The Fight for the Reef campaign’s final Election Policy Scorecard, released today (Wednesday), shows that the next Australian Government will need to increase its financial commitment to the Reef, regardless of which party wins office.
Key findings of the scorecard:
• The Coalition’s $1 billion loan announcement is an existing climate fund rebadged as a Reef water quality initiative. Assessing this policy announcement has been challenging as no further information has been forthcoming. While it will target existing funding towards energy efficiency in Queensland, there is very little information as to how it can accelerate and transform the actions of farmers wanting to improve Reef water quality. Accordingly, the policy has been assessed as not meeting what is required to deliver the water quality reforms that are needed.
• The ALP’s promise to increase funds by $377 million is a good down payment, but it’s not enough.
• The ALP has scored green for two major Reef policies: commitment to introduce a legal cap on pollution flowing from the catchment into the Reef and a promise to reform the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to make it more independent.
• Both the Coalition and the ALP scored green for committing to satellite tracking of commercial fishing vessels to improve protection of green zones.
The two main parties have not committed the level of funding required to turn around the Reef’s decline and secure the future of the $6 billion tourism industry.
By the first of December, the Australian Government must report to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to show the Reef 2050 Plan is being successfully rolled out and has sufficient financial backing. UNESCO will then assess the condition of the Reef in 2020.
The World Heritage Committee has stated:
Sustained, adequate financing is central to the plan’s performance. The proposed investment framework should be established as a matter of priority and should provide a convincing demonstration that the necessary investment to achieve the plan is being made and will be sustained.
Imogen Zethoven, Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society said:
“The Labor Party has made a very significant commitment to introduce regulations to cap the amount of pollution running off the catchment and into the Reef’s coastal waters. This could potentially be a game changer for the Reef’s water quality and could stop future outbreaks of the coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns starfish,” she said.
“The Coalition has offered a billion-dollar rebadged climate fund that will struggle to deliver the water quality improvements required by the Reef2050 plan.
“Australia is spending nearly $13 billion to save the Murray-Darling Basin.
“Water quality experts say the Reef requires a similar level of investment to address nitrogen and sediment pollution.”
Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia said:
“This election, the Reef was a top five issue for the first time, and yet this generation of political leaders has yet to step up to reflect the concerns of the vast majority of Australians,” he said.
“Despite the devastating coral bleaching event unfolding before our eyes, unfortunately in this election neither major party delivered the urgent funding needed to arrest the Reef’s downward trajectory.
“Our next government has just three years left to demonstrate to UNESCO and the world that Australia, as the planet’s custodian of the Great Barrier Reef, is prepared to make the difficult choices to keep the Reef out of danger.
“If not, the Reef, the Reef economy, and our global icon, could be lost for future generations of Australians.
“Whichever party wins Government on Saturday – further commitments and action must be delivered if we are to bend the curve,” he said.
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