Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has defended the government's decision to give almost half a billion dollars to a private sector charity, saying the lump sum grant, delivered without a tender process, was "not unusual".
"When the Labor Party provided billions of dollars to the coal generators, they put it out in one hit and didn't run a tender process either," Mr Frydenberg said on ABC Insiders on Sunday.
"The [Great Barrier Reef] Foundation was chosen because it is the best organisation to leverage off the private sector."
"My department has made it very clear that the guidelines were complied with, that it represented value for money and it was the best way to deal with the urgent need of putting money into the foundation," he said.
Host Barrie Cassidy questioned how the government could be confident that the charity was the best placed to administer the grant when it had not been put out to tender.
"We know, from their track record of working ... with the Federal Government and other bodies, that they have delivered excellent results, they have managed large technical projects with multi stakeholders and they put science as their pre-eminent focus," the Minister said.
"That demonstrates they are qualified to deal with the money."
Mr Frydenberg rejected concerns raised this week by a former member of the foundation's board, Myer Foundation philanthropist Michael Myer, about its "corporate" direction and the growing involvement of figures from the fossil fuels industry.
"That's wrong," the Minister said, adding that the foundation's managing director, Anna Marsden, had made it clear that the body's decision making would be guided by "the scientists".
He said the organisation had raised $65 million from the private sector in its operations to date.
"Why this issue is being raised, obviously by the Labor Party, is because when they were in government, they did nothing to protect the reef," Mr Frydenberg said.
"It went on the endangered watch list ... The reason this organisation was chosen is there was an urgent need to deal with the reef."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose decision to offer the foundation $444 million has been described as a "captain's call", has said the grant "went through a full cabinet process, it was in the budget, it was in the appropriation bills that the parliament has passed, so it has been legislated".
Asked about the decision to award the six-year grant in a lump sum, Mr Frydenberg emphasised that the foundation was a not-for-profit organisation and that the $444 million would enable it to take advantage of "economies of scale".
"They get maximum flexibility in meeting the objectives of the grant as well as leveraging off the private sector," he said.
When Cassidy pressed on with the lump sum question, Mr Frydenberg said: "It is not unusual for governments to do that."
"Maybe it should be unusual," Cassidy countered.
Mr Frydenberg suggested that the host invite former Labor ministers back onto the show to discuss their previous grants.
"We have delivered for the reef. Labor never did. This is a political exercise," he said.
"All the guidelines were complied with. The objective of the government is to protect the reef and this $500 million commitment to the reef is outstanding."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has described the reef grant as a "scandal" and called for the money to be handed back to taxpayers.
Labor will pursue the matter when parliament resumes next week, after the long winter break.
Dana is a federal politics reporter, covering health and industrial relations. Previously, she was a reporter for The Australian.