07 4032 1746 admin@cafnec.org.au

From the President: good environmental stewardship crosses the political divide

Breaking down ideological barriers is the best way, I believe, to find common interests and work to a common cause.  But our Prime Minister has declared he doesn’t “buy the green ideology” turning popular environmental stewardship and good science into an ideological battleground.

At the expense of science and community driven process, destructive populist policy appears to be offered at all levels of government.

While the world watches Tony Abbott attempt to log World Heritage forests in Tasmania, roll back marine protection around the country and allow industry to dredge and dump in the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian brand is being eroded.

In Queensland, tourism is a $10 billion industry providing 236,000 jobs and generating over $60 million in expenditure per day. This is largely dependent on natural infrastructure – national and marine parks, World Heritage areas, functioning ecosystems and free-flowing rivers.

Mistaken as symbols of green ideology, our natural infrastructure is under attack.  As much as we rely on roads, rail and energy infrastructure for our society to function, we need to be mindful of nature’s infrastructure and the ecosystem services it provides. Protected catchments provide us with clean water, forests provide oxygen and stabilise soils, and healthy ecosystems provide us with an innumerable number of invaluable life-supporting essentials (e.g. food, cures, pollinators etc.).  I know this is basic but have we forgotten?

In far north Queensland we are blessed with generous natural infrastructure supporting our lifestyle and regional industries. From the Coral Sea to the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Torres Strait, healthy land and sea is economically, socially, culturally and environmentally fundamental to our region’s prosperity.

Would we let anyone to revoke World Heritage for the Great Barrier Reef or the Daintree to allow oil extraction or logging? Regardless of our collective political colours, most of us recognise the value of these icons to our tourism industry and would oppose such reckless ideas.

In Queensland we are seeing unparalleled changes to environmental law and our ability to object and contest proposals is being eroded.  Laws that protect nature are being reduced while those that facilitate development are being ‘streamlined’. At the same time, environmental lawyers are having their funding cut making it even harder for the public to effectively participate in government decision making processes.

Buying into an ideological battle over our environment will only serve to send us into an increasingly polarised them-and-us scenario where working together becomes harder and we risk squandering our natural assets.

As identified in the Queensland Plan, Queenslanders value a healthy environment. This reality is not split down ideological lines. It does not matter if you live on the land, run cattle over thousands of hectares or ride your bike to work every day in any given CBD or something in between. The truth is caring for the environment crosses the political spectrum. We just have different approaches to what, I would argue, are common interests.

Andrew Picone