Jul 7, 2006

Great Barrier Reef Under Attack From Howard Government

Great Barrier Reef Under Attack From Howard Government


7 July 2006

The Howard Government may be walking away from protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

Under pressure from the National Party and Warren Entsch, the Howard Government refuses to commit to ongoing support for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).

The Environment Minister has been sitting on a confidential review of GBRMPA for weeks now. Regardless of what that says, Warren Entsch, Barnaby Joyce, De-Anne Kelly and Ron Boswell are all calling for GBRMPA to be abolished.

The Queensland Nationals did a preference deal with the Fishing Party at the last election, on the basis that GBRMPA’s powers be moved into the Department where the Minister would have control of all decisions. This helped get Barnaby Joyce elected.

Gutting GBRMPA, and giving Canberra full control of the Great Barrier Reef, would be a disaster for the Reef and the tourism industry.

The Environment Minister must immediately rule out the abolition of GBRMPA as an independent agency and must guarantee that its offices will be maintained in Townsville, Cairns and other regional centres. He must guarantee the Great Barrier Reef will be jointly managed with the Queensland Government.

The Howard Government has form in gutting the independence of its key environmental agencies. The Australian Greenhouse Office, the National Oceans Office and the Australian Heritage Commission have all been abolished as independent agencies, and have become shells of their former selves.

The Howard Government is once again putting its political interests ahead of the national interest.

The Great Barrier Reef is our most treasured natural icon, and a major job creator in northern Queensland. It deserves full protection.

Reef based industries contributed $5.8 billion to the Australian economy in the last financial year and employed about 63 000 people. Tourism provides the overwhelming amount of this accounting for $5.1 billion and 54 000 jobs from tourism.