Committee view and recommendations
This inquiry considered the $444 million grant by the Commonwealth to a
small, private charity, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
It is clear that the Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger from a number
of environmental stressors, and that climate change is the greatest of these
stressors. It is also clear that the Commonwealth needs to intensify its
efforts and provide greater funding to protect and preserve the Reef for future
Nevertheless, this inquiry uncovered significant shortcomings with the
intent, design and proposed implementation of the Foundation Partnership
The granting of $444 million to the Foundation was a highly
irresponsible decision, hastily concocted by relevant ministers, without proper
consideration of risks and potential effectiveness, no consultation with key
stakeholders, and without having undertaken due diligence.
This 'off-the-cuff' decision has caused massive disruption to existing
policy and program delivery, including by existing government agencies. It has
all the hallmarks of a government that is not properly managing its
responsibility as the guardian of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.
Some stakeholders spoke positively of the Foundation's track record in
building relationships with the corporate sector to fundraise for the Reef, the
connections it has built with stakeholders, and its ability to manage small
Commonwealth grants and private funds.
However, many questioned whether the Foundation was the right
organisation to manage such a significant investment. Concerns were raised
about the Foundation's ability to handle such a rapid increase in size and
responsibilities, the high cost of administration, and the duplication and
governance complexities the Partnership introduces.
The committee also heard repeatedly that the $444 million would have
been better allotted to the Commonwealth's established bodies, rather than a
new mechanism that filters public funds through an untested private organisation,
in some cases back to government bodies.
Lastly, the committee heard concerns that the focus of the Foundation
Partnership would not be on the underlying environmental problems—such as
climate change—that are the root cause of the poor health of the Reef.
Termination of the Foundation
In light of the evidence gathered during this inquiry, the committee
believes that the most appropriate action for the Commonwealth to take is to
terminate the Foundation Partnership. The committee believes this is necessary
to help restore trust in the process of Commonwealth funding for the Reef, if
not the entire Commonwealth grants process. The committee also considers that
this is necessary to ensure that Commonwealth funding is spent in the best possible
way to help protect and preserve the world's largest coral reef system.
The committee understands that the grant can be terminated or reduced in
scope, pursuant to clause 25 of the Agreement with the Foundation, which
If there is a material change in Australian Government policy
that is inconsistent with the continued operation of this Agreement, the
Department may by notice terminate this Agreement or reduce the scope of the
6.12 The committee recommends that all unspent Foundation Partnership
funds be returned to the Commonwealth immediately; and that these funds be
earmarked for expenditure on projects to protect and preserve the Reef, to be
expended by 30 June 2024.
Restructuring the Commonwealth
The committee also believes that in light of the process uncovered
during this inquiry—or lack thereof—there is an urgent need to review
Reef-related Commonwealth funding.
Similarly, this review is needed to help restore public confidence and
to ensure that the attribution of public funding for one of the 'seven natural
wonders of the world' is transparent and accountable; and is done in a way that
promotes collaboration between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments and
agencies, universities and scientists, community groups, and users of the Reef.
This review should include an examination of the governance, legal and
administrative provisions relating of the Reef Trust and GBRMPA, as well as the
role of organisations that undertake research and program delivery, such as
AIMS and CSIRO.
The committee recommends the Commonwealth Government undertake a review,
to be completed by 1 July 2019, of the structure of Commonwealth funding to
protect and preserve the Great Barrier Reef. The committee further recommends
that the expenditure of unspent Foundation Partnership funds be guided by the
outcome of this review.
A hastily and poorly designed approach
This report outlines the timeline by which this measure was developed
following the rejection of two new policy proposals on 6 March 2018 by the
Expenditure Review Committee (ERC) of the Cabinet in the 2018–19 Budget
process. As the former Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull, informed the
committee, at this ERC meeting it was decided that:
...an alternative proposal be brought forward to create a tied
reef fund, with a partner outside the general government sector, to be funded
in 2017/18 for activities to be agreed with the Commonwealth, with appropriate
On 9 April 2018, little over a month after the ERC decision to find a
partner outside of government, Mr Turnbull and the then Minister for the
Environment and Energy, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, approached the Foundation
at a meeting at which they were not accompanied by departmental
At this meeting, Mr Turnbull and Mr Frydenberg put an unprecedented
offer of $444 million on the table, a sum that is almost twice the size of any
other Government grant in 2018, to an organisation that did not seek or expect
such a massive grant. The Foundation's Managing Director later likened it to
'winning the lottery'.
Indeed, until that point, the Foundation was only aware it was being
considered for a much smaller $5 million investment under the Phase VI of the
Reef Trust Investment Strategy.
Little more than two weeks following this meeting, the Foundation
Partnership was confirmed and announced. This public commitment was made on the
basis of development of a brief two-page outline of 'Collaboration Principles'
between the Commonwealth and the Foundation.
Indeed, the committee has been unable to gather conclusive information
to determine where the proposal for the measure originated. It is certainly not
an idea that originated with the Foundation, which was not aware of it until
approached on 9 April 2018. Beyond this, it is not possible to say with
any certainty whether the initial impetus came from Minister Frydenberg or
Prime Minister Turnbull, both of whom led the approach to the
Foundation, from another member of the Cabinet, from advice to Government
provided by the Department of the Environment and Energy or, indeed somewhere
The committee considers that this is no way to approach the development
of policy, program delivery and funding in a complex sector. It is also no way
to approach funding of projects which will have such profound impacts on the
Reef, a natural wonder of such importance for Australia's environment, economy,
national heritage and international reputation.
