New documents have been released which detail the Governor-General, David Hurley's, support for the controversial Australian Future Leaders Foundation (AFLF). The AFLF was a proposed non-profit organisation that was intended to provide leadership training and development opportunities for young Australians. The foundation was founded in 2021 by Chris Hartley.
The foundation's intentions, as described on the Australian Government's Charity Register, were to:
"The Governor-General's Australian Future Leaders program will better prepare, better equip and better connect Australia's future leaders for a more uncertain world by leveraging 65,000 years of collective knowledge and our unique national diversity. "
The scandal surrounding the AFLF came to a head in April of 2022, when it was revealed that the foundation had secured $18 million in federal funding despite appearing "to have no office, website or staff, apart from three directors," and did not follow a competitive tender process. A source "closely involved" with the foundation had also stated that the program would benefit "privileged white kids" and not help to promote a diversity of young leaders.
The AFLF was also granted Deductible Gift Recipient status. This status is granted only in exceptional circumstances requiring assessment by the Treasurer. During a senate estimates hearing, neither then-Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham, or Treasury officials could explain what exceptional circumstances the foundation had offered.
The ABC reported that sources had informed them of Mr. Hartley using his existing connections with the British royal family and people in senior positions to "leverage relationships.," with one source stating that Mr. Hartley was "using the program as a ladder to become part of Australia's power circles."
Mr. Hartley had lobbied a variety of organisations for their support in the foundation's establishment before speaking to Mr. Hurley who agreed to be its inaugural patron. Mr. Hurley, first discussed the foundation with then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2020 with government funding for the foundation first announced in March of 2022 with the release of that year's federal budget. Mr. Hurley hosted Mr. Hartley on 11 separate occasions and had reportedly lobbied on behalf of the foundation to Mr. Morrison several times across 2020 and 2021. Mr. Hartley had also reportedly "boasted" of having secured funding for the program more than a year before it was announced.
New documents reveal that on the 6th of August 2020 Mr. Hartley suggested that Mr. Hurley serve as chair of the board for the foundation. Mr. Hurley declined the proposal saying that while he would "lend his support" and "share the idea with the PM," he had to remain independent. The meeting minutes also revealed Mr. Hurley intended to share the proposal with the Queen and note the program's parallels with the Duke of Edinburgh's Commonwealth study conferences.
In September of 2022 the Albanese government scrapped the program.