Australia Comment: Reef won’t be saved by fools – or knaves, or shortcuts

09:51  11 august  2018
09:51  11 august  2018 Source:   smh.com.au

'This is taxpayer money': Shorten slams reef grant

  'This is taxpayer money': Shorten slams reef grant The Labor leader described the funding to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation as a "scandal" and the money should be handed back. Labor will pursue the matter when parliament resumes next week, after the long winter break.Malcolm Turnbull has defended the grant, that didn't go to tender, saying it went through the normal executive procedures and was in the budget.The foundation itself has said it was surprised by the $444million grant."What sort of respect for taxpayer money is there, where the recipients of over $400 million were surprised to get (it)?" Mr Shorten asked.

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The Great Barrier reef off Port Douglas.© Dean Miller/GBR Legacy The Great Barrier reef off Port Douglas.

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That smoke and that stench emanating from the government’s extraordinary plan to give $444 million to a private charity is not, probably of illegality or bad intentions. It’s the smell rather of political dumbness, individual and collective incompetence among senior members of Cabinet, and, perhaps yet another reflection of a government and a leader without ideas or goals, let alone first-rate ones.

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So when did “ fools and knaves ” become words for lying, despicable, ignorant, willful, greedy, arrogant, hypocritical white rich bastards? Why don’ t they just say, “To hell with you, we ’ re in power and we ’ re gonna take whatever we want”? Save themselves the time and expense of coming up with all their bs.

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It smells too of Malcolm Turnbull, who has not bridled at the decision being described as a captain’s call. But he has an alibi of sorts, and hostages, because he has been keen to emphasise that his idea was endorsed by Cabinet (my guess is only its expenditure review committee) before it was put to the bemused recipients, who had not asked for the money, lacked the staff and the expertise to manage it, and had no idea, at the time, of what they would do with it.

What was really on display, yet again, was a prime minister still strangely ignorant of conventions of constitutional government and Australian constitutional history, particularly of that uniquely Australian innovation, the statutory authority, invented in the 19th century after just the sort of structure imagined by Turnbull for his Great Barrier Reef rescue mission collapsed in mountains of fraud, misfeasance, malfeasance and incompetence.

Malcolm Turnbull defends surprise $444 million Government donation to tiny reef body

  Malcolm Turnbull defends surprise $444 million Government donation to tiny reef body The PM says a donation of nearly half-a-billion dollars to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which has links to big resources companies, has been done transparently, despite the body itself not asking for the money. In April the Government announced it would give the Great Barrier Reef Foundation $444 million to fund projects to improve the health of the reef. Credit Cards Are Now Offering 0% Interest Until 2020 Find out more on Finder Sponsored by Finder.com.

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June 28, 2004. Knaves or Fools ? Dr. Jeffrey A. Mirus. And she must end by doing everything in her power to save these same children's wayward souls.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Australian Institute of Marine Science where he announced a $60 million plan to save the Great Barrier Reef earlier this year.© AAP/Michael Chambers Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Australian Institute of Marine Science where he announced a $60 million plan to save the Great Barrier Reef earlier this year.

It also seemed to illustrate yet again that Turnbull, like Tony Abbott before him, lacks, either in his private office or, apparently in his department, people with the access, the expertise and the persuasiveness to filter out bad ideas, to give shape and content to mediocre but possible ones, and to develop, of their own initiative even better ones likely both to be in the public interest and politically attractive to the government of the day.

The chief consequence of the affair will probably not be the reputation of the prime minister’s heart, or good intentions, or confirmation of his lousy political and generally half-baked and short-term political and policy judgment. It will be in the reinforcement of the impression that Turnbull is a big end of town fellow, always thinking of policy solutions that reward and benefit them, or which pull a curtain around things they would rather not see. Further down the track, the other victim may be Energy and Environment minister Josh Frydenberg, already having a tough month with the national energy guarantee. Frydenberg already has to juggle with climate denialists, coal enthusiasts, and big business dominated by the interests of polluters, a burden hard enough to bear even when trying to conjure up an energy policy capable of both appeasing his backbench and Labor premiers.

The Great Barrier Reef charity given $444 million by the Turnbull government has spent more than 40 cents in every $1 on administration

  The Great Barrier Reef charity given $444 million by the Turnbull government has spent more than 40 cents in every $1 on administration The Turnbull government announced $444 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef in the May budget It went to a little-known private foundation with just six staff and a range of corporate backers that reads like a who's who of big business in Australia.The Australian reports that cumulatively, less than 60c in the dollar went towards “science investments” involving the reef, according to annual reports between 2007 and 2017.

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master; If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools , Or watch the things

- There are two kinds of liars -- fools and knaves . Fools lie because they don' t know the truth. Knaves lie because they intend to mislead. Fools or Knaves ? By Robert B. Reich (Page 1 of 2 pages) Permalink (# of views) 2 comments .

But under his other hat, he is supposed to sell the idea that the reef might be saved by a charity formed and operated by just those captains of industry – in many cases themselves directly associated with the coal industry, the hydrocarbon industry, pollution, and over-exploitation that has helped create both the most acute local problems facing the reef, and the carbon pollution which is producing the climate change that represents the greatest threat of all.

