Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Questions without Notice
As the sea level rises the salinity in these wetlands will also rise. Some 80 per cent of the freshwater wetlands are predicted to convert to saline, while salt will contaminate the fresh groundwater system. It is also the case that the human impacts identified for the coastal zone are also serious and costly, and the Prime Minister highlighted them previously: 900 coastal buildings, together with harbour and port facilities, are vulnerable to sea level rise in the Northern Territory. There are a quarter of a million vulnerable coastal buildings in Queensland, and our greatest recreation and tourism assets, our beaches, are also vulnerable, with the Department of Climate Change predicting that by 2100 sandy beaches could recede by up to 88 metres. That is a significant prediction.
The Australian government takes these risks seriously. Under Caring for our Country, we are protecting and rehabilitating coastal habitats through the $100 million Caring for our Coasts coast care program. This is an unprecedented injection of funds into the coastal environment. We are also reducing harmful run-off into the Great Barrier Reef and working with farmers to improve land management practices through our $200 million unparalleled investment in this national icon, and through Minister Wong’s portfolio there is an additional $25 million through Caring for our Coasts to help prepare coastal communities for the impact of climate change.
The government will carefully consider the findings of this coastal inquiry and will be providing a response. We initiated this inquiry as a first step to developing a national coastal policy. That is what this country now needs. The report confirms the need and the importance of federal leadership, and it is a responsibility that Labor accepts. The fact is that none of these actions I have outlined would have taken place if there had not been a change of government in 2007. While the science shows that we are tracking to the higher end of climate change predictions, the coalition is heading in the opposite direction. Just this morning Senator Abetz was in no hurry to act on coastal erosion. He said:
That is something that is going to have to be taken into account for future planning but, having said that, I assume it’s not going to be happening overnight, so we’ve still got some time.
Senator Abetz reminds me of Steve Miller’s song:
Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping
into the future …