When it comes to convincing Australia and the world that they’re trying to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the Abbott government is having a hard time. We suspect that has something to do with their plans to go ahead with massive coal port and mine expansion in the face of serious threats to the Reef’s health.
In an attempt to win back support, the Abbott government have made claims in relation to their management of the Great Barrier Reef – many of which do not bear up to scrutiny.
Here are six myths we’ve debunked to prove we need to take another look at what we’re being told about the Great Barrier Reef:
Myth #1: The Australian Government has banned dredging in the Great Barrier Reef
Truth: The Queensland Government has said it will prohibit capital dredging outside of existing port areas in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
While this ban would mean that capital dredging, which is done to expand shipping waterways, is prohibited outside of existing ports – dredging can still occur in the area where most of the coal port expansions and dredging is currently proposed.
So when Greg Hunt insisted on Australian television that he had banned dredging – he wasn’t quite right.
Myth #2: The Australian Government has canceled port developments on the Reef
Truth: Coal ports on the Reef coast have been met with fierce opposition from local, national and international campaigns and in areas like the Fitzroy Delta, these campaigns have won with the Queensland Government introducing legislation to protect the region.
Combined with a falling price of thermal coal, this has meant that many of the port developments on the table a few years ago have become uneconomic, and the proposals have gone on hold.
So it’s people power and a dying coal industry which has stopped these developments, not governmental action.
Myth #3: The Australian Government has stopped dumping dredge spoil on the Great Barrier Reef
Truth: The Australian Government is introducing laws to prevent dumping of dredge spoil from expanding ports in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – but this won’t stop all dumping at sea.
They’re relying on the Queensland Government to extend the ban into the World Heritage Area. Unfortunately, both of these measures don’t apply to the dredge spoil that is created to maintain existing channels for ports – this spoil can still be dumped at sea.
Myth #4: The Australian Government is spending $2 billion on the reef
Truth: This money will be spread over 10 years and includes pre-existing commitments from the Queensland and Australian Governments.
A quarter of it – $500 million – is being set aside for safety measures on ships. While safety on ships is important, that money shouldn’t be counted as protecting the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef supports 60,000 jobs in Australia and brings in $6 billion in revenue every year. We depend on it, so we must do all we can to protect it.
Myth #5: if UNESCO doesn’t list it as ‘in danger’, the Reef is saved
Truth: the reef has lost 50% of its coral cover in the last 30 years and won’t be out of the woods until we address the biggest threat to its future – climate change.
Myth #6: coal is good for humanity
Truth: coal sucks.
The burning of coal is one of the biggest, global contributors to climate change, the greatest environmental threat we face. Mining it destroys ecosystems and burning it also creates air pollution and leads to health problems.
Why do we need to keep our eyes on the Reef?
Greg Hunt and the Abbott government have been trying to get UNESCO to look far away from the Reef. Luckily, UNESCO has made it clear that the Great Barrier Reef is not ‘just fine’, and is deeply concerned with the health of the Reef in their recently released draft recommendations for World Heritage areas.
It’s not over. We need UNESCO to keep their eyes on the Reef. We need the world to know that the Australian government’s ‘Reef 2050 plan’ is not good enough. The Great Barrier Reef is still in danger from a reckless mega-mine and coal port expansion. Don’t look away. Act for the Great Barrier Reef now.