Greens leader Richard di Natale says Australia needs to plan for a future without coal, not a future without the reef
April 28, 2016 — The Greens want coal companies to start paying “for the damage they are doing” to the Great Barrier Reef, announcing a new plan to tax miners heavily and use the money to revitalise the reef and to invest in clean energy projects and jobs.
Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, announced a seven-point plan that his party will take to the election, saying Australia needs to plan for a future without coal, not a future without the reef.
“Governments need to intervene here – not to prop up the dying coal industry, but to help coal workers get out and to protect the thousands of jobs that rely on the health of Australia’s stunning natural assets,” he said.
“Coal workers, tourism operators and all Australians who love the Great Barrier Reef deserve better than what we’re getting from the two old parties who are pretending that we can expand the coal industry and keep the reef healthy – when the science says we have to choose.”
The announcement comes just weeks after news that almost 93% of reefs on the Great Barrier Reef have been hit by coral bleaching.
Terry Hughes, of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, broke the news after his recent flyover of the reef, saying it had been the saddest research trip of his life.
Di Natale and Greens deputy leader, Queensland senator, Larissa Waters, visited the reef on Thursday to see the coral bleaching for themselves.
The chief scientist on Sir David Attenborough’s recent three-part series on the reef, Justin Marshall, who accompanied Di Natale and Waters, said he has seen the reef deteriorate significantly over 30 years. He said it is “undoubtedly Australia’s worst environmental crisis” and he’s angry that the government is trying to hide it.
“All of the reefs that I took Sir David to in our submersible … are now heavily bleached, dead, or dying. So what you’re seeing in that series is not natural history, but history.”
The Greens says their seven-point plan will help shift Australia away from its reliance on fossil fuels, which they say are causing the reef to die.
Their plan includes the creation of a $1bn Clean Energy Transition Fund to help coal workers and their communities adjust to a non-coal world.
They want miners to start paying the fuel excise – which motorists have to pay each day – which would save the government $6bn a year in subsidies to the mining industry.
They want a moratorium on new coal and gas projects, saying Australia needs to start preparing for a life beyond dirty energy.
They also want to charge a thermal coal export levy, at $3 per tonne of coal exported – which won’t apply to coal shipped to countries with an effective price on pollution. It would raise $700m a year.
They also want to re-implement a carbon price of some kind, but they have no details on what that scheme would look like.
“Labor and the Liberal-National coalition are dumb and dumber when it comes to the subject of coal,” Di Natale said on Thursday.
“They’ve sold out to their fossil fuel donors, handing out billions of dollars in subsidies and approvals for new coal and gas projects when this is an industry in decline.
“Coal is going down – that’s a market reality – but only the Greens have a plan to make sure workers and the reef don’t go down with it,” he said.
The environment minister, Greg Hunt, visited Cairns on Tuesday to announce $50m of federal money for new projects to improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef.
The funding would be used to restrict the levels of artificial nutrients entering the reef, he said.
He also said further budget funding for the reef would be announced in coming weeks.
The Greens says the billions that could be raised or saved by their policies could be used to fund the long-term health of the reef, and increase funding for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute for Marine Science.