Opinion – Sue Arnold


A casual observer of the campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef must wonder whether Australians have become zombies.

Listening to the endless talk fests, scientific opinions, reading the increasingly turgid media articles, the real issues are completely ignored in the morass of words.

The issues are really quite simple.  Without healthy oceans, life on earth will be severely impacted.  Oceans take up massive amounts of CO2 but even that capacity is limited.

Saving the Great Barrier Reef is about protecting the marine environment and its astonishing biodiversity so that Australia has protected, healthy marine ecosystems.

Given the impacts of climate change, ocean acidity and the massive cyclonic and flood devastation which have all caused huge problems for the reef, the precautionary principle should be embraced by both state and federal governments.

Yet Gladstone Harbour was dredged at the height of the major flood event earlier this year.   Port development goes ahead as though no environmental indicators have changed and somehow the marine life will survive.

Dugongs, turtles, dolphins and other less visible creatures are dying in droves.

No cost benefit analyses are carried out on the price of losing marine biodiversity and allowing the east coast’s marine environment to be drastically, irreparably damaged.

No government department either State or Federal will take a hard look at the impact of noise on the marine environment – a huge issue in the US and Europe.  The looming massive increase in shipping as Gladstone and other ports come on line will cause more appalling devastation and problems for the reef.

The Great Barrier Marine Park Authority is deserving of a Royal Commission into its operations as any hard look quickly demonstrates the Authority is not governing as required by its mandate.   No doubt as a result of heavy pressure from the Gillard government.

Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, along with others, wants to turn Australia into Asia’s food bowl.  One has to wonder if he’s aware of the damage coal seam gas is doing to Australia’s agricultural lands.    Great choices.   Massive monocultures and the marine coastline a major highway for the resource industry as this country evolves into the world’s quarry.

In many ways Australia is an environmental Syria.   The corpses on the battlefield are the lost wildlife, marine creatures and the forces of nature which allow life on earth to continue.   The refugees are the commercial fishers, the tourist industry, the folk who rely on a healthy reef and a marine environment for their survival.

We need a revolution of commonsense.  We need political parties who listen to the people, not the big bucks.

And a scientific community with the guts to stand up and be counted.

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