GAVIN COOTE AND TESS HAINING
More than a thousand people rallied in Brisbane’s Queens Park on Sunday for long-term protection of the Great Barrier Reef.
With just two weeks left until the federal election, environmentalists are calling for political action against industrial port expansion that may damage the iconic reef.
GetUp! national director Sam Mclean predicted 4,000 people attended the rally.
“This is the most powerful environmental campaign in the country right now,” he said.
“It’s not just because 80 per cent of the country agree with us, right here in Brisbane is the most important place in the country because it’s where the largest number or marginal seats in this election are going to be decided.”
Greens Queensland Senator Larissa Waters says Australians risk losing a national icon if they expand mining activity in the region.
“We’ve seen the World Heritage committee warn us that if we keep turning the reef into just a highway for coal and gas shipping, the reef will be listed on the World Heritage endangered list, which would be a massive blow to the tourism sector,” she said.
“I think we can do better and I want us to do better and I know Queenslanders want us to do better and stick up for our reef.”
Among those at the rally was anti-coal campaigner Christine Scott, who’d travelled from the Northern Rivers in New South Wales to voice her concerns.
“If an icon like the Great Barrier Reef is just to be sacrificed for mining, really nothing’s sacred,” he said.
Ben Southall won the ‘Best Job in the World’ competition as an island caretaker on the reef in 2009, and is now Tourism Queensland’s global ambassador.
He says any destruction of the reef would be a blow to the tourism industry in Australia.
“It’s always going to be a juggling act when you’ve got things like the natural resources of Queensland and you’ve got the beautiful wide open spaces of Queensland,” he said.
“The thing politicians need to think about is the long term health of the planet because coal and fossil fuels are going to do us for the next ten, maybe twenty years.
“The Great Barrier Reef has been around for 100,000 years and it potentially could be around for another 100,000 years, but we need to take action to make sure that our children and our grandchildren get to enjoy it as much as we do.”
Stay tuned for our in-depth television coverage of the rally.
[For further coverage of the reef, click here]