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“No fairness”: not-for-profit sector stunned by reef grant decision

The not-for-profit sector is stunned by $444m grant but are concerned speaking out will affect future grant applications

The $444 million reef grant continues to stun the charity sector, with major organisations slamming the government’s decision as “unfair” and “ludicrous”.

As the sector continues to face difficult red tape, and often unsuccessful tender processes, the not-for-profit sector is struggling to understand Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg’s gift of almost half a billion dollars.

David Crosbie, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Council for Australia, said the manner in which the grant was given had confused the industry.

“[We] think there is no justice, there is no fairness in the way governments allocate money to charities,” Crosbie told The Sydney Morning Herald. “It just exacerbates the feeling that this is becoming really difficult and increasingly unfair.”

Crosbie added that individual and smaller charities would not comment publicly out of fear that future applications would not be accepted. He added the Council’s board, which consists of head of World Vision, Save the Children and RSPCA, are “just shaking their heads [and] rolling their eyes” at the reef grant decision.

Turnbull recently came out in defence of the grant, insisting: “It went through a full cabinet process, it was in the budget, it was in the appropriate bills that the parliament passed, so it has been legislated.”

It was recently found that the Queensland government had backed the controversial grant despite the Labor campaign at federal level to target the record investment and return the funds back to the taxpayers, headed by Labor Senator Kristina Keneally.

In a submission to a federal environment and communications reference committee, the Queensland government said it was willing to work with the foundation.

The Palaszczuk government said: “The Queensland government is pleased to continue to work collaboratively in partnership with the Australian government and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and appreciates the commitments that have been made to ongoing collaboration as details of the funding allocation are further developed.”

Keneally, who has led a Senate inquiry into the grant, said “being handed a huge wad of money from government without even asking for it and without jumping through any hoops is beyond the dreams of any non-profit organisation.

“Look at any small community grant program run by any level of government….they will be filling out pages of forms and providing lots of documentation just to apply.”

Crosbie added that the foundation’s aim to use the grant to attract more private funds for the reef, a key reason for the grant, was unlikely to succeed.

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