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Labor to claw back $444 million reef grant

Labor has announced they will demand back the controversial $444 grant to the small Great Barrier Reef charity should the opposition win the election

Federal Labor has written to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) warning it will claw back a controversial $444 million grant if it wins the next election.

The coalition government has come under fire for granting the money to the small organisation without a competitive tender process, and now the opposition is calling on the foundation not to spend too much of the money.

Opposition environment spokesman, Tony Burke, said a Labor government would demand any remaining funds be returned.

“We can’t fix what’s happened right now, but if Labor wins the election there’ll be an immediate policy change and the obligation will be for the foundation, the money that hasn’t been spent, they have to return every single dollar,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“To be spending anything more than a proportionate amount when you consider the money was meant to last six years would be outrageous.”

Burke said the funds would instead be spent on programs to reduce farm run-off, and go to research bodies such as the CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

“A significant amount of it, you’d have to imagine, would go to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority itself,” he said.

A Great Barrier Reef Foundation spokeswoman told AAP on Wednesday the organisation had recently completed the first of three “scaling up” activities as part of its grant agreement with the government.

This includes the foundation’s plan, proposed projects, establishing a partnership management committee and an investment strategy.

The details are expected to be released in a fortnight.

The foundation maintains its “singular focus has always been delivering projects that protect and restore the reef for future generations,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

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