Australian Business Council chair Grant King is a busy man. Too busy, apparently, to front an inquiry into the circumstances of a remarkable $443 million handout by the government to a small charity, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. The foundation’s board is composed of business heavyweights like King, John Schubert (another member of the Business Council, and also “not available”), Suncorp’s Michael Cameron, Origin director Steven Sergeant and Boeing Australia head Maureen Dougherty. The best part of half a billion dollars will be handed to this outfit in a single hit, without any sort of tender process or other form of basic accountability, at a time when the Reef is facing an existential threat.
King’s reticence — he said he had “meetings” and “international travel” on the dates sought by the Senate committee examining the handout — seems a little at odds with the ethos of the Business Council. The BCA is constantly harping about the need to “deliver better value for taxpayer dollars”. In this year’s budget submission, the BCA demanded “maximum community value for taxpayers’ money” as part of the need for government spending cuts. On that basis, you’d assume King and Schubert would only be too happy to practice what they preach via the BCA and argue to a Senate committee how they and their big business mates will deliver value for $440 million dollars given the complete absence of any performance indicators, evaluation or any basic procurement process around what they will be providing for it. But apparently not.