By Terri Butler MP

23 July 2021

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee's decision to defer its consideration of the Great Barrier Reef is an indictment on the Morrison Government.

This deferral is a temporary reprieve.

The committee did not list the Reef as 'in danger' as had been proposed.

However, in recognition of the urgency of the situation, the committee decided to require a further report from the Morrison Government by February, for consideration in mid 2022.

It was the Morrison Government's failures on reef conservation and climate action that made Australia's Great Barrier Reef vulnerable to an 'in danger' listing.

Now the best the Morrison Government has been able to achieve is kicking the can down the road.

An "in danger" listing would be a significant further blow to Queensland's tourism industry, with operators and local economies already reeling from the pandemic.

It would be a blow to everyone who relies on the 64,000 jobs and more than $6 billion in revenue that the Reef generates in an ordinary year.

Queenslanders and all Australians, as well as people across the globe, want the Reef to remain one of the natural wonders of the world for generations to come.

There have been plenty of warning signs for the government including the 2015 and 2017 UNESCO decisions, the 2019 report from the government's own Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the 2020 report from the advisers to the World Heritage Committee, and the three bleaching events that occurred in under five years.

The Liberal National Government has a woeful record on Reef protection.

Australians have not forgotten their record of giving a $443 million Reef grant to an ill-equipped private foundation in a backdoor deal with no tender.

In May this year the Auditor-General told Australians that $285.7 million of that funding remained unspent, almost three years after the grant was given.

That's $287 million that hasn't been spent on protecting the Reef.

And the Morrison Government has dragged its heels on the now-overdue update to the Reef 2050 Plan.

They must now dramatically lift their game on Reef protection.