By Terri Butler MP

06 May 2021

Yesterday’s Australian National Audit Office report shows the Morrison Government’s catastrophic failure to protect Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

In yet another startling example of the Liberal National Government’s culture of rorts and mismanagement, the ANAO found that less than half-a-percent of the cash fundraising target has been met by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

This blows Scott Morrison’s justification for handing over the money, out of the tropical water.

The Liberal National Government notoriously awarded almost half-a-billion dollars in public money to a tiny, ill-equipped, handpicked foundation, without a tender.

This controversial deal was based on a falsehood, riddled with rorts and is failing to secure the future of the Reef.

Three devastating bleaching events in five years and Reef Outlook reports which downgraded the Reef’s condition from poor to very poor, show the need for action. These bleaching rates are unprecedented. 

Scott Morrison has failed to provide a long-term plan for the Reef or the communities that rely on it for their livelihoods.

The Reef tourism industry, which is an important partner in reef conservation and central to Far North Queensland and other costal economies, has been hit hard by COVID-19.

But Scott Morrison made tourism operators endure long periods of uncertainty before announcing further industry support.

The Morrison Government’s reef conservation failures have been on full display in this term of parliament. As the Reef was going backwards, the Morrison Government’s mismanagement and incompetence got even worse:

  • The Morrison Government appointed a Special Reef Envoy who reportedly said in relation to bleaching and climate change, it was not a new phenomenon: “It has been happening for millennia”;
  • Environment Minister Sussan Ley downplayed the serious issues confronting the Reef and stood by while her Reef Envoy questioned the science of climate change and coral bleaching;
  • Morrison Government MP George Christensen led the charge to establish a bizarre “science checking” body which would undermine the science at the heart of protecting the Reef. This call was backed by Senators Matt Canavan, Susan McDonald and Gerard Rennick;
  • Morrison Government Senators voted last year to establish an anti-reef science water quality inquiry, during which LNP Senators questioned the science of water quality. Three of Australia’s most experienced and respected senior scientists, including our former Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, who participated in the inquiry described the inquiry as “disturbing” and a “politically motivated charade”,
  • Former Liberal MP Craig Kelly launched a bizarre conspiracy theory about the independent Bureau of Metrology altering temperature records, and being associated with a “warmist climate cult”.

Our greatest natural icon is open for business and remains one of the best tourism experiences on the planet. But denial about its future puts the Reef at even greater risk.

Australians want a government that protects the Reef and supports the 64,000 jobs that rely on it for their livelihoods, not a government that engages in reef rorts and harbours anti-science crackpot views harmful to the future of the Reef.