The Reef is fine – except it’s not

The Australian government is running a PR campaign to convince the world that the Great Barrier Reef is fine – most recently inviting international journalists to take a guided tour of the Reef. With a 50% decline in coral cover since 1985, we reckon there are some important parts of the story they’re leaving out. Here’s what they’re not telling you about our Reef.

Right now, eyes from all around the world are turning to the Great Barrier Reef. In June this year, UNESCO will decide whether or not to place this natural treasure on its official ‘in danger’ list. This is the perfect moment for the Australian government to reject plans for destructive coal port expansions along the Reef. Instead, they’ve opted to launch a global public relations campaign to convince the world the Reef is just fine.

Diplomacy or public relations?

That’s right; instead of working on mitigating clear threats to the Reef like climate change and coal port expansion to avert an ‘in danger listing’, the federal government has spent tax­payer money lobbying UNESCO delegates around the world to convince them that the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is being adequately managed.

Everyone from the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – who last year claimed the Reef was ‘not in danger’ – to Australian ambassadors, consuls general and other diplomatic staff have been enlisted to campaign. The Australian government has also extended invitations to journalists from countries on the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to tour the Great Barrier Reef with government officials and learn about the government’s conservation efforts.

And now, with the final Reef 2050 report on the long-term plans for protection of the Reef falling short of satisfactory, it’s clear that threats to our Reef are being downplayed.

The report permits two port expansions at the Abbot Point terminal, and fails to fully address cumulative impacts of pressures like mining, shipping, tourism, urban growth, and crown of thorns outbreaks that have already caused an estimated loss of 50% of coral cover. The report says little about plans to mitigate dangerous climate change – despite the fact that the government’s own scientists have deemed it to be the greatest threat to the Reef.

The Reef is fine! Except…

The federal government is spending and talking big to convince you and the world that the Great Barrier Reef is fine. Sure, it’s just fine, if you forget…

1. The Australian government has just approved destructive coal port developments

In 2014, the Australian Government approved a proposal for one of the world’s largest coal mines, Carmichael mega­mine. To get Carmichael up and running, Indian coal giant and project proponent Adani needs to expand the port at Abbot Point and build a railway from the mine to the port.

Impacts of coal port expansions at Abbot Point include:

  • Dredging millions of tonnes of seafloor in the World Heritage Area, destroying habitat for dugongs and snubfin dolphins.
  • Hundreds of new coal ships charting through the Reef each year, increasing the risk of oil spills and collisions on the Reef.
  • The building of large coal infrastructure at Abbot Point ­ a sensitive area that includes a turtle-nesting site.

Shockingly, the mine, rail and port have already received environmental approvals from the federal government.

2. The Reef has lost half its coral cover in the past 30 years

According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, there has been a 50% decline in coral cover since 1985.

3. Climate change is damaging the Reef

The Australian Government is also ignoring the fact that the increased coal exports from a functioning Carmichael mine will worsen climate change when burnt, intensifying the coral bleaching and ocean acidification processes that could destroy the Reef’s last remaining healthy coral.

4. UNESCO is already worried about the Reef

In 2012, UNESCO threatened to give the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area an ‘in danger’ listing unless the Australian Government address key threats facing the Reef, including concerns about proposed coal and gas developments along the Reef coast.

Sadly, both Labor and Liberal – National federal governments have responded with the approval of plans for a massive coal port expansion that will require extensive dredging and send hundreds more coal ships through the Reef each year.

Why does UNESCO’s decision matter?

An ‘in danger’ listing is much more than diplomatic jargon. With the threat of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, rail line and port project looming over the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area – UNESCO’s decision could mean the difference between a Reef left victim to massive coal expansion, or a Reef given the protection it needs.

We don’t want to see our Great Barrier Reef on UNESCO’s ‘in danger’ watchlist – we’d much rather see it adequately protected from industrialisation and climate change. But unfortunately, at this stage, the Australian government simply has not done enough to keep the Reef off the ‘in danger’ list.

The beauty, diversity, and complexity of the Great Barrier Reef cannot be easily replaced. Take action now: sign on to become part of a grassroots movement against plans to put the Reef at risk here.

Hawksbill Turtle in Komodo National Park

  • leonie McLeod

    and the world heritage listed Ningaloo reef will also be in extreme danger if the west Australian government go ahead with their plans to attract developments along this isolated wilderness patch of pristine paradise

    • Southernfink

      Anything and absolutely everything that matters to the ordinary person is at risk due to the LNP wanton willingness to include ISDS in FTA’s, when there was no need to in the first place considering Labor had negotiated to exclude the ISDS clause, course why bother with any FTA at all?

