Reef grief over grant

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Climate concern: Federal Isaacs MP Mark Dreyfus says CSIRO science should be backed. Picture: Gary Sissons

A CONTROVERSIAL near half a billion grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has been slammed as “a slap in the face” to scientists working in Aspendale.

A federal government decision to give $443 million to the foundation is under scrutiny after it emerged the organisation itself did not formally apply for the taxpayer-funded grant.

Federal Isaacs Labor MP Mark Dreyfus blasted the decision by the Liberal National Coalition government and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Dreyfus said the money would have been better directed towards climate change research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

“Mr Turnbull’s captain’s call is a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars and is a slap in the face of the hard-working climate scientists at the CSIRO in Aspendale,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“There is simply no way to justify that funding of this size would bypass sufficient process and be handed to an organisation with just six staff, that didn’t even ask for it. Yet that is exactly what has happened.”

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg says “extensive due diligence” was done before deciding to give the foundation $443 million of taxpayers’ money.

The foundation itself said it was unaware of the “due diligence”.

“My department concluded this grant would meet the government’s policy commitment to protect the Great Barrier Reef, represented value for money and was consistent with the governance and accountability act,” Mr Frydenberg told Parliament on Monday.

The CSIRO has suffered federal budget cuts over the past few years. Climate change research is conducted at the organisation’s Aspendale laboratories.

“The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the CSIRO, including the experts here at the CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research Centre in Aspendale, should have been consulted and given the opportunity to use their expertise to offer a real solution to fix the condition of the Barrier Reef,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“The Abbott-Turnbull government gutted $115 million from the CSIRO in its 2014 Budget. It slashed jobs at the CSIRO Research Centre in Aspendale and put the future of the centre in doubt.

And now it’s ignoring the CSIRO to throw taxpayers’ money at an outfit that is quite clearly not up to the task.

“I call on Mr Turnbull to recall this $443 million and go through proper processes to give expert organisations, including the CSIRO, the opportunity to use their expertise to save the Great Barrier Reef.”

First published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News – 15 August 2018

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