There is a bit of a stink around the Great Barrier Reef Fund (GBRF) being granted the unheard-of amount of money, some $444 million, when they hadn’t even applied for it. Michael Myer, who helped establish the GBRF over a decade ago, is stunned by the enormous federal government grant, to an organisation with just 6 staff members. Commentators are calling this move by the Turnbull Government a politically motivated one, as it looks to be investing in an environmentally sensitive area without endowering green organisations which usually oppose development. The GBRF is a small environmental charity with board members from Australian business, science and philanthropy. It has garnered ongoing support from BHP, Rio Tinto, Qantas, Orica and Google. The accusation that the Turnbull Government grants Great Barrier Reef Fund $444 million in greenwash has merit in the eyes of some.

Great Barrier Reef is the No.1 Environmental Concern in Australia

Opposition Leader Bill shorten has publicly said, “it is an ongoing scandal and a very good example of why we need a national integrity commission.” Greenwashing like this presents a stylish visage for the coalition’s environmental credentials to combat their parties’ reluctance to acknowledge the validity of climate change. Tony Abbott is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to the Liberal and National Party members’ attitudes to things like coal mining and power stations. This political move is catering to the hard right conservative section of these parties. The Great Barrier Reef is the most popular environmental issue in this country, it is the touchstone of the community’s green concerns.

A Cynical Political Move to Greenwash an Environmental Icon?

Lawyers and governance experts from Environmental Justice Australia believe that this grant contravenes the government’s own guidelines. There has been no tender process, no due diligence performed on the GBFF, and no request by the GBRF for the grant. It is an extraordinary situation, which has shocked many observers. Michael Myer, from the Myer family and the Myer Foundation, which was one of Australia’s leading philanthropic organisations, identified the growing involvement of fossil fuel-orientated companies in the GBRF as one of the reasons he left the organisation. The ABC reported that the grant was a “captain’s call” by Turnbull. Is this just a cynical political move to greenwash an environmental icon in the lead up to the next federal election?