Dec 10 2018

Great Barrier Reef policies at odds

The major parties and the Greens are at odds over how to protect Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef in the final week of the federal election campaign.
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Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt on Monday released the Coalition’s Reef 2050 policy which promised $40 million to set up a Reef Trust to manage the Great Barrier Reef.

The Coalition will review Labor’s Reef Rescue plan, which spends $200 million over five years.

Labor Environment Minister Mark Butler has questioned which parts of the $200 million Reef Rescue program the Coalition plans to cut as part of its Great Barrier Reef protection policy.

The funds are currently directed to farm groups, councils and individual farmers to control nutrients that flow from farms to rivers and ultimately to coastal waters surrounding the reef.

“What Greg Hunt has failed to make clear is what critical element of Reef Rescue will be cut to make way for Reef Trust, jointly managed by the Queensland and federal governments,” Mr Hunt said.

“Given Tony Abbott has already indicated he will give environmental approvals to the states, and considering Campbell Newman’s environmental credentials it is a sobering thought that the future of the reef could be at the mercy of the Queensland government.”

Mr Hunt said the Reef Rescue policy was misdirected.

However, Mr Butler said a long-range research document which outlined Labor’s strategic planning for the Barrier Reef was due to be tabled in October.

He accused Mr Hunt of ignoring this work.

“In fact, Greg Hunt appears to be intending to ignore 18 months of in-depth work and start a whole new process,” he said.

However Mr Hunt on Monday said the Coalition would continue to work with the Queensland government on this long-term strategy.

“We will work with the Queensland government on an agreed strategic assessment for the future of the reef,” he said.

Mr Butler said the Coalition’s Reef 2050 policy made little mention of the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, a concern mirrored by the Greens.

Queensland Greens senator Larissa Waters said her party’s main concern was over proposed dredging in Queensland ports close to Barrier Reef waters.

“Only the Greens are taking heed of UNESCO’s warning that the Great Barrier Reef could be added to the international list of World Heritage sites in danger by next year if the reef continues to be industrialised at such an alarming rate,” she said in a statement.

“The Greens are standing up to the big mining companies with a plan to stop new dredging and offshore dumping of dredge spoil in this World Heritage Area and put an end to damaging port expansions like Abbot Point.”

Last month, Mr Butler delayed a decision – expected in July – on dredging to widen the Abbot Point coal point until after the federal election.

Queensland’s deputy premier Jeff Seeney condemned Mr Butler for delaying the decision, however Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said he understood.

“It was always going to be difficult for him to make a calm and reasoned decision in the hothouse political environment of an election campaign,” Mr Roche said.

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