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Matter of Urgency – Australia's marine environment

Speeches in Parliament
Richard Di Natale 2 May 2016

I move, That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency: The record-breaking coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef and Kimberley reefs and the choice between the Adani coal mine and healthy reefs.

Last week I had the great privilege to visit the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the world's great natural wonders. It is the only living thing seen from space. There is nothing like this great jewel anywhere in the world. So it was with a great sense of exhilaration that I was able to experience healthy parts of that great underwater world, but there was also a great sense of sadness to experience parts of the reef that are dead and dying. Seeing those vast expanses of ghostly white coral reefs, some of them a sickly yellow colour, it was almost an apocalyptic scene-small fish that rely on the reef for food and camouflage exposed and vulnerable-knowing that a great part of the reef will never recover from this bleaching event that is very directly related to human induced global warming. And we are seeing the same drama being played out on our Kimberley coastline as the waters remain warm.

As the bleaching event on the east coast comes to its tragic conclusion for this season, we know that we risk losing up to 50 per cent of those great coral reefs in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef. If we lose those reefs, we will lose many of the fish and other species that rely on it. We will lose some of the most incredible biodiversity anywhere on earth. The reef is something to be protected in and of itself but it is also to be protected for those jobs that rely on it for tourism, the 69,000 people whose livelihoods depend on it, and the $6 billion each year generated from the Great Barrier Reef. Yet, in the midst of the loss of one of Australia's-and indeed the world's-greatest assets, here we are continuing to export coal from Queensland knowing that the coal that we are selling to the rest of the world is accelerating the decline of those incredible coral reefs.

We have a choice. We can say no to new coalmines and protect the reef, or we can do as both the old parties want us to do, and that is open up new coalmines and sign the death warrant for those incredible precious places. We Greens say, 'Let us bring on the transition that is so critical, which will create jobs and international investment, protect tourism and, most of all, protect that incredible, unique gift. Let us not take that gift from our children.

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