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7 October, 2020

Candidates share their stance on Reef protection

All electoral candidates for Cairns who spoke at an online forum organised by the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) backed climate action for the sake of our Great Barrier Reef, but to varying degrees.

This Burdekin flood plume illustrates the impacts of poor water quality on the Reef. Photo by Matt Curnock.

The forum came just hours after it was announced the Palaszczuk government had signed the long-stalled royalties agreement with Adani over its controversial coal mine project in central Queensland. 

Following a presentation from coral reef scientist Professor Morgan Pratchett from James Cook University, which highlighted the dangers of burning coal for our Reef and the urgent need for a rapid transition to renewable energy, Cairns MP Michael Healy said he didn’t personally support Adani but his party would not shut down coal power stations quickly.

“Coal has been a power source for Queensland for a long time,” he told the audience of just over 100 voters. 

“We’re aiming for zero net emissions by 2050. We’re powering Queensland with 50% renewable energies by 2030. Coal is definitely not preferred but it’s a gradual process.”

The LNP did not commit to specific targets, with the Greens pushing for 100% renewable energy by 2030. 

All parties have committed to renewable energy zones for Northern Queensland in order to lower emissions, which drive mass coral bleaching events like those experienced by our Reef three times in the last five years.

LNP to change water quality regulations if elected

LNP candidate for Cairns Sam Marino conceded that if elected, the LNP would change the science-backed water quality regulations introduced by the ALP government to protect the Reef.

Marino noted that the LNP’s planned changes “will need to go to parliament and will obviously be debated.” With minor parties potentially on the rise this election, it’s unclear what will happen.

AMCS Reef campaigner David Cazzulino said it could be disastrous for the health of the Reef and the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on it if the regulations were to be watered down. 

“The regulations as they stand were informed by an independent scientific panel four years ago and we have grave fears for the health of the Reef if minimum standards on runoff are lowered to meet the demands of farmer lobby groups,” he said.

“Inshore ecosystems that are home to iconic wildlife like dugongs, turtles and inshore dolphins have been polluted by chemical and sediment runoff. 

“We need to keep a limit on these levels to protect our Reef and we want the next Queensland government to work with farmers to meet these needs.

“Our Reef is under enough pressure as it is from climate change and we really need farmers to be part of the solution so future generations can enjoy the Reef, and the tourism industry can remain viable.” 

People can watch the video recording of the Cairns Reef candidates forum here.

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