June 11, 2012
Environment Minister Tony Burke’s upcoming announcement of a national network of Commonwealth marine parks has been described by environmentalists as a chance for the government to leave a legacy as significant as the protection of the Great Barrier Reef or Kakadu.
I, like many conservationists, was heartened to hear of the upcoming announcement of creation of a national network of marine parks to protect Australia’s unique natural heritage. The Australian waters cover an area twice the size of all of Australia’s land area. They are filled with wildlife that are found nowhere else on earth — the biodiversity in our oceans is orders of magnitude greater than that on dry land.
I’m particularly glad to see that Tony Burke has defended his portfolio and our environment like a true Labor environment minister — in the past he has stood up for Victoria’s alpine areas, protected our now-endangered koalas, and has gone a long way to ensuring the future survival of the Murray Darling Basin. Labor has a proud history of protecting the environment. Under Hawke and Keating, Labor halted Tasmania’s Franklin Dam, protected Antarctica from mineral exploitation, and won world heritage protection for many of our rainforests.
In Queensland, the conservative premier Campbell Newman is intent on destroying our national treasure, the Great Barrier Reef, by turning it into a massive coal port. The deceitful language used by Newman and the LNP, not to mention their blatant cronyistic efforts to advance the interests of their billionaire mining patrons, threatens our oceans (not to mention our climate!).
The marine parks that Tony Burke will (hopefully) announce, will be safe havens for our marine life to feed and breed in – they are the only fully protected areas of marine parks, free from damaging mining, oil/gas exploration, fishing and other extraction activities.
I really believe that actions like this demonstrate that there are some people in Labor who really understand what’s at stake with our natural environment. The damaging effects of climate change will seriously affect our oceans — not just through sea level rise but through the more insidious ocean acidification. Burke seems intent on leaving a positive legacy for Labor on this front.