Coal or coral? The Queensland Government seems undecided

Image courtesy of the Australian Marine Conservation Society.


Comment – Charles Pauka

Queensland Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles was chuffed to welcome a Deloitte Access Economics report identifying the social, economic and iconic asset value of the Great Barrier Reef at $56 billion.

“This highly anticipated report confirms the outstanding value of the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Miles said. “But it could be even higher as the research did not seek to place a financial value on the tremendous biodiversity and the natural wonder value on a global scale.

“It also confirms the Palaszczuk Government’s record investment in improving Great Barrier Reef water quality is justified, with two-thirds of people surveyed willing to pay for its continued existence and protection.”

Which is where the problem lies: the Palaszczuk Government is also dead-keen on the Adani Carmichael mega-coalmine going ahead, which is widely predicted to further wreck the reef.

Is this the handshake that will kill the reef?


Steven Miles continued: “The Great Barrier Reef is incredibly precious to all Australians, and the international community – and this report confirms that.

 “We have committed $175 million over five years, plus a boost of an additional $100 million for improved reef water quality outcomes.

“This means we are investing more than $63 million in 2017-2018, which is almost double the annual funding provided by previous governments.”

The Minister said the research showed the Great Barrier Reef contributed $6.4 billion in terms of the value added to the economy and over 64,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2015-2016.

64,000 vs. 1,400

So how many jobs would Adani’s supposedly $16.5bn mine contribute? The most optimistic estimates so far have topped out at 10,000 jobs, but more likely in the 1,400-range.

“The government promised to focus on job creation and this report demonstrates the Great Barrier Reef is critical to supporting jobs in Australia.

“The report also rightly identifies an opportunity and need for action on a universal level to protect the reef.

“As the report clearly recognises, protecting the Great Barrier Reef is not only an Australian or international priority – it is a human one.”

I just wonder if Mr Miles has spoken to his Premier about that? Because the two – a healthy coral reef and a mega-coalmine – may not be able to co-exist.

“The Great Barrier Reef and other World Heritage reefs are in grave danger from climate change, mainly driven by the burning of coal. Incredibly, almost half of all shallow water corals in the Great Barrier Reef died in the last two years due to a massive underwater heatwave,” said Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) spokesperson Imogen Zethoven. 

“Yet the Australian [and Queensland] governments appear hell-bent on making the problem worse by pushing ahead with Adani’s monstrous coal mine, talking up a coal-fired power station next to the Great Barrier Reef.

“The [two governments are] not only placing our Great Barrier Reef and the 70,000 jobs that depend on it at grave risk: [they are] endangering the future of World Heritage coral reefs around the world. These places are the crown jewels of our global ocean. They belong to the world community.

“In the face of so much loss of coral over the last three years, it defies belief that [they are] ignoring this global tragedy,” Ms Zethoven said.

Sediment-laden water flowed from Adani’s Abbot Point facility into the Caley Valley wetland recently.

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