This motion is almost ironic, given the government’s record on the Great Barrier Reef, because it is this government that wants to lock in the largest removal of conservation areas anywhere in the world, in history. The Labor government instituted Australia’s marine park network, comprising the largest network of marine protected areas in the world. This government has plans to strip away swathes of protected areas from these marine parks, making Australia the only country anywhere on the globe that’s actually reducing the protection of its oceans.
While the government awarded a $444 million donation to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, it must be said that no application was received and no competitive tender process was undertaken. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is a reputable organisation, but its previous revenues, going back to 2015 of $9.6 million, and in 2016 $8 million, indicate that it is far from clear if the organisation simply has the capacity to cope with an investment of this size. It’s symbolic of the government’s chaotic management of this World Heritage listed ecosystem. The fact is this mismanagement hasn’t just been bad for the environment; it is also letting down the communities that rely on the Great Barrier Reef for their income. We need a real plan to protect the reef and to protect our oceans. Of course, part of that has to be taking action on climate change, because that is the biggest threat to the ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef. That’s why Labor’s committed to taking real action on climate change, with a commitment, for example, to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, with a commitment to actually reduce our emissions. That was happening up to 2013, but now, of course, under this government’s farcical version of energy policy, where they can’t even agree with themselves after more than five years, we don’t have an energy policy in this country, and emissions are rising again on this government’s watch. The fact is that the budget in May didn’t deliver a single dollar on new climate change policy.
So I want to conclude by echoing again the words of Sir David Attenborough, ‘Do we really care so little about the earth upon which we live that we don’t wish to protect one of its greatest wonders from the consequences of our behaviours?’ This much is clear: our reef does need protection, and this government simply isn’t up to the job of providing it. That requires a comprehensive plan on climate change. It requires a comprehensive plan to reduce run-off into the reef. It requires a comprehensive plan to support the tourism sector in Far North and North Queensland.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.