      This is global economics, this is not just a local government decision – once the AU LNP sign’s – all future AU governments will have to adhere by this as they simply do not come with a expiry date.

      WTF you mean they do not have a expiry date?

      That’s the thing that connects globalization with climate change.

      It’s making governments accountable to the financial elite…whether they like this or not, corporate suck ups climb aboard the gravy train, Tony Blair [rot in hell] makes an excellent example with his 50 million p/a as an adviser to the privatized defense industry – his advice was crap – but it earned then a lot $$$. – just saying.

      Bottom line, the economic model is wrong.

      Solution IMO – Eco socialism

      • Bighead1883

        Rudd`s transcript link posted in comments here mate

        • Southernfink

          Good one, I’ll have a look at this thanks.

  • David Hannan

    Coral Reefs are doomed because of warming seas and ocean acidification, neither of which can be switched off in time to save them. This is the view of expert coral reef scientists and has been for nearly a decade. Its time UNESCO, the Greens and all sides of politics embraced this harsh reality and stop pretending the Barrier Reef has a future because of their political games. The public deserves the truth. The warming and acidification of the planets oceans that will result in the extinction of reefs in the next 20 years is due to climate change caused by our addiction to fossil fuels, If we don’t learn from the extinction of reefs our emissions will trigger ocean wide extinctions of other ecosystems and marine life.

    • Southernfink

      The public deserves the truth indeed.

      Are you able to make the connection between globalization and climate change?

      F.E. – Free Trade Agreements are being used to prevent governments subsidizing renewable energies.


      Yup – have a look here , all that hype about those Secret Free Trade Agreements and they never tell you what really happens, well I’m sorry but here is the truth – FTA’s are being used to reverse renewable energy projects.

      US Sues China at WTO on Wind Power Subsidies

      That’s just one sample, suggested reading – Naomi Klein’s ” This changes everything” or feel free to respond and ask me, essentially any corporation that is a member of a FTA is able to challenge existing environmental standards, or their parent company will….

      Would U B surprised that the text of these FTA’s can be kept secret for up to 30 years?….

      • Bighead1883

        Hey SF and from what I make out on the US suing China over wind power subsidies is it`s all hot air and is blowing bubbles at best because it`s all intranational as to their now massive lift in solar production.
        The batteries for individual storage/use can`t now be far off

        • Southernfink

          The FTA’s are being used to prevent governments subsidizing renewable energies from wind farms in China to solar manufacturers in Canada.

  • Bighead1883

    The transcript of Kevin Rudd`s Ted Talk is timely for this article as well


    • Southernfink

      There you go, you could say he is rather diplomatic – I have all sorts of questions for him.

  • The GBR is fine… The oceans are fine… the planet is fine… we’re all fine…

    • Southernfink

      Hey BB, Finding Fukushima radiation floating around the pacific…

      No were not fine – far from it – and it’s all because of those treasonous Free Trade Agreements that corporations use in order to reverse restrictions on polluting, that’s putting it politely.

      • Yeah, I moved to the N. California coast a year after Fukushima– took a ride up the coastal roads all the way to Canada right after I got there– saw loads of Fukushima debris washed up in places. One beach area in Oregon, near Lincoln City, had tons of shit. Took a short time too, to make it half way around the world just bobbing along on currents. A good example of how small and connected everything is– the flap of the butterfly wing and all that… But no shit. The planet’s in a stinking mess.

        • Southernfink

          Been trying to find an article about TEPCO – from memory it ran like this – they had a contract to supply electricity – but due to the Fukushima disaster they were shut down – subsequently they were threatening to sue under ISDS provisions in their contract – the thing is that they have been allowed to restart – no thanks to the leganese fine print in all those deals.

          I think I might know who to ask.

          Now Obama appears to have won fast track approval it will get even worse.

          I’ve gone right off sea food, perhaps the modern fisherman ought to consider carrying a Geiger counter.

  • Troll Slayer

    It’s sad but even sadder that the reefs will start to dissolve around 550 ppm co2 (atmospheric). Which isn’t all that far into the future…

  • a.

    Keep up good job Rashini – regards from Spain

    • Rashini

      Thanks so much for your comment and feedback! 🙂