The Great Barrier Reef remains a contentious topic this election, with a new study showing both major party’s policies aren’t enough to save the reef.
The findings of the study by the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) were presented in a scorecard which rated Liberal, Labor and Greens policies in regards to conservation of the reef. The scorecard showed that while the Greens policy met all outlines for conservation, Liberal and Labor would come up short. The report was especially critical of Liberal policy on the reef, deeming all but one of the outlines not met. Labor both met and partially met three of the six total outlines.
In a media release, the AMCS stated that the amounts of funding going into the reef would not be enough.
“The two main parties have not committed the level of funding required to turn around the reef’s decline and secure the future of the $6 billion tourism industry,” it said.
“The coalition’s $1 billion loan announcement is an existing climate fund rebadged as a reef water quality initiative… while it will target existing funding towards energy efficiency in Queensland, there is very little information as to how it can accelerate or transform the actions of farmers wanting to improve reef water quality. Accordingly, the policy has been assessed as not meeting what is required to deliver the water quality reforms that are needed.
“The ALP’s promise to increase funds by $377 million is a good down payment, but it’s not enough.”
Imogen Zethoven, Great Barrier Reef campaign director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, praised Labor policy on the reef.
“The Labor party has made a very significant commitment to introduce regulations to cap the amount of pollution running off the catchment and into the Reef’s coastal waters,” Ms Zethoven said in a statement.
“This could potentially be a game changer for the reef’s water quality and could stop future outbreaks of the coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns starfish.
“The coalition has offered a billion-dollar rebadged climate fund that will struggle to deliver the water quality improvements required by the Reef 2050 plan.”
The findings come as 2500 coral reef experts signed a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to ask for immediate action to reduce carbon emissions to stop coral bleaching, which is said to affect over 93 per cent of the reef. The mass coral bleaching event has also prompted the United Nations World Heritage committee to again consider listing the reef as “in danger”.
The bleaching also presents risks to the tourism industry in Queensland after the Australia Institute found about 174,000 tourists from China, the US and the UK would not come to Australia due to the degradation of the reef. Thirty per cent of the Australiana surveyed said they would holiday elsewhere in the country due to the state of the reef. This would result in an estimated total loss of $1186 million to the tourism industry. – Matthew Buchanan
Top screen grab from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies YouTube.