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Our Reef Is Far From Hunky Dory

This election is crucial for the Reef's survival.

01/07/2016 10:31 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:56 PM AEST
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"While Dory tries as hard as she can to remember, the Lib-Lab brand of forgetfulness is rather more sinister."

Last week, I took a little time out of the election campaign to take my daughter to the movies to see Finding Dory. For those not familiar with the school-holiday hit, the plot is premised on Dory's short-term memory loss, which makes for many heart-warming moments along the way in her mission to find her way home to her parents.

In the non-animated world though, a different kind of forgetfulness, a much less delightful kind, is putting Dory's home under real threat. Dory is a Blue Tang, a species found in coral reefs, including much of the Great Barrier Reef, which has recently suffered the worst ever coral bleaching fueled by global warming.

Global warming is the biggest threat facing the Reef -- even the federal Liberal Environment Minister and the Queensland Labor Environment Minister agree that it's at least one of the biggest. But when it comes to approving mega coal mines and fracking for gas, both ministers seem to forget about global warming and the devastation it is wrecking on our Reef. Both support and gave approval for the Adani mega coal mine in the Galilee Basin, which would to dig up 60 million tonnes of coal and ship it out through the Reef to further cook its corals.

If all the coal in the Galilee Basin was dug up and burnt, the Basin itself would be the seventh largest source of climate pollution compared to all the countries of the world. This climate pollution bomb is the last thing our Great Barrier Reef needs. In recent months, 93 percent of its reefs have bleached, and scientists have found that 22 percent of its corals have died.

I've been out on the Reef at Lizard Island, Cairns and Townsville to see the bleaching first hand and while some areas are still healthy, the bleached coral beds are shockingly sad to see -- so much so that the scientists I travelled with, who've spent decades studying the Reef, were nearly reduced to tears.

Even with scientists publicly begging for change to save the Reef and headline after headline about great swathes of the Reef dying, the old parties just somehow manage to forget and carry on with their support for mega coal mines.

While Dory tries as hard as she can to remember, the Lib-Lab brand of forgetfulness is rather more sinister. The massive political donations that fossil fuel companies pour into the big parties' election campaigns seem to drown out the community's widespread, deep concern for this natural wonder and the 69 000 jobs it supports. If the big parties stopped taking these mega donations from big coal and gas, I think their memory loss might just improve.

We might also see a reduction in the $24 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies the fossil fuel sector receives, including cheap fuel and tax breaks for mining equipment.

The Greens are the only major party that doesn't take corporate donations. Instead, we rely on our thousands of volunteers talking to voters one-on-one about our policies, including transitioning from fossil fuel to clean energy to save the Great Barrier Reef and to provide jobs that will last well into the 21st century.

As the world moves to clean energy, thousands of Australian coal workers are being sacked and the big parties are leaving them high and dry without alternative employment opportunities.

We Greens are proposing a $1 billion Clean Energy Transition Fund to help communities affected by the coal industry dying out with transition plans and training to embrace the clean energy future, and we have laid out a plan to secure jobs in mining rehabilitation before coal companies go bust. Tackling global warming by embracing job-rich clean energy is our number one priority.

We're hoping Saturday's election will see us grow our numbers in both the Lower House of Parliament and the Senate. We're committed to using our numbers to force the old parties to get in line with community expectations -- rather than the expectations of their big mining company donors.

Once elected to Parliament, the Greens can get results. In the last Parliament, we secured $13 billion of investment in clean energy and in this Parliament we stopped Tony Abbott from scrapping the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and our Renewable Energy Agency.

We know we can save the Reef but we are running out of time.

That's why this election is crucial to the Reef's survival. It's never been more important to vote for the Reef, including so we can make sure that when Dory does find her way home, it's full of all the colours of the rainbow.

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