Protecting the Great Barrier Reef | Australian Greens

Protecting the Great Barrier Reef

Clean energy. Clean water. A Healthy Reef.

Our plan to save the Reef

Our Great Barrier Reef is at a tipping point.  Leading scientists say that this election is our “last chance” to save the Reef unless we take rapid action on global warming and dramatically cut water quality pollution. The Reef is a national treasure, and the 69,000 jobs and $6 billion per year which it brings in for our economy are under threat.  The Greens have a $2.18 billion plan over 5 years to save the Reef.

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Coal or the Reef?  Action on global warming

We now know that it’s coal or the Reef.  The next Australian government must make a choice.  Leading scientists agree that we can have new coal mines, or we can have a healthy reef, but we “cannot possibly have both”.

The Greens have a plan to build 100% clean energy as fast as possible, with at least 90% by 2030 under our Renew Australia plan.  The Greens have also announced policies to boost battery storage, power up community owned clean energy, and put solar on every rooftop.

The Greens have previously announced a policy to protect the Reef from global warming.    

The Greens will stop the environmentally disastrous and economically reckless Adani mega-coal mine, as well as the damaging coal port expansion at Abbot Point. Our plan calls for:

  • No new coal or gas approvals, and no expansions of existing projects
  • A just transition plan for workers including a $1 billion Clean Energy Transition Fund
  • Rapid action to ensure secure jobs in mine site rehabilitation are secured
  • No more fossil fuel subsidies, saving $21 billion over 4 years, and price pollution from mining
  • A thermal coal export levy, raising $650 million per year from 2017 to fund clean energy, disaster preparedness and international climate finance for developing nations. 

Slash water pollution

Without rapid action to improve water quality, the Reef may be lost within a generation.  Pollution from land-based run-off such as fertilizer, pesticides and sediment from farming, land clearing and urban sources is a major threat to the Reef.  The current approach to controlling water quality pollution from farms, tree clearing and urban expansion is not working.  We are not on track to hit our 2025 targets for reduction of fertilizer, sediment and pesticide run off, which include an 80% cut in nitrogen pollution by 2025. 

The Greens will increase government funding for water quality pollution control to a total of $2 billion over five years (2016-17 to 2020-21) including:

  • $500 million in new federal grant funding over five yearsto assist farmers to transition to more sustainable practices in relation to water quality pollution, to fund ‘landscape repair’ projects like revegetation, wetlands restoration and combating gully erosion.
  • $1.2 billion Reef Repair Loan Facility over 5 years to help farmers transition to low-pollution farming methods. GBRMPA would supervise the Facility, but would draw on the expertise of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
  • Current projected funding for water quality initiatives totals $370 million over the next 5 years including $185 million from the Federal government under the Reef water quality programs and the Reef Trust and $185 million from the Queensland State government.
  • We would implement a legal cap on water quality pollution on a catchment basis, which gradually decreases over the next 10 years.
  • Develop world-class water quality monitoring and reporting - with $15 million over the next 4 years would be for GBRMPA specifically to invest in robust, property-level water quality monitoring, modelling.
  • The Greens would urgently restore Queensland’s tree clearing protections rolled back by the Newman LNP government.

Stop damaging port expansions

The Greens would overturn the federal approval for the Abbot Point coal port expansion, where the Queensland Labor government is planning to dredge up 1.1 million cubic metres of sea floor in the Reef’s waters to make way for a coal port which would further fuel global warming and ship 60 million tonnes of coal per year through the Reef.  

Strong and independent Reef champions

The Greens strongly support the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority – the government agency responsible for looking after the Reef.  However, one of Australia’s most eminent Reef scientists, Professor Terry Hughes has recently said that that the Reef’s problems have “outgrown the agency” charged with protecting it.  

The Greens want to fix that with a package to strengthen the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority including additional funding of $90.8 million over 4 years to implement the following:

  • legislative reform to give the GBRMPA true independent status ensuring no industry or government interference, with stronger powers and leadership authority to implement the Reef strategy
  • additional funding of $20 million per year
  • reverse cuts to reef scientists
  • stronger Reef reporting mechanisms
  • Increased funding to tackle crown of thorns starfish

Protect Pristine Areas

UNESCO has asked Australia to protect the most pristine areas of the Reef, but so far Labor and Liberal governments have failed to deliver.  The Greens would immediately protect pristine areas such as the Fitzroy Delta and Cape York from port development and other pressures.

Address illegal fishing and overfishing

The Reef already has a good network of protected areas called “Green Zones”, but the levels of illegal commercial fishing in the Green Zones are still too high.  The Greens will address illegal fishing and overfishing:

  • Provide more funding for authorities to stop illegal fishing, and education campaigns about where it is legal and not.
  • Ensuring that all commercial fishing vessels carry remote electronic GPS monitors called “Vessel Monitoring Systems” (VMS) at a cost of $5 million, leveling the legal playing field.
  • The Greens support successful policies like net buyback schemes at the State government level.
  • Sharks and other apex predators are a crucial part of the Reef ecosystem.  We would ban shark fishing in the Reef World Heritage Area and conduct trials of non-lethal shark control measures like “eco-barriers” instead of harmful shark nets which are not guaranteed to reduce risk to swimmers.

Making shipping safer for people and the Reef

The Greens would protect our marine life from the impacts of shipping like dangerous underwater noise and vessel strike by implementing stricter safety standards such as:

  • Go-slow areas or speed limits to protect whales and other critical habitat
  • Higher standards and propeller design for ships travelling through the Reef
  • Compulsory marine pilotage for ships transiting the Reef
  • Support for a strong, safe, local shipping industry

We would task the Australian Marine Safety Authority with doubling the existing emergency response preparedness fund for oil spills and other pollution from $15 million to $30 million.  The Greens will also clean up the Shen Neng coal ship mess on Douglas Shoal.

Environment laws to protect the Reef

The Greens have already announced our ambitious Protecting Precious Places plan for a new generation of national environment laws and a new independent watchdog, the National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA).

Where do the other parties stand?

Both Labor and the Coalition support new coal mines, more fracking and damaging port expansions, even though global warming is threatening the very existence of our precious Reef.  Neither Labor nor the Coalition have ever refused a coal mine or a gas fracking project under our national environment laws.

Read our full plan