 this year to consider a budget submission by then environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg, who proposed two options to boost the health of the Great Barrier Reef, Mr Turnbull said.

Whose idea was it? Doubts remain over who came up with idea of funding the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Whose idea was it? Doubts remain over who came up with idea of funding the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.Credit:AAP

The choice was between a six-year proposal “partially offset” by savings elsewhere and a smaller, second proposal “fully offset over two years”.  Instead, the committee picked an alternative proposal creating a tied reef fund with a partner outside the government sector.

The purpose of bringing forward the spending in one go in that fiscal year “was because government revenues were promisingly strong in 2017/18 and [the Treasurer and Finance Minister] believed the budget in that year could accommodate the substantial investment proposed for the Reef”, Mr Turnbull wrote. “[T]hat may not be so in subsequent years.”

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