Following a meeting in Doha in late June, UNESCO formally advised the Australian Government to take stronger action to protect the Great Barrier Reef or risk it being listed in danger.
UNESCO’s decision relates to the federal government approved North Queensland Bulk Ports (NQBP) Abbot Point mine terminal expansion that will see tonnes of dredge waste dumped in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
In response to UNESCO’s warning, it is reasonable to expect that NQBP and relevant mining and minerals industry advocacy groups will mount a campaign to ensure their interests are not compromised.
There is a concerted campaign by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society to raise awareness of the issue. They report having collected a quarter of a million votes to tell the UNESCO committee to uphold the draft decision to take concrete action to protect the Reef and ban dumping in Reef waters.
Notwithstanding the clear environmental imperative, the language of government is the economy and jobs. In those terms, I don’t understand why conservation groups is apparently the only organisations actively voicing a view in the interests of Australia’s $94 billion tourism industry. Surely those interests are as important as Australia’s mining industry interests. The energy and resources sector are vital to Australia’s future, but as a tourism industry professional for over twenty years, it concerns me that tourism industry advocacy bodies have no apparent position on the impact of conflicting land use on an iconic natural asset from which Australian tourism benefits enormously.
I’ve been following the issue and visited the websites of the tourism industry’s independent, peak policy and advocacy bodies – the Australian Tourism Export Council Tourism & Transport Forum and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council . Concerningly, there is no reference to the issue anywhere on these sites. I appreciate that effective lobbying and diplomacy does not necessarily have to be public or conducted through the media (although that plays a part), so I have written to them to ask their respective positions and what they are doing to make these positions known to government policy makers. If you would like to know more about this issue please visit Fight For the Reef.