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Energy and Environment minister Josh Frydenberg already has to juggle with climate denialists, coal enthusiasts, and big business dominated by the interests of polluters, as well as trying to conjure up an energy policy capable of both appeasing his backbench and Labor premiers.© Alex Ellinghausen Energy and Environment minister Josh Frydenberg already has to juggle with climate denialists, coal enthusiasts, and big business dominated by the interests of polluters, as well as trying to conjure up an energy policy capable of both appeasing his backbench and Labor premiers.

It has already been made crystal clear by the charity that it does not see any public relations or transparency role as involving any actual campaign against climate change or its perpetrators. Its task, as agreed with the government, after it took all of the money upfront, is to apply bandaids to local consequences of that climate change, such as attacking crown-of-thorns starfish, and efforts to improve water quality, if not water temperature.

It must be said that an extra $444 million over six years – indeed more than $500 million once other new funding to other reef bodies is taken into account – ought to be good news for the reef, even if, ultimately, nothing can be done to save the reef if water temperatures continue to rise. Turnbull, presumably, wants not only to do all that he can to stave off catastrophe, but to be seen to be doing so. He and the government are already suggesting that Labor policy on the reef was of benign neglect, a process halted by the inspired guidance of Greg Hunt and Frydenberg.

Comment: The bigger questions about reef foundation's $444 million windfall

  Comment: The bigger questions about reef foundation's $444 million windfall There is no guarantee that spending on making the Great Barrier Reef more "resilient" will succeed.The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has had some good fortune that few environmental NGOs could count on. The $444 million it was granted by the government earlier this year dwarfs its previous budgets by a large multiple. Having worked in two small environmental charities of a similar operating budget and staffing to the pre-windfall foundation, I can confirm getting so much money without even applying for it is far beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Most Democratic politicians are pretty much Knaves , as are the people actually running the groups that the Fools congregate to: Knaves don’ t let Fools be in charge if they can help it, and the few Fools that get that far are quickly turned, or eased along down the road. Alex Parker. Show Comments .

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Turnbull may even have thought, ideologically if not entirely unreasonably, that the implementation of action plans could benefit from private sector knowledge and expertise, organised by businessmen with backgrounds of conceiving and carrying out massive projects. These would be, he might say, people not hidebound by process and lack of imagination, but focus on outcomes, innovation, flexibility and, perhaps agility and resilience.

And he could claim to be impressed by the way in which the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, under the guidance of more than 50 of the chairs or chief executives of the top 100 Australian companies as well as some significant multinationals were able to tap into private philanthropy to raise funds to top up the money given by government. He had heard them boasting about having raised $90 million over recent years – and was only later to become aware that at least half of this “philanthropy” had involved successful grants from governments, state and federal, as partners in foundation projects. And that the foundation had fewer than 10 employees, and a usual operating budget of about $4 million a year. Nice work if you can get it.

One of the immediate problems of selling the idea that the private sector might be able to do better than the dead hand of government, or academia, was the suspicion that would naturally fall on the influence of foundation directors. Their companies, after all, were among the primary causes of the reef’s problems. One could see the attraction to them of being associated with glamorous jobs of helping to “save” the reef, but how would they manage the conflicts of interest?

Barrier Reef Foundation grant 'unthinkable, mind-blowing', former board member says

  Barrier Reef Foundation grant 'unthinkable, mind-blowing', former board member says Myer dynasty philanthropist and former Great Barrier Reef Foundation board member Michael Myer's comments increase pressure on Malcolm Turnbull over a $444 million federal grant to the foundation.The latest comments increase pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for making what critics branded a "captain's call" in allocating the funding.

There are two kinds of liars – fools and knaves . Fools lie because they don’ t know the truth. Knaves lie because they intend to mislead. Comments .

Define knave . knave synonyms, knave pronunciation, knave translation, English dictionary definition of knave . n. 1. An unprincipled, crafty fellow. 2. a. A male servant. b. A man of humble birth. 3. Games See jack. knav′ish adj. knav′ish·ly adv. knav′ish·ness n.

It swiftly became clear that the only way to avoid such cynicism was to emphasise that these chief executives, and their boards, were largely decorative and that all of the decision making would be in the hands of scientists, reef experts, and professionals, including representatives of many of the bodies who might have been given the money directly. This includes the Marine Park Authority and the Institute of Marine Science, and even of the department of the environment. (Indeed, the cross membership of different boards, agencies and the foundation itself, is replete with serious risks of conflict of interest, even if some of the cross-vested interests think, wrongly, that their primary function in the governance structures of other bodies is to act as delegates of their primary employer, rather than as legal and fiduciary trustees for the interests of whatever hat they are currently wearing).

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has raised $90 million over recent years, at least half of which was from successful grants from state and federal governments.© Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has raised $90 million over recent years, at least half of which was from successful grants from state and federal governments.

