World Wetlands Day: 50 Years of Ramsar

By Terri Butler MP

02 February 2021

World Wetlands Day 2021 is an important reminder of the environmental legacies that Labor governments have delivered for Australia, but also the unprecedented threats our environment now confronts.

It took a Labor Government to deliver protection for Australia’s wetlands. The Whitlam Government signed the Ramsar Convention for Australia on 8 May 1974 and designated the world’s first Ramsar site, Cobourg Peninsula.
 
Since Gough signed the Ramsar Convention, Australia has listed approximately 66 Wetlands of International Importance under it, equating to approximately 8.3 million hectares.
 
International Wetlands Day 2021 is themed around the role of ‘Wetlands and Water’ in sustaining humanity and nature.
 
This includes delivering clean water, water supply ecosystem resilience, sustainable livelihoods and jobs, biodiversity conservation, storm protection, carbon storage, climate change adaptation, health and well-being and tourism and recreation.
 
The Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel estimates that while wetlands cover just nine per cent of the planet’s land surface, they are estimated to store 35 per cent of terrestrial carbon.
 
An amazing 40 per cent of all species live or breed in wetlands.
 
It takes Labor governments to deliver real and lasting protection for Australia’s environment.
 
Federal Labor first protected the Great Barrier Reef creating and expanding the marine park, it ratified the World Heritage Convention, protected the Franklin River, protected many of Tasmania’s rainforests and protected Queensland’s wet tropics.
 
Environmental institutions now key to preserving our environment were created by Labor, including proper funding and management for national parks and the implementation of Environmental Impact Assessments.
 
Labor Governments also led the world in ozone layer protection action, commenced Australia’s first serious action on Greenhouse gases, led action to protect the Antarctic, established Landcare, planted more than 700 million trees during the Hawke/Keating Governments and reduced Australia’s emissions when last in government. 
 
Today however, Australia is facing unprecedented challenges to our natural environment.
 
More than three billion animals perished or were displaced when bushfires burned through 12 million hectares of land, during the national bushfire crisis.

At the same time, the Morrison Government has cut the federal environment department by 40 per cent, failed to implement recovery plans for threatened species and is bungling the reform of Australia’s national environment laws.
 
Australia’s natural environment deserves better.