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PM Malcolm Turnbull pressed to come clean on controversial $444 million grant

Labor and the Greens are pushing for the PM to answer to the Senate inquiry committee as more controversial details are revealed

Labor and the Greens are pushing for Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to come clean on why the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) was granted a controversial $443 million.

The grant became that much more controversial when it was revealed a Queensland shale oil developer was a founding director. This comes as its revealed Environment and Energy Department Secretary, Finn Pratt, was not present for the grant meeting.

It was heard during the Senate inquiry that the foundations Chairman, John Schubert, was in the meeting with the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Environment and Energy Department, Josh Frydenberg, as well as Pratt.

However, GBRF Managing Director, Anna Marsden, amended this in a letter to the inquiry’s committee: “In the hearing I stated that the secretary of the Department of Environment and Energy, Mr Finn Pratt, attended the meeting with our chair on April 9 2018. This is incorrect.”

In another revelation, the foundation revealed that founding members included Sir Sydney Schubert, a Queensland public figure who was a founding director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park authority, chancellor at Bond University and served as Coordinator general under the Bjelke-Petersen government.

A spokesperson told Guardian Australia: “It is our understanding that Sir Sydney Schubert’s idea for forming the foundation was to create a charity to bring science and business together with a purpose of protecting the Great Barrier Reef.”

GBRF also confirmed the remaining three founders is its current Chairman, Schubert, John Boyd Reid and Sir Ian McFarlane, a businessman who wanted to develop shale oil projects.

Labor and the Greens are now calling for Turnbull and Frydenberg to come clean on why the foundation was given the grant, given the circumstances. Greens Senator and Chairman of the inquiry, Peter Whish-Wilson, said it was unusual for a Prime Minister to do so.

“If he won’t come clean, I am going to ask the committee to support my suggestion as chair of this inquiry to call the Prime Minister and Environment Minister to answer questions at the next hearing,” Whish-Wilson said.

“If the Prime Minister and Environment Minister ignore that request, then there are other options the Senate can pursue to get them to answer questions.”

Labor Senator, Kristina Keneally, added she was concerned there was no public record of what was said during the meeting the grant was offered.

“From the evidence we have to date – and mind you, we haven’t heard from anyone who was actually in the private meeting between Malcolm Turnbull, Josh Frydenberg and Dr John Schubert – it seems there was no public servant in the room.

“That worries me. First of all, it could mean that there is no official record of their meeting. Secondly, it suggests Malcolm Turnbull went into that meeting without proper advice.”

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