Labor leader Anthony Albanese has turned his election campaign to one of the world’s natural wonders, and one of Australia’s biggest tourism attractions in the Great Barrier Reef.
Mr Albanese is in Cairns to announce extra funding for the iconic coral system, wanting to work with the Queensland Government, local businesses, residents, and Indigenous Australians to preserve longevity.
The @gbrmarinepark along with @aims_gov_au and @csiro released the Reef snapshot 2021-22, which provides a summary of how the #Reef has fared over the past summer, what this means for coral and the actions being taken to help #coralhealth. Learn more: https://t.co/z9ywNCHX7V. pic.twitter.com/hLsve6BVZy
— Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (@gbrmarinepark) May 10, 2022
Over 2300km long and featuring one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, the reef brings in approximately $3 billion in annual tourism revenue, something Mr Albanese said outweighs any form of political powerplay.
“Parents and grandparents are worried their children will not be able to see this incredible natural wonder for themselves,” he said.
“That’s why it’s so important we act on climate change and species protection – to protect the reef and the tens of thousands of jobs that rely on it.”
The reef has faced numerous environmental pressures, including climate change (incorporating mass coral bleaching) and pollution.
Mass bleaching is currently considered the biggest threat to the reef, after a 2016 event killed between 30 and 50 per cent of the coral.
Following another devastating bleaching event earlier this year (believed to be related to the seismic weather event that flooded much of Australia’s east coast in March), scientists called for urgent action on climate change.
The Australian Conservation Foundation said it was “truly heart-breaking” for the mass bleaching reports to be confirmed.
“These repeated bleaching events have hit the tourism industry hard and are a blow to everyone who loves this incredible natural wonder, which is home to vast array of sea creatures,” it said in a statement.
Two UN scientists were sent to Queensland monitoring the reef’s health following the event.
In January, $163 million was announced for funding a reef protection program by Labor, allocating $100 million by 2030 for restoration and protection programs.
This additional announcement brings the Labor tally to $194 million in forward estimates.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was in Cairns around the same time of Labor’s funding pledge, and the Coalition have committed $1 billion over nine years to “manage” the site following a successful submission to UNESCO.
Labor’s funding increase would total $1.2 billion by the end of the decade.