Feb 14, 2005

Labor moves to protect Great Barrier Reef

LABOR MOVES TO PROTECT GREAT BARRIER REEF

MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 14 February 2005

Today on behalf of the Labor Party I introduced the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Protecting the Great Barrier Reef from Oil Drilling and Exploration) Amendment Bill 2005.

My Private Members’ Bill builds on the 1983 decision of the Hawke Labor Government to prohibit drilling anywhere in the Great Barrier Reef Region by extending the borders of that Region east to Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. This legislation would once and for all remove the threat posed by exploration and mining both on and near the Reef. The legislation does not however impact on any other uses of the area, such as fishing.

It is well known that oil slicks can travel many kilometres and given prevailing currents and winds an accident involving oil drilling outside the Reef could have catastrophic consequences for the Reef.

My Bill will not only further protect the Reef’s extraordinarily diverse ecosystem, but also the livelihoods of 200,000 Queenslanders and a tourism industry worth $4.3 billion annually.

The Howard Government has never ruled out allowing oil drilling east of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – the area my Bill now seeks to protect.

If the Howard Government is serious about protecting the Reef, it will now support the passage of my Bill through the Parliament.

Unfortunately exploration and drilling is not the only threat to the health and long term survival of this iconic natural wonder. Rising global water temperatures caused by the greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, are increasing the incidence of ‘bleaching’ events and coral diseases which in turn could result in the complete collapse of the Reef in as little as 20 years.

According to Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the University of Queensland’s Centre for Marine Studies:

“It is shocking to wake up and realise we really are in a desperate time. We may see a complete devastation of coral communities on the reef and a major change to the pristine values, which at the moment are our pride and joy.” (Source: The Age, 12/02/05, p.1)

To address this threat, today I will also be introducing a separate Private Members’ Bill – Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (Kyoto Ratification) Bill 2005 – which would require the Howard Government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol – the international treaty which comes into force this Wednesday and requires countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Australia and the United States are the only industrialised nations not to have ratified the Protocol.

If we do not act now, there simply won’t be a Great Barrier Reef for our grandchildren to see.