David Hurley is the 27th Governor-General of Australia, first sworn in on the 1st of July 2019. Mr. Hurley was also the former Governor-General of New South Wales.
In April of 2022 it was revealed that Mr. Hurley had personally promoted a leadership program to then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Australian Future Leaders Foundation (AFLF). The program was scheduled to receive $18 million in funding despite having no physical address or office, no online website and no staff associated with the program. The only known individuals working within the foundation are its directors, Chris Hartley and Julie and Andrew Overton. In September of 2022, the Federal Labor government announced the cancellation of the foundation's $18 million funding.
The Australian Future Leaders Foundation
ASIC documents reveal that the AFLF was established as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) in April of 2021. Its currently listed address in Barangaroo is in fact the address of a law firm.
In a statement from the Prime Minister's Office stated that the AFLF was a program which: "aims to develop mid-career leaders and an alumni network for future leaders in Australian business, government, education and not-for-profits. The program lead will design it in close consultation with PMC."
A spokesman for the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General confirmed that both the the Governor-General and his office had been engaged in developing a leadership initiative over the past two years, but denied that the Governor-General had a relationship with Mr. Hartley:
"The Governor-General met Mr Chris Hartley, the Executive Director of the Australian Future Leaders Program in July 2020...The Governor-General does not have a relationship with Mr Hartley (other than discussions about the Australian Future Leaders Program and briefly meeting in 2019 around the 100th anniversary of the Peace Rowing Regatta)."
The spokesman's statement also went on to note that the Governor-General is not engaged in funding decisions by the government and has also not been involved in the AFLF itself:
"It is important to note that the Governor-General is not involved in government funding decisions. Similarly, the Governor-General has not been involved in the establishment of, and has not and will not be involved in the administration of, the Australian Future Leaders Foundation...While the Governor-General has been and will be removed from the day-to-day administration of the program, he supports its intent and purpose to support emerging leaders from different backgrounds, parts of the community and different sectors."
The ABC reported having seen correspondence wherein Mr. Hartley " boasted that the Governor-General had given a PowerPoint presentation to Mr Morrison in late 2020." The correspondence went on to state that former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was agreeable to the project and asked his office to proceed with it. The Prime Minister's Office reported that neither the Prime Minister nor his office had met with Mr. Hartley but stated they would continue to support the program.
NSW Labor senator, Tim Ayres, criticised the decision to fund a foundation with such limited public credibility:
"They don't do anything else, they don't exist, and yet here they are about to be the recipients of $18 million worth of grant funding...They have put the cart before the horse, they have delivered the money without having any evidence that it's going to deliver real results for Australians."
Senator Ayres continued claiming that the government had not taken responsibility for properly scrutinising the grant:
"It's all very well for the Governor-General's office to propose this kind of program, it's the government's responsibility to do the due diligence work properly...It's absolutely apparent that this work hasn't been done in this scenario."
The Prime Minister's department insisted that due diligence regarding the foundation's funding was completed by the award was announced, despite terms and conditions of the funding not being finalised. A source informed the ABC that the program's selection process, not yet publicly available, would result in benefiting "privileged white kids".
The ABC also identified promotional material for the "Governor-General's Australian Future Leaders Programme" which detailed in-principle support from the leaders of various organisations, including Accenture, the Business Council, Jaguar Land Rover, Tabcorp, Twitter and the Smith Family.