Thursday, 12 November 2020
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee; Report
In serving the people of Queensland and Australia I note that the Identification of leading practices in ensuring evidence-based regulation of farm practices that impact water quality outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef report is both a monumental failure and a waste of money. In spite of the hundreds of witnesses and submissions, the report provides no genuine review and instead offers only status quo recommendations. Having attended the hearings and read many submissions, I find it astonishing that the Labor authors chose to ignore the witness accounts and instead concluded that the reef regulations are fine. Apparently it's simply that there wasn't enough communication with farmers and that future communication needs to be better. No, it was much more than that.
This summary of theirs is a massive insult to all those who spent countless hours writing submissions and travelling to hearings. The committee has missed a landmark opportunity to restore scientific integrity, to protect and uphold a scientific method, to protect our hardworking farmers and to keep food on the table and clothing on our backs. As senators, surely our responsibility is to all of these—to balance environmental protections with the right of the general public to eat and clothe themselves at affordable prices and to exercise property rights.
The committee consulted academics whose income relies on the assumption that the reef is in trouble because of farm run-off and climate change. It asked those same academics if the reef is in trouble because of farm run-off and climate change. The absence of impartiality compromises the integrity of the committee's processes and outcomes. It's farcical what the committee did. How could they expect that these invested academics were going to say anything other than what they said? Did they expect them to say: 'No, the reef is in great order. Remove my funding'? Not at all.
The contribution of the few independent scientists who presented clear, factual data to the contrary was minimised in the report. Instead, there was plenty of propaganda dressed up as science. For example, on page 5 it says:
One of the greatest threats to the health of the Reef is rising sea temperatures and extreme marine heat waves caused by climate change … Present day temperatures are … 0.8 degrees Celsius warmer than … in 1900 …
What a surprise that the government's own Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website has the figure at 0.4 degrees centigrade. But listen to how this is expressed: 'The average of the last 30 years is 0.4 degrees warmer than the average of the last 30 years of the 1800s.' Then they went on to say:
In 2016, sea surface temperatures on the Great Barrier Reef were the hottest ever recorded for the months of February, March and April.
The 2016 bleaching event that this caused led to over 100 reefs being bleached and a loss of 30 per cent of the shallow-water coral. I remember those scary times and the scary stories of 2016. Claims that the reef is dead and will never come back reverberated around the world and caused a huge drop in reef tourism. That 30 per cent figure was never correct. It related only to a particular type of coral in a particular area, not the whole reef. The World Wildlife Fund of course did their part in the scaremongering, declaring that 50 per cent of the reef was dead. We in Queensland know that the Labor Party have good form for scaremongering, as we are reminded of their calculated election campaign that left Queensland too scared to vote for genuine economic recovery. Those reefs that were supposedly permanently killed by climate-change-induced bleaching—those that were forever dead—have come back to life. The reef has been repairing itself, as it has done for thousands of years.
My additional comments to the report go through this information in more detail. What's more, academics admitted no change to water quality, despite extensive farming modifications over the last couple of decades. The obvious conclusion from that is that farming is having no discernible impact. Forcing farmers off their land does nothing to help the environment. The basis for the reef regulations' attack on farmers is the statement:
The committee heard extensive support for the scientific evidence-base that has shown land-based anthropogenic pollutants have an adverse impact on the Reef's ecosystem …
The committee also heard from reef experts like Dr Ridd and Dr Starck that in fact no such evidence exists that can be considered scientific, meaning that it cannot be replicated.
In finishing I comment that it was very pleasing to work with Senator Rennick during this inquiry. I must say that the dissenting report from the LNP was a much more considered document than the main committee report. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.