Saturday 20 October 2018


Since 2000, Australia's Great Barrier Reef has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In short it is dying, a condition some scientists claim is terminal.

In the face of worldwide condemnation, the Federal and Queensland Governments are now claiming to be doing all in their power to ensure the reef's survival, pouring billions of dollars into various schemes to resurrect the tourist icon.

These belated moves can only be viewed with cynicism, given both governments' abject failure to address the two main threats facing the reef - climate change and pollution. Not only have they failed to act, they are actively encouraging the mining and use of fossil fuels, and on-going land-clearing, both of which drive climate change.

Figures from the latest national emissions accounts show that forests adjacent to the reef, covering 770,000 ha, three times the size of the ACT, have been bulldozed over the past five years, with 152,000 ha felled in 2016-17.

The previous Queensland government approved the clearing of 2,000 ha of forest at Kingvale Station on Cape York, which is expected to receive Federal Government blessing shortly, leading the Wilderness Society to liken Australia's deforestation record to that of the Amazon and Indonesia.

Deforestation increases nutrient and sediment run-off, factors that lower water quality, stimulate algae growth and smother corals, and is also contributing to global warming. All these facts are known to the government, yet still they allow land-clearing to continue, and in a move that should infuriate tax-payers, is planning to spend millions of dollars to help those land-clearing organisations to manage the sediment run-off.

The lunacy doesn't stop there. More than $1billion from Tony Abbott’s Direct Action policy, the Emissions Reduction Fund, has been spent on tree-planting and habitat restoration. However, analysis of the latest government data revealed those emissions savings were wiped out elsewhere in the country by deforestation in a little over two years

The flat-out refusal by the current federal government to make any meaningful attempt to rein in greenhouse gas emissions for fear of upsetting their extremist far right colleagues is unforgivable.

- John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 15, 2018. 

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