Vote for the Reef
Last night I attended the Great Barrier Reef State Election Forum, organised by the Australian Marine Conservation Society, at Brisbane City Hall. All political parties were invited. Unfortunately only two took their seats on the stage: the ALP's Environment spokesperson Jackie Trad, and Greens Queensland Senator Larissa Waters. The LNP didn't show up but sent some extraordinary video clips that allegedly summed up their Reef policy. And PUP spokesperson John Bjelke-Petersen sent a statement that was read out.
The LNP's video was received with sneers and jeers and lots of laughs. Their arrogance in not turning up for a debate on the most important environmental issue for many voters deserved such derision.
The Marine Conservation Society has six Reef commitments they are looking to the politicians to make, and that they suggest voters bring to the attention of candidates.
• Ban industrial dumping in order to minimise dredging
• Protect wetlands, the Reef's natural filters and nurseries
• Stop farming runoff pollution
• Protect rivers, bushland catchments, water resources and community rights
• Restore habitats, fish stocks and other marine animals
• Generation of more energy from renewables to check climate change.
The Environmental Defenders Office – defunded completely by the Newman government and the Feds between them – are campaigning to have that funding restored. They, too, have an environmentally focused agenda of seven key changes they would like to see made. They link the Reef to the protection of other natural resources and add wider issues of citizens rights and the democratic process.
First look at their list of detrimental effects on the environment caused by certain pieces of legislation here. More details of the seven key changes can be found here. There's a petition to the pollies you can sign, as well.
Queensland Conservation is another organisation that lists all the damage done to the environment in an 'election brochure' here. The Great Barrier Reef is at the top of their agenda, with climate change right behind it. Then comes uranium mining; public rights to appeal; protection of the Cape York Peninsula; the management of water resources; subsidies to fossil fuel industries and the monitoring of them; land clearance; and national parks.
I would add to all these lists, or perhaps attached to 'national parks', the problem of declared protected areas of high conservation value, such as nature refuges, being at risk of destruction from mining. Prime agricultural land also needs effective protection from mining encroachment, not merely glib talk about economic 'pillars'.
There are common themes between environmental organisations, but what leaps out is the broad range of subjects of concern gathered under the Environment umbrella. If you share those concerns, take them to as many candidates as you can in your constituency – on the corners; at election forums. Ask them where they stand and exactly what their policies are.
Saving the Reef has emerged as a big issue in this state election, but there are a whole host of other environmental matters that need their profiles raising. If you want to vote for the Reef, you're unlikely to choose the LNP I would have thought. If you don't believe Labor are promising enough, but neither do you think the Greens will be elected, then you have to choose your preferences carefully, and not vote for one only.
There are clear choices at this election between the main two parties on some of the key issues. That gives you a greater opportunity to achieve what you want, as long as you get the numbers right.
Update: I have just found this piece, which is the best summary of the problems for the Reef, with stats, and suggestions for the next government, whatever their colour. Read it and share.
This post was last edited on 24 January 2015