Labor’s nature commitments are a welcome funding boost, are they the beginnings of overdue Federal action?

The Federal Labor Party’s announcement today of funding for the Great Barrier Reef, threatened species and indigenous rangers is a welcome act of leadership in the eyes of Queensland Conservation Council.

 “It comes at the right time, it’s at the right scale, and it’s an important part of what's required to address the dual crises that face Queensland’s environment”, said Dave Copeman, QCC Director. “We face the dual crises of climate change and a loss of biodiversity, right now.  Nowhere is this more obvious than the Great Barrier Reef.” 

The Reef is an incredible treasure that the world loves, but it’s much more than that. It’s a vital ecosystem that sustains 10% of all the fish species in the world, and contains representatives of 25% of all known marine species, including sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales. 

“In the last few months, it’s suffered another mass bleaching event, with 91% of the reefs surveyed suffering bleaching in the most recent event, caused by seawater temperature rises  warmed by climate change. “It is even more unnerving that this is the first mass bleaching occurring in a cooler la Nina year.” 

“These announcements of an additional $194.5 million for the Reef and $224.5m for native species protection are at the scale that we need to address these crises.” 

The Koala on 12 February was listed as endangered across Australia, and it’s one of 228 species threatened with extinction in Queensland. 

“The Morrison Government has been repeatedly advised that our national response to threatened species is inadequate, most recently by the Samuels review into the Environmental Protection Biodiverity Conservation Act. We strongly welcome Labor’s commitment to a National Conservation Strategy.  This is needed after years of inaction by the Morrison Government, with recovery plans unfunded, while the Federal Government attempted to devolve responsibilities to the States. . 

“Funding is essential, but is only part of the solution. Burning fossil fuels and deforestation are the intertwined drivers of the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis. “The science is indisputable, the solutions are clear: we must stop out of control treeclearing, protect Reef catchments and end the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. 

  • Treeclearing releases carbon and methane that drives climate change, destroys the habitat of native species, and reef catchments the exposed soils become sediment that flows downriver into the Reef. 
  • Dams and the resulting new agriculture results in habitat loss, and more nutrients flowing to the Reef.  
  • Coal mines and gas wells damage ecosystems, leak methane and release the carbon dioxide that drive global heating that is the largest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. 

“Inaction by the Morrison Government on climate change and deforestation, and the foolish funding of uneconomic new dams places the Reef and our native species in even greater risk. 

“Today’s funding announcements are welcome, and we hope they are accompanied by further leadership from Labor, to restore habitats, protect the reef and address the drivers of climate and biodiversity crises.