COMMENT: Coal or Coral?


Kelly Marie Smith, ECU Journalist

When people think of Australia, I guarantee you that one of the first things that comes to mind is the Great Barrier Reef. Now in its second year of serious coral bleaching, I would think our Government would be putting protective measures in place to keep us from losing an Australian icon.

Instead, our government is handing over the well-being of our national treasure to a corrupt, destructive and abusive mining company, Adani.

The Great Barrier Reef is the gift that keeps on giving. But our politicians seem hell-bent on supporting greedy coal guzzling corporations instead of putting the safety of the World Heritage listed area first.

The Indian-owned conglomerate, Adani, is just waiting for the green light to dig one of the largest coal mines in the world right in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. The mega-mine is set to generate billions of tonnes of pollution and irreversibly damage our precious reef. Not to mention that the Queensland government has also granted Adani unlimited water access for the next 60 years, which puts Australian farmers in a precarious position with already scarce water supplies.

Adani isn’t just a company with a slightly blemished history. This is a company that openly shows contempt for the environment, the law (take a look at the Adani Files), and everyone it works with. If Adani gets the funding they need, the reef, our water and people across the nation, will lose.

But the government’s explanation for their decision is the cherry on top of the cake, hiding behind the classic teenage drug dealer defence of, “if I didn’t sell, someone else would”. It shows the lack of moral dignity in our government.

I mean, I’m not saying this is THE worst decision our government has made this year… but it’s probably the worst decision our government has made this year.

I guess what I am so puzzled about is, isn’t this 2017? Haven’t we just entered into the Paris agreement, where we, along with 194 other countries signed onto an agreement that would see the world limit its carbon emissions?

I’m no scientist, but even I know that allowing a huge coal mine to be built in Queensland isn’t exactly sticking to that agenda. Not to mention we might as well say good bye to our famous tourism industry, because who wants to see a dead Great Barrier Reef anyway?

This is certainly confusing to many Australians, including the poor climate scientists who have been telling us for years we need to limit burning coal. This new venture will see the Adani Carmichael mine ship coal to India, plowing directly through the reef, pumping 4.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

And it’s not just the environment it’s killing, here in Australia workers are dying of black lung disease and just in the Adani corporation in India, more than 100,000 people die of the polluting effects of burning coal each year.

Seems like the opposite of stopping climate change to me.

The Great Barrier reef and surrounding area is hugely important to our economy, environment and Australia’s brand, but don’t take my arts degree word for it, these are the facts:

  • The reef generates more that $29 billion in tourism dollars. People literally fly across the world to swim on the famous reef.
  • It is a national treasure, ecosystem and economic driver, worth $56 billion to our economy.
  • It supports 64,000 jobs. That’s more than Qantas, Telstra and our beloved Kmart.

If it’s jobs the government is concerned about, which it seems they are, the estimated 1,460 jobs (and no not ‘10,000 jobs’ they are claiming it will create) is hardly comparable to the tens of thousands of jobs centered around the Great Barrier Reef.

On top of that, adding huge new coal supplies to the global market will only push down the price of coal, which in turn will encourage the use of greenhouse-gas emitting and polluting energy sources. That’s basic year 11 economics.

Sir David Attenborough, hero of the environment, said the Great Barrier Reef was his second favourite place on earth, after his home, and couldn’t understand our lack of drive to protect one of earth’s greatest wonders. All I know is I don’t want to be the one to take away the reef from the sweetest animal loving man on earth.

Like Sir Attenborough, I too am questioning the degree to which humanity care about one of Australia’s strongest draw cards. This is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time, and its not just the Great Barrier reef that’s at stake, the effects will reach far beyond our nation.

So Australia, will it be the coal or the coral?

We agree with The Juice Media, in saying that this deal is c-crap: