Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in the fight of his life trying to justify his fraudulent awarding of a $444 million grant to the Liberal Party aligned and mining industry backed Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Nine’s Karl Stefanovic has come to Turnbull’s defence on Twitter defending the deal while knowingly concealing that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation is a sponsor of Channel 9.
The problem is that the deal it totally indefensible as all protocols were broken which makes Karl Stefanovic’s cash-for-comment routine blatantly obvious. It also raises issues with Nine’s planned merger with Fairfax Media which I will deal with later but firstly some of the background and Stefanovic’s grubby cash-for-comment Tweet.
I wrote an article last week titled “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull personally linked to a second multi-million-dollar fraud of taxpayer’s money” which dealt with a number of scams involving Turnbull but missed this fraud and theft as it was not until Monday that more evidence was reported linking Malcolm Turnbull directly to it. The scam in my last article relevant to this article is the $11 million Rainwater Corporation fraud that Turnbull pulled off just before the 2007 election. At the time Turnbull was Environment Minister and he awarded $11 million to a company called Rainwater Corporation, owned by his friend Matt Handbury, even though his department advised against it.
I have no doubt that Malcolm Turnbull is planning similar a fraud and theft with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation as he did with the Rainwater Corporation who claimed they could make it rain. But this time he thinks he won’t be found out like I wrote in the 2012 article “Malcolm Turnbull the rain man who speaks with forked tongue“.
Why? Because this time Turnbull has put the decision-making at arm’s length by giving the money to the Liberal Party aligned Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
The SMH reported on Monday: “Mr Rose said the private foundation was not subject to “important accountability mechanisms” such as freedom of information legislation and oversight by the national audit office.“ (Click here to read more) If the same situation had been in place in 2007 then many of the details would not be known about Malcolm Turnbull’s dodgy $11 million grant to his friend Matt Hanbury’s Rainwater Corporation.
Background to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation scandal
At a meeting in Sydney on the 9th of April 2018 Malcolm Turnbull and the Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg offered a grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation chairman John Schubert even though they had not requested a grant.
In the 2018 May budget $444 million was allocated to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF). Finance journalist Michael West wrote on his website in May:
Of the half a billion dollars earmarked for the Great Barrier Reef in Tuesday’s Budget, the lion’s share goes to a foundation with climate-denial links and whose patrons make the largest donations to the ruling Liberal National Party coalition.
The foundation has coal group Peabody Energy on its Chairman’s Panel. Peabody has funded anti-climate change activism. There are myriad other links to fossil fuel operators, including Mitsubishi, Rio Tinto, BHP, Origin Energy, AGL and ConocoPhillips Australia. Chairman John Schubert was formerly chairman and chief executive of Esso in Australia (parent Exxon has also been involved in advocating against climate science).
When contacted by michaelwest.com.au, the Foundation said the four businessmen who had conceived the idea did not want to be identified.
There is no reason to doubt the bona fides and good intentions of the board and financiers of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation but it will be difficult for the enterprise to escape from “slush fund” claims that it is designed to run political cover for the government and its major donors.
The funding will also drive criticism, as with many other allocations and budget cuts, that the 2018 Budget showers money on its fans and defunds its detractors. (Click here to read more)
In hindsight Michael West was very polite in his appraisal in May but further evidence has come to hand since as a Senate Inquiry was set up to review the $444 million grant and it has uncovered what can only be described as a major scandal. The Senate Inquiry held a hearing in Brisbane on Monday and some of the things we learned were:
- There was no tender and the GBRF did not even ask for the money.
- No due diligence was done.
- The GBRF only have 6 employees.
- The $444 million has already been deposited into the GBRF bank accounts.
- Three directors of the GBRF have been refusing to appear before the Senate Inquiry using every excuse possible to avoid it. Apparently, they have now promised to give evidence but are refusing to do so in August as they claim they are too busy.
- The Founders, Directors and management have strong links to the Liberal Party and Mining Industry as per below.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been ducking and weaving on the issue all week, but it is far from over as the Senate Inquiry will have further public hearings the future.
A quick overview of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and their political and mining links
It says on the GBRF website:
The Great Barrier Reef Foundation today announced an expert Partnership Management Committee to oversee delivery of the $443.3 million Reef Partnership announced in April by the Australian Government.
A panel of 10 science, research, marine and project management experts will oversee the investment for the Foundation and track its progress over the six-year life of the program, which will support the delivery of key actions under the Reef 2050 Plan and help ensure the future health of the Reef.
The panel will be co-chaired by eminent scientist John Gunn, former CEO of Australia’s tropical marine research agency the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and Steven Sargent, a leading executive from the Australian corporate sector where he has held senior roles in mining technology, energy and finance. (Click here to read more)
Dr John M Schubert AO – Chairman
John was appointed Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation in 2004. He is Chairman of Garvan Institute of Medical Research and a Member of the Business Council of Australia.
He commenced his career with Esso Australia as a professional engineer holding various positions in Australia and overseas. In 1983 he was appointed to the board of Esso Australia, in 1985 John became Esso’s Deputy Managing Director and in 1988 Chairman and Managing Director.
He was previously Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Worley Parsons Limited, and Director of BHP Billiton Limited, Qantas Airways and Hanson plc (Click here to read more)
Steven Sargent – Partnership Management Committee Co-Chairman
Steve joined the Foundation Board in March 2015. He is a Non-executive Director of Origin Energy Ltd, Chairman of the Origin Foundation. Steve is also Chairman of OFX Group Ltd (since November 2016) and is a Deputy Chairman and Lead Non-executive Director of Nanosonics Ltd.
Steve’s most recent executive role was President and Chief Executive Officer of GE Mining, GE’s global mining technology and services business. (Click here to read more)
Managing Director – Anna Marsden
Anna has worked extensively in leadership roles across not for profit and creative industries for nearly two decades.
Before taking up the role of Managing Director in 2016, Anna was CEO of Queensland Ballet where she led a major change program resulting in enormous growth. (Click here to read more)
Journalist Ben Eltham wrote on his Twitter account:
- While we’re talking the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, let’s talk about the way they are supposedly spending their $444m #REEFGATE
- The GBRF told the Senate Inquiry that their funding decisions would be signed off by a ‘Partnership Management Committee’ or PMC
- The PMC is chaired by a fellow named Steven Sargent. He’s a former top executive at GE Australia. He’s also a current director of Origin Energy
- So the guy chairing the body doling our Barrier Reef Foundation funds is a company director of a large listed fossil fuel company
- Needless to say this is something of a conflict of interest. Mr Sargent should stand down from either Origin or the Reef Foundation boards
- Mr Sargent cannot plausibly claim to be serving the best interests of the reef while remaining a director of Origin Energy
- Let’s turn to the political connections of Barrier Reef Foundation executive director Anna Marsden #reefgate
- Anna Marsden came to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation from a career in arts administration. She is a former CEO of the Queensland Ballet
- In 2012, while Marsden was CEO, a very unusual ‘secret’ cabinet meeting of Campbell Newman’s Queensland government took place at the Queensland Ballet in West End
- Why would the Queensland government hold a meeting of the cabinet at the Queensland Ballet? Possibly it was because Anna Marsden is married to a fellow named Ben Myers, who was at the time Premier Newman’s chief of staff
- Marsden’s husband Ben Myers, currently working in the aged care sector, is a veteran LNP staffer. He was chief of staff for Campbell Newman when Newman was Lord-Mayor and Premier
- Here is a photo of Campbell Newman holding Anna Marsden’s baby daughter Alice in 2013. At the time, Ben Myers was Newman’s top advisor.
- I should stress that none of what I have tweeted is intended to imply that Ms Marsden has done anything improper. However there is no doubt about her close ties to the LNP in Queensland. (Click here to read more)
Karl Stefanovic’s cash for comment
Karl Stefanovic works on The Today Show on Channel Nine and last year they were sponsored by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation for a trip to North Queensland. And today (4-8-18) Stefanovic Tweeted:
As you would expect he received a hiding on Twitter as it didn’t take people long to find out about the Nine / GBRF sponsorship and that a cash-for-comment scandal was brewing. A couple of the responses were:
Karl plays Cash for Comment with a ‘poker face’ !! NOW it comes to light that the GBR Foundation are ‘sponsors’ of the 35th birthday party for your show Karl.. What a dishonest little man you are!
No wonder he (Karl stephanovic) asked us to give that foundation a chance. Guess when you’re getting money you’ll say anything to support.
Fairfax Media have published a story on the issue tonight (4 August 2018 — 7:01pm) and they say they did ask questions:
A response from Karl Stefanovic was sought through Nine Entertainment Co., which airs Today. They declined to comment on the issue. (Click here to read more)
Nine Fairfax Media merger
It was announced last week that Channel Nine and Fairfax Media will merge but the reality is that it is a takeover by Channel Nine who will end up with control. The merger still has several hurdles to jump before it is complete, and it will take months to complete if it does go ahead.
So, the obvious question is if the merger had been completed would Fairfax Media also do cash-for-comment stories or Tweets like Karl Stefanovic has? More importantly would Fairfax Media run a story on the cash-for-comment allegations against Karl Stefanovic like they have tonight?
The answer to the first question I don’t know. But in answer to the second question I think it is almost guaranteed if Nine and Fairfax Media had already been merged then there is no way that Fairfax would be running the cash-for-comment story about Karl Stefanovic which they have tonight. This I suspect will be used by some to argue why they shouldn’t be allowed to merge and that the ACCC should stop the merger. To me it is a very powerful argument because we are talking about what should be independent and multiple viewpoint reporting of what many believe is government corruption.
Channel Nine have form on the board for interfering with the stories they run for the benefit of sponsors. Journalist Tracey Spicer Tweeted the below on Monday about a story she wrote critical of McDonalds being pulled by Channel Nine.
The Nine – Fairfax Media merger might have hit a speed bump courtesy of Karl Stefanovic.
One thing that is currently unanswered is how did the Labor Party and Greens allow the Liberal Party to get the $444 million grant through parliament and allow the money to be paid upfront? Why wasn’t it stopped? I’m sure that will come out in the wash.
The GBRF matter has a long way to go but it has the potential to take down Malcolm Turnbull or at the very least be the scandal that he is most remembered for as Prime Minister.
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