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Turnbull pressured to face inquiry over controversial $444 million Barrier Reef grant

The grilling over the controversial $444 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation continues

Labor is ramping up pressure on Malcolm Turnbull to appear before a Senate inquiry into a controversial $444 million grant given to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

The inquiry wants to know why the government granted the six-year funding stream to the small not-for-profit foundation in a meeting that lasted less than an hour.

Labor has written to the former prime minister asking he return to Canberra for questioning.

Foundation directors, including Chairman Dr John Schubert, were grilled during a three-hour hearing at parliament on Tuesday.

Schubert told the committee the first he knew about the foundation receiving near half-a-billion dollars was in a meeting with Turnbull and then-environment minister Josh Frydenberg in April.

The Sydney meeting was arranged only two days before and no information was given prior to what it was about.

“The idea that you can go to a meeting, with no paperwork, with no agenda and within half-an-hour you’ve got $444 million – you couldn’t write this stuff,” Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters on Wednesday.

Schubert said the foundation recognised that climate change is the biggest threat to the reef, believing it had already been “altered forever”.

Despite this, he said it was not the foundation’s place to take political positions on other projects that could contribute to climate change, including the proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine in Queensland.

Foundation director Grant King has expressed his support for the Adani proposal.

Labor senator Kristina Keneally, who fired questions at the foundation directors on Tuesday, believes there are too many unanswered questions for Mr Turnbull not to appear.

“We have written to (Turnbull) – we have respectfully asked for his participation,” Keneally told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“The concern here is that there was no process to say that this was the best use of the money.”

The foundation’s Managing Director, Anna Marsden, also faced the inquiry stating that the foundation had already spent $800,000 on “project management” since receiving the grant in June.

Marsden also said she was confident in the foundation’s ability to raise “hundreds of millions” for the reef through its co-investment strategy.

She also confirmed that the government had not set a benchmark for fundraising when the grant was offered.

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