Op Ed: UNESCO decision a tick for reef policies

When you visit the Great Barrier Reef, you quickly appreciate why it was chosen as one of the world’s seven most spectacular natural wonders.

When you dive beneath that perfect blue water, and swim past those magical fish, and take in that famous coral reef, you experience something unforgettable. 

The Great Barrier Reef is part our national heritage. We have a duty to safeguard it, to care for it, and to pass it on, so our kids and grandkids can enjoy it like we do.  

Labor understands this responsibility. And we also know the world is watching us. 

Over the past few years, you might have heard that UNESCO was considering placing the Great Barrier Reef on its ‘in danger’ list.  

Well on Monday, they finally made their call – and they decided against it. 

They decided against it because, as they made clear in their report, Australia’s environmental policies have fundamentally changed under Labor, and changed for the better. 

UNESCO cited ‘significant progress’ being made on climate change, water quality, and sustainable fishing – all putting the reef on stronger and more sustainable path. 

This is a huge win for Queensland, a huge win for the 64,000 people who rely on the reef for work, and a huge win for all the plants and animals that call it home. 

But the truth is, this outcome wasn’t inevitable. Before the change of government, UNESCO was recommending the opposite decision, because of Scott Morrison’s delay and inaction on climate change and the environment. 

As a UNESCO source told the press, ‘the approach has changed completely – between the new government and the old one, it’s a bit like night and day’. 

Our Labor government is spending $1.2 billion over the next decade on programs that preserve and restore the Great Barrier Reef. 

We are also acting on climate change, because we know that global warming is the biggest threat facing every coral reef on earth. That’s one of the reasons we’ve set strong new emissions targets, putting Australia on a clear path to net zero. 

Protecting the reef’s crystal blue water is another priority. Which is why we’re helping farmers reduce the amount of runoff and mud going into the nearby ocean.  

And last month, I joined with the Queensland state government to help protect turtles, dolphins, dugongs and other iconic species from dangerous gillnet fishing. 

Of course, this decision by UNESCO doesn’t mean the reef is in the clear. As long as climate change remains a threat, every coral reef in the world is vulnerable. 

But what this decision does confirm is that Labor’s policies are making a difference.

We need to act on climate change. We need to protect our special places and the animals that call them home. And that is precisely what we are doing.

Published in the Courier Mail