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The heart of a nation

By Sue Arnold - posted Wednesday, 25 July 2012


Australia is an ancient, mystical continent. Majestic rainforests, mountains, rivers, plains, deserts, forests, beaches, not forgetting our unique amazing wildlife. This is one magnificent country.

Sit on a beach and watch sunrises and sunsets, scream with delight when dolphins breach and Humpback whales go by. Dive in the pristine tropical waters of some untouched areas of Queensland’s coast and play with dugongs and turtles. Gaze in wonder at the dwarf minke whales, the exquisite variety of tropical fish, dazzling coral.

We live in a sacred place, ask any Aboriginal elder. Our land feeds the hungry soul.

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The World Heritage Secretariat declared the Great Barrier Reef a World Heritage Area because it is unique. The most extensive coral reef in the world. Not only a legacy for this country, but for future generations of all nations. Ultimately, a natural heritage legacy for the people of Planet Earth.

This is what the Gillard government is putting at risk.

Not only is this government forcing spin and cant down our collective throats. But the impacts of being governed by a Prime Minister who is dishonest, who will do anything to stay in power, who ignores the wishes of the people, and disappoints every day with her complete lack of ethics are being felt across our communities. How can any kind of ethical and compassionate society be birthed from this narrative of conflict, corruption and censorship?

Take the marine protected areas which Minister Tony Burke announced recently. Sounds like great policy except that there’s no staff to police these areas; no legal barriers to the impacts of underwater noise caused by resource industry exploration and exploitation. Yet noise travels thousands of kilometres killing fish eggs, fish, marine mammals, coral, and larvae. Marine reserves as proposed will effectively destroy the commercial fishing industry of this country. These are people who fish responsibly and are the eyes and ears of the ocean. In yet another contradiction, the Gillard government has opened the door to a European flagged mega super trawler to fish our waters.

In creating this immense bubble of hypocrisy and contradiction, pretending to be green, whilst at the same time giving a virtual carte blanch to the resource industry; in pretending to care about alternative energy whilst stripping the funding from renewable energy projects; pouring money into the mouths of those that complain loud enough; in overseeing the destruction of our precious agricultural lands, our rivers, our Artesian underground bores, giving consent to extension of the uranium industry to expand, the Gillard government is getting away with murder. No media will examine the loss of our land. Instead we have more propaganda pushed down our throats with very limited ways to respond.

After the UNESCO team left Australia in March, (to the cries of "who wants foreigners interfering in our business" from Premier Newman), their report recommended an independent enquiry into the LNG development at Gladstone Harbor. Neither State nor Federal government have taken up the recommendation and ordered an independent enquiry.

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The outcome of this failure and the ongoing failures to address the terrible impacts of dredging, illegal dumping of dredge material, dead turtles, dugongs, dolphins, diseased fish, will be UNESCO declaring the reef a "World Heritage In Danger". In other words, the Reef will go down the gurgle of uniqueness because governments will not act when there is time to address some of the issues.

If the Gillard government had a green bone in its body, we would not be seeing these massive environmental travesties unfold. James Price Point in WA gets the WA government go-ahead and no bets on Tony Burke’s not giving approval. Combined with the destruction of the Reef and proposed developments there, an approval for James Price Point could put the Southern Hemisphere Humpback population at risk.

But the most important item on Julia Gillard’s agenda is letting everyone know she’s fighting and she’ll stay put no matter what the public thinks of her. At the same time telling Australians how she is working for the national interest. One has to ask whether Ms Gillard perhaps thinks of herself as the national interest.

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About the Author

Sue Arnold is the co-ordinator for Australians for Animals International, an International Whaling Commission NGO, working internationally on marine issues, particularly whales and dolphins. She is a former Fairfax investigative journalist who regularly lobbies the US government in Washington DC, as well as the European Parliament and Commission on whale issues. She can be contacted at suearnold25@icloud.com.

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