This year the Great Barrier Reef experienced its worst bleaching event ever and the Australian public didn’t let the Reef down. The public said loud and clear they support coral rather than coal. The Australian public know the fossil fuel era is over. The public know there’s never been a more exciting time to save the Reef. The same couldn’t be said of our government. The only thing the Prime Minister and his government will listen to is your vote at the election this weekend. The election this weekend will be your last chance to elect a government that will put the Reef before coal. So last week we did our best to remind the Prime Minister about his commitments to climate change and the Great Barrier Reef before July 2.
While the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was trying to decide whether he should have an election or not; reef scientists, activists and talk show hosts were preparing to warn the world that climate change was cremating the world’s largest living structure before our eyes.
A wave of public support for the Reef swept the 2016 federal election and since the election began Australia’s politicians have been catching up to public opinion. After hearing of the bleaching earlier this year 44 per cent of those polled indicated they would vote for measures that protect the Great Barrier Reef. A fortnight ago a survey indicated that 79 per cent of Australians believe the health of the Reef should be prioritised over coal. An ABC Vote Compass poll was even more definitive and of more than 8,000 voters who were asked ‘Should Australia reduce coal exports to address climate change?’ 88 per cent on Facebook said yes. On Twitter, 89 per cent agreed. Halfway through the election the Great Barrier Reef was the second most important issue to voters at this election.
Activists like Greenpeace, The Wilderness Society and AYCC, talk show hosts like Ellen DeGeneres and more than two and half thousand Reef scientists have ridden this wave of popular support and made significant gains for the Reef since the beginning of the election. The election began with the government offering recycled money for water quality but no new commitments for the Reef or climate change.
Since then the government has committed more than a billion NEW dollars for the Reef although the absence of new commitments on climate change are conspicuous when compared to the policies of the Australian Labor Party or the Australian Greens. The Australian Labor Party’s renewable energy targets are twice as ambitious as the governments and the Australian Greens propose a thermal coal tax to save the Reef. The Guardian provides a detailed explanation of the differences between the parties specific to the Great Barrier Reef.
We have made significant gains in action from government and popular support but we are unable to compel the government to legislate to keep the coal killing the Reef in the ground.
So last week we decided to remind the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about his commitment to act on climate change and the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.
We spread our message on bus-stops and footpaths in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
We hoped that if we pitched our renewables message in mining terms the government might invest in more.
We even thought that the New South Wales Minerals Council would want to invest in solar if we pitched it as Sun-Mining.
We tried taking the bleaching of the Reef that happened in Australia’s own backyard to the Prime Minister’s and filmed some of our messages before, like our coral, they lost their colour.
While we were there we invited the locals to our upcoming #Fizza Rally.
We know the Prime Minister has forgotten climate change because at the same time as our #Fizza rally Malcolm Turnbull was speaking at the official launch of the Liberal-National Coalition campaign. Turnbull didn’t mention climate change once in his speech.
Remember the election this weekend will be your last chance to elect a government that will put the Reef before coal before coal kills the Reef.