One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has been ridiculed for visiting a healthy section of the Great Barrier Reef while denying the effects of climate change.
Senator Hanson and other One Nation senators donned wetsuits, snorkels and masks for a tour of the reef in a show of support for Queensland’s tourism industry.
Senator Hanson disputed claims from the world’s leading scientists that the reef experienced its worst ever bleaching event in 2016.
She said the publicity surrounding bleaching events was hurting the tourism industry.
“And they’re growing all the time.”
Senator Hanson is also not convinced that global warming contributed to this year’s bleaching event that wiped out about 22 per cent of the reef’s coral.
“We can’t have these lies put across by people with their own agendas,” she said.
But the section of reef they visited was off the coast of Rockhampton in central Queensland, about 1,000 kilometres south from where a serious bleaching event occurred near Lizard Island.
The WWF’s Richard Leck said Senator Hanson and One Nation appeared to be on a voyage of climate change denial.
“I suggest to the senators that they actually get to a place that did bleach,” he said.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Imogen Zethoven said One Nation is in denial about the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
“I’d really ask her to get off the SS Ignorance and come back to shore,” she said.
“Head up to Port Douglas or Lizard Island, see what it really looks like right now and accept that climate change is real, it’s having an effect on the reef.”
Progress report to be delivered to UNESCO
On the same day as One Nation senators inspected the reef, a progress report to prevent it being listed by the UN as “in danger” was signed off by the Queensland and Federal Government in Sydney.
Federal Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, said he wanted Australia’s national treasure to be preserved.
“We are cooperating through the reef 2050 Plan which involves 151 separate action items,” he said.
“We are cooperating in the Commonwealth’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s $1 billion reef fund which is designed to deal with climate change and to improve water quality at the reef.”
Mr Frydenberg said a $45-million agreement had been struck to improve water quality in reef areas by reducing erosion.
“This is a major endeavour for us at the federal level,” he said.
“We are only getting started in the work that needs to be done over the months and the years ahead.”
Queensland’s Environment Minister, Steven Miles, said Australia has an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that the reef will be protected.
“We are putting the dollars and commitment to implement the plan,” he said.
Failed in one key aspect
Mr Miles said the progress report shows significant progress has been made in protecting the reef, but more needed to be done.
“We failed to implement one of the very important commitments and that was to reduce land clearing in Queensland,” he said.
“We’ve sought to reassure the World Heritage Committee in this report that the Queensland Government, the Palaszczuk Government, remains committed to regulating treer-clearing, to reducing tree-clearing.”