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Janet speaks on Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching

Parliament
Janet Rice 18 Apr 2017

I have only had the privilege of visiting the Great Barrier Reef once. It was just over a decade ago. I was there with my family, with my kids. They were just entering their teens. They were wide-eyed, amazed at the world. We had an incredible time, just like so many hundreds of thousands of tourists and so many hundreds of thousands of Australians who have visited the reef. It is an incredible, amazing place.

Last year, we had extreme destructive coral bleaching, the sort that only happens highly irregularly and very infrequently. Then, this year, the bleaching has occurred again. I hate to think what the reef will look like when my children are in the situation of wanting to take their children to the Great Barrier Reef. Even in a much shorter time period than when my kids have kids, we are going to see the death of this world treasure.

What makes me so angry about this debate is the disregard for the science, the fantasy world that so many of my fellow senators live in and the fact that they can be asserting that total fantasy is fact. There are irrefutable facts that are here that are accepted by the academies of science all over the world, which Senator Roberts, the Liberal Party and government senators are just in complete denial about. We know that there is increasing carbon dioxide that is caused in the atmosphere; it is caused by the burning of coal, gas and oil. We know that that is warming our global atmosphere. It is warming the global temperatures and warming water temperatures, which is causing coral bleaching. The science is very clear. It is also causing bushfires, it is also causing floods, it is also causing sea level rises, it is causing crop failures and it is going to cause irreparable dangers to all of us—to all of our civilisations on this planet and all of the species that we share this planet with—unless we take action. I am extremely concerned about the wellbeing of the people of India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Australia when we are not going to be able to feed ourselves and when our homes are going to be underwater.

We know what we need to do. We have got to stop burning coal, gas and oil. We have absolutely got to stop subsidising the burning of coal, gas and oil, such as is proposed by this government with the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund. If we have got $1 billion to spend, let us spend it on rapidly transitioning to a clean energy future and to renewable energy. We could go a long way with that. That is what would be giving us a future, that is what would be saving jobs, that is what would be saving the Great Barrier Reef and that is what is in the interests of all us—workers and the rest of the species we share this planet with alike.

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