Senator questions Stefanovic's 'conflict of interests' in promoting foundation

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally has laid into TV personality Karl Stefanovic for "conflict of interests" after he promoted the Great Barrier Reef Foundation on Twitter.

The former NSW Premier re-tweeted the breakfast show host's promotion of the charity yesterday, highlighting a sponsorship deal with Today and dubbing the saga '#Reefgate'.

Stefanovic interviewed a Deloitte partner on Today in July last year in the Whitsundays to promote a report the company had done for the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

But the charity, which is currently under scrutiny in a Senate inquiry, had sponsored the host's trip to the Great Barrier Reef, and so allowed Stefanovic to interview the Deloitte partner live on air.

Ms Keneally said in a tweet that Deloitte, as a member of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's Chairman's Panel, "pay $20k a year to have their brand associated with the Great Barrier Reef".

"Have a look who sponsored @karlstefanovic's trip to the Great Barrier Reef so he could interview their Chairman's Panel member Deloitte live on air. Yep. You guessed it. The @GBRFoundation," Ms Keneally tweeted.

"So @karlstefanovic – while you are publicly advocating for the @GBRFoundation – would you like to declare any conflict of interests as well?"

Last year's 'We Love Australia' trip, which took the hosts of Today across Australia from Hamilton Island to Dubbo in NSW, was also sponsored by Tourism Events Queensland and Gabrielli Construction, among other companies.

But Ms Keneally says that Stefanovic's promotion of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation is problematic because of its role in sponsoring the Today hosts' national tour.

It comes amid controversy surrounding the Australian Government's decision to give the Great Barrier Reef Foundation $444 million to fund projects to improve the health of the reef.

"Hey @GBRFoundation – how much of that $444 million of public money currently sitting in your bank accounts are you going to spend on sponsoring @karlstefanovic and The Today Show [sic]? Or any other network television shows?" Ms Keneally said in another tweet.

A response from Karl Stefanovic was sought through Nine Entertainment Co., which airs Today. They declined to comment on the issue.

The not-for-profit Great Barrier Reef Foundation succumbed to mounting pressure earlier this week to reveal the names of its four founding members, confirming speculation that a Queensland shale oil developer had previously been among them.

The government did not run a tender process or give other organisations, including its own marine science or reef agencies, opportunity to apply for the funding granted to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Department of the Environment and Energy documents show that under the terms of the deal, a "direct payment of $22.5 million" drawn from the funding will be paid to the foundation to cover administration costs.

With Peter Hannam

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