PM’s claim Coalition saved reef from nonexistent ‘endangered list’ condemned as ‘ridiculous’ | Environment
At the Liberal party’s campaign launch in Melbourne on Sunday, Morrison thanked past environment ministers Greg Hunt and Josh Frydenberg for their work on reef issues.
“We have saved the Great Barrier Reef – well done to Greg Hunt particularly on his work when he was environment minister – taking it off the endangered list,” he said.
“We’ve invested record funds in researching and protecting its future thanks to Josh’s time as environment minister.”
Morrison’s statement contained more than one inaccuracy, including the suggestion the reef was on an “endangered list” at all.
“There is such a thing as the ‘in danger list’ for world heritage properties,” coral scientist Terry Hughes said. “The barrier reef was never on that list.
“If Morrison is claiming Hunt got Australia off the in danger list, the obvious response is it never was on it.”
In 2017, Unesco opted not to list the reef as in danger after reviewing the government’s Reef 2050 plan. But it will reassess that decision in 2020 and whichever party wins the federal election must submit an update on progress of the plan at the end of this year.
Hughes said recent surveys of the Great Barrier Reef showed the impact climate change and rising ocean temperatures were having on coral cover.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science – the government’s own agency responsible for monitoring reef health – reported in 2017/18 that trends in coral cover in the north, central and south reef showed steep decline that “has not been observed in the historical record”.
“The fact is that the Great Barrier Reef’s survival is in danger because of climate change,” she said. “In 2016 and 2017, 50% of the shallow water corals died as a result of two unprecedented severe marine heatwaves. Since then, there has been a steep decline in coral cover and the rate of reproduction of corals has dropped dramatically.”
The Queensland environment minister, Leeanne Enoch, said on Monday that Morrison’s remarks “show how out of touch he and the federal government is when it comes to protecting the environment and the Great Barrier Reef”.
“This is the same government that handed out $444m in taxpayer dollars to a reef organisation without tender or application,” she said. “This is also the same government that parachuted in one of their own political staff as CEO of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.”
Enoch said it was well known the two biggest threats to the reef were climate change and water quality.
“If the federal LNP government truly wanted to make a difference to protect the Great Barrier Reef, they should step-up and lead a national approach towards tackling climate change,” she said.
A Coalition campaign spokesman said that it was “thanks to the Coalition” that the World Heritage Committee decided not to list the reef as in danger.
He said: “The Committee endorsed the Coalition’s Reef 2050 Plan and the significant investment we are making, saying “Via the 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan and its supporting initiatives, there has undoubtedly been an unprecedented level of increased effort to reduce pressures affecting the property, provide an integrated vision for its future protection, and establish concerted management cooperation across different levels of government. This effort is a marked departure from past practices and deserves full recognition.”