Labor pledges to terminate half-a-billion-dollar Great Barrier Reef Foundation grant

In an announcement that will again put attention on the government's controversial reef plan, Labor has confirmed it would strip the Great Barrier Reef Foundation of its half-a-billion-dollar grant if elected on May 18.

Labor added that it would redistribute that cash amongst public agencies, but is yet to detail specifics ahead of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's first election-period Queensland visit this week.

Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Easter Sunday. Photo: AAP

Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Easter Sunday. Photo: AAP

Last August, a $443 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation by Malcolm Turnbull's government was criticised for lacking an open tender process, and for burdening an organisation that had six full time staff with a grant of such a size.

Labor wrote to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation at the time to warn them that if the party earned government, it could withdraw from the existing contract.

But this marks the first time they have determined to rip up the agreement.

"Every dollar returned will be invested back in the reef and we will seek advice on the most effective way to allocate the funding," Mr Shorten said, adding that his government would consult with the Department of Environment for its reef strategy.

Mr Shorten mentioned peak science body CSIRO, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences as possible alternatives.

While the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has had all $443 million of the grant in its accounts for months, Labor environment spokesman Tony Burke has previously pointed to a contract clause that allows the agreement to be terminated if there was "a material change in Australian Government policy that is inconsistent with the continued operation of this agreement."

In the letter warning the foundation that funding could be withdraw, Labor advised them not to spend a disproportionate amount before the election, noting that the funds were set aside for a six year period.

Last week it was revealed that Australia's top Great Barrier Reef officials feared the natural wonder could collapse if the planet warmed by 1.5 degrees. In a climate change position statement revealed under freedom of information laws, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Liberal campaign spokesman and trade minister Simon Birmingham said the $443 million grant was evidence the party was getting on with the job.

"The Morrison Government's $443.3 million investment in the future of the Great Barrier Reef is already funding projects to improve reef health, with scientists and researchers partnering with Queensland farmers to reduce pollution flows," he said.

"Unlike Labor, we aren't talking endlessly. We are getting on with the job of preserving this natural wonder for all Australians and the world."

"Labor and Bill Shorten's reckless plan to rip this vital funding out of the hands of the experts and into the offices of Canberra bureaucrats would send reef health backwards and ignore crucial partnerships with Central and North Queensland communities who rely on the Reef and want to participate in its protection."

This story Labor pledges to terminate half-a-billion-dollar Great Barrier Reef Foundation grant first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.