The Party Line June 07, 2012
Senator Larissa Waters, Tony Burke and Greg Hunt debate the issue.
Tony Burke, Environment Minister
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the great treasures of the world. It is the world's largest coral reef ecosystem, home to a stunning array of plants and animals.
The reef includes more than 2900 separate coral reefs, 30 species of whales and dolphins, 1625 species of fish and one of the world's most important dugong population.
Clearly, we have a responsibility to protect this environment for the future.
That doesn't mean no development, but it does mean that any development be sustainable and environmentally sensitive.
The Great Barrier Reef hosts many tourist operations as well as a number of industrial ports that were operational before the reef was placed on the World Heritage List.
One recommendation that came out of the UNESCO report was that we should look at the whole area strategically rather than consider developments one at a time. I agree that is the correct approach.
The Gillard government has already started work on a strategic assessment to cover development pressures for the Great Barrier Reef while preserving the outstanding universal values.
With the reef we hold in trust one of the most precious places on the planet. We don't need to take a sledgehammer approach of knocking back proposals outright, but we must make sure development only occurs in a manner that is sensitive to this global treasure.
There is a lot more work to do but I believe we are in a good place to ensure a growing economy for Queensland and protection for this unique Australian treasure.
Greg Hunt, shadow minister for climate action, environment and heritage
Tony Burke has now become a risk to both the Great Barrier Reef and to Australia's reputation.
He has recently had three strikes on the reef. First, a failure to protect turtles and dugongs from slaughter due to illegal poaching. Second, at the weekend his government was criticised by UNESCO for failing to manage the reef. Third, on Monday the WWF praised the Queensland government while criticising the federal ALP for its reef mismanagement.
All of this meant that on Tuesday he engineered a fight with Gina Rinehart and Indian investors over the Alpha coal proposal, which was developed under state and federal Labor.
It is likely he will have to backtrack on this rogue action or create real and lasting damage to Australia's reputation by adding a new layer of sovereign risk.
The right way forward for managing the reef and economic projects has in fact been shown by Campbell Newman and his government.
Less than two weeks ago they dramatically scaled back the Abbot Point port project to a realistic level after it was revealed that the Bligh government had propped up its budget projections with largely imaginary forecasts. Then, on Monday, the Newman government set out a process to consolidate port projects on the Queensland coast.
In short, the right way to manage the coast and the reef is sensible, modest, long-term planning that minimises our coastal footprint and maximises economic efficiency. The wrong way is to wildly announce mega projects one day, then in order to recover reputation stop sensible projects the next.
A good government can protect the reef for our grandchildren and create jobs for them as well. A bad government does neither.
Senator Larissa Waters, Greens environment spokeswoman
As both a parent and a proud Queenslander, I cannot stand by and see the death of the Great Barrier Reef within my lifetime - as the science is predicting.
We have to fight against the destruction of our internationally significant Great Barrier Reef, this treasure to humanity.
We have to fight for the 54,000 jobs it provides Australians, for the $5.1 billion it brings us in tourism dollars each year, for the precious array of species it harbours, and for the joy it brings to all those who visit it.
When the bulk of the profits from coal mining flows offshore along with the coal itself, you have to question the economic value to Australians. When the bulk of workers in new coal mines are fly-in, fly-out workers, you have to question the economic value to local communities.
When the plan is to triple coal exports from Queensland in the next 10 years, you have to question the impact not just on the climate, but directly on the reef through the vast amounts of dredging for new ports, the dumping of that dredge spoil back into the World Heritage Area and the shipping increases that are turning the reef into a coal highway.
The climate scientists and now the World Heritage Committee are telling us that we will have to limit coal exports if we are to give the Great Barrier Reef any chance of surviving climate change.
We need the wisdom to think long term and listen to them.
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