It has also become clear that even a beefed-up foundation, supposing that it can deal with the managerial issues of quadrupling its size, would be primarily involved in doling out money to other bodies, including existing government agencies on the ground. A clearing house – perhaps even a post box – but not subject to anything like the controls, and accountabilities, that would exist were it a government body. The Institute of marine science, and the reef authority, are themselves both recipients of government grants and contractors of work performed by others: in some cases, all that would be achieved by having yet another government iron in the fire was a good deal more duplication, delay and conflict of interest in the divvying up.

Adani spent a year trying to hide this information on its reef spill

  Adani spent a year trying to hide this information on its reef spill Documents Adani fought to keep secret appear to show both the company and the Queensland Government knew it was likely to breach its licence before it spilled polluted water into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

There are two kinds of liars – fools and knaves . Fools lie because they don’t know the truth. Knaves lie because they intend to mislead. Mnuchin also maintains Senate and House tax plans won ’ t cause the federal deficit to rise.

Representatives of the foundation have bridled at the suggestion that their primary function will be as a clearing house, but it is perfectly plain from what little is available in the nature of a business model that it will never itself have the workforce, or the project management expertise to manage large projects on its own. Perhaps Turnbull expected otherwise – his grant imagines that the foundation will swallow up $44 million in administrative costs over the next six years. Most of the remaining $400 million will end up being spent by Commonwealth or state agencies. One must depend on a private sector philanthropic effort, or set of pro-bono Partnerships, well beyond anything the foundation has achieved in the past to make this extra finger in the pie the great “investment” claimed by the government.

But what ought to appal students of government is not the search for alternative vehicles for achieving aims that are very important to all Australians, or the diversion of large sums from the fiscus to achieve it. It is from the account, whether from Turnbull or Frydenberg themselves, or foundation representatives, of the way the deal was stitched up. It was originally approved by Cabinet without anything in the way of flesh, perhaps without anything in the way of formal submission. It was, it seems, no more than that the government was going to look for some “commercial partners” in addressing urgent reef problems. One assumes that it had some grudging approval from Finance, Treasury and PM&C, but that, insofar as Turnbull murmured that he thought the businessmen behind the foundation were the ones to go to, they recommended more due diligence than it seems to have received.

A week or two later, Turnbull, Frydenberg and Finn Pratt, (Frydenberg’s departmental secretary) met urgently with the chairman of the organisation. They offer the money – the precise sum is mentioned – to the foundation if it will agree to extend its work on the reef. There is hardly any detail of what would be expected of the foundation – that can be worked out later. The chairman says he will take it to his board. The foundation has made no recent approach for money, or ever for money of this size, and was totally gobsmacked by the offer.

Soon after the board agrees to the deal, a rather vague press statement is cobbled up, and the money is passed to the foundation. There is, at this stage, no firm or contractual understanding of how and when it will be used. No other private sector body, or, for that matter, non-government organisation, has been approached; there is no tender. So far as the media statement refers to specific sums of money for particular projects, these are figures plucked from the air, without any serious application of judgment about what projects will cost. The tasks are chosen not by expert ranking of priority but for public relations purposes.

This was not good, or even agile and innovative use of taxpayer funds. It was arrogant, and ill-thought through. The public unease, like the barely concealed unease of almost every scientist involved in reef measures – is justified.

The whole deal turns essentially, on Turnbull’s high opinion of the chaps on the foundation board, just as those appointed to his public service inquiry – mostly another array of old banking mates – turn, apparently, on Turnbull’s impeccable contacts and judgment. These are the types with whom one can, apparently, make handshake deals, even if, as some students of Turnbull’s business history would attest, handshakes are often not enough.

A month or two in arrears, the department fleshed out a contract which it loyally claims will provide all of the transparency, accountability, and mutual understandings it thinks anyone could want. Even if foundation actions are not subject to FOI, or judicial review, as they would be if conducted by an agency associated with government. Or probably, to the sort of audit inquiry into outcomes and processes to which a government agency might have to submit. As it happens, the Audit Office is sniffing around the deal, but will probably find itself confined to examining what officers of the department did, not on following the dollars, or the projects.

It is small wonder that critics, in and out of parliament, are making dark suggestions of corruption, corrupted processes, and secret agendas. I have seen some captain’s calls in my time, but never one of this magnitude with so little by way of provenance. It makes some old spectacular wastes of money – the Monash Centre in France, brainchild of Abbott, for example, or the Great Roof Insulation Massacree, look small bickies in comparison. Bill Shorten has already remarked it would go to an anti-corruption commission, if there were one; Methinks that no one would find corruption in the sense of money changing hands. It’s more a matter for promising a Royal Commission into this as a signature acts of government, along the lines pioneered by Abbott and carried on by Turnbull.

The punters might welcome action on the reef, but they do not like being taken for mugs. By the time an external inquiry happens, however, Labor’s target will not be Turnbull – innuendo against him having succeeded in driving him from office. It will be in hanging the albatross around the neck of Frydenberg – once a potential Leader of the opposition.


Adani spent a year trying to hide this information on its reef spill .
Documents Adani fought to keep secret appear to show both the company and the Queensland Government knew it was likely to breach its licence before it spilled polluted water into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

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