Lack of consultation
The committee notes the remarkable lack of consultation that
characterised the development of the Foundation Partnership proposal.
Given the Queensland Government's partnership with the Commonwealth in
the Reef 2050 Plan, which is central to the management and research into the
Reef, it is disappointing and disrespectful that it had no knowledge of this
policy until it was announced on 29 April 2018.
The committee also notes the lack of references to the development of
the policy in documents obtained from Commonwealth departments. This, again,
confirms the lack of involvement of departments and agencies in developing the
proposal, their lack of involvement in the approach made to the Foundation and,
in some cases, the lack of knowledge they had of the Foundation Partnership
before the measure was announced.
This is not only disappointing, but also disrespectful, and has created
budgetary and workplan uncertainties for those agencies that are yet to be
Furthermore, the Foundation has admitted that it had no knowledge of the
Partnership before it was offered $444 million of public funds during the
meeting between Mr Turnbull, Mr Frydenberg and Dr John Schubert, the chair
of the Foundation.
This lack of consultation in itself raises serious and concerning
questions about the merit of the Foundation Partnership. It also demonstrates a
disregard by the Government for its own publicly-funded experts, the Foundation
itself as recipients of funding, and a lack of care for the public purse.
Lack of due diligence
The available evidence has failed to assure the committee that the
Commonwealth undertook appropriate due diligence for the awarding of such a
large amount of public funds. The department has told the committee that due
diligence had been undertaken on the Foundation before the $444 million offer
was made. This due diligence was undertaken without the knowledge of the
It is clear to the committee that due diligence and risk assessment was
undertaken by the department on the Foundation regarding the $5 million grant
for the Reef Trust Phase VI Investment, which the minister approved on 6 April
However, the committee finds it greatly concerning that, over the course
of this inquiry, there has been little evidence provided for more thorough and
substantial process of due diligence before this extraordinarily large
grant was announced, as might have been expected.
Government departments have all claimed that they are unable to provide
more information on the due diligence process that preceded the grant offer,
citing the principle of advice provided to Government as part of the Budget
process being cabinet-in-confidence. Documents have been provided to the
committee that confirm evidence for due diligence processes for the
$444 million Partnership specifically being undertaken after the
measure was offered, agreed, and announced by the Government. This included
outlining the nature of the accounts and financial arrangements of the
Foundation, governance arrangements, and potential risks for the Partnership
policy, and the transformation of the Foundation that it will necessitate.
In this regard, the committee notes the lack of formal minutes being
taken for the five Interdepartmental Committee (IDC) meetings held between
April and July 2018 'to provide advice on the assessment and approval of the
grant to the Foundation'.
Given the importance of the decision to fund the Foundation Partnership and the
funding quantum under discussion, as well as the range of departments present
and the number of meetings held, it is most surprising that none of these
meetings were formally minuted.
Given the lack of evidence, the committee can only state that it is not
confident that the due diligence process prior to the award of the grant occurred
with probity and integrity.
The use of a grant paid as a single
payment in the 2017–18 financial year
The committee has been concerned about the decision to pay the Partnership
Grant as a single, upfront payment of $444 million, only a few days before the
end of the 2017–18 financial year. The committee's concern is compounded by the
apparent scant evidence for consultation within Government and the sector more
The delivery of this unprecedented sum to a private organisation ensured
that the Foundation Partnership measure would also bypass appropriate scrutiny
as part of the 2018–19 Budget process, and that it will not be subject to
rigorous Commonwealth and Parliamentary scrutiny over the forward estimates.
The committee is also aware that paying the full grant sum as a single
upfront payment runs the risk that there will be inadequate oversight of the
monitoring of key performance indicators of the Agreement, including the
capacity of the Foundation to leverage private and philanthropic sources of
funding, to supplement the Commonwealth funding it has already received.
The delivery of funding under this upfront model introduces a number of
risks in accountability and transparency in the Foundation's work under the Agreement.
The committee considers that it introduces questions of how the Commonwealth
can motivate performance for the Partnership and its activities, when the funds
have already been delivered. It could also make it more difficult to
renegotiate the terms of the Partnership in cases of underperformance or
mismanagement. There are also unresolved questions about the Commonwealth's
ability to reclaim and reapportion funds to more rigorously designed Reef-related
policy options in cases where the Foundation does not satisfy the agreement, or
under other conditions outlined in the Agreement itself.
The information provided by the former Prime Minister, the Hon Mr Malcolm Turnbull,
confirms that the Hon Scott Morrison MP, then-Treasurer and now Prime Minister,
and Senator the Hon Matthias Cormann, the Minister for Finance, preferred
the approach of a single payment as it would improve the capacity of future
Commonwealth Budgets, and because the outlook for 2017–18 'looked promisingly
In his email to the committee, Mr Turnbull stated that the decision made
at the ERC meeting on 6 March 2018 rejected two proposals for Reef funding, one
'partially offset and over 6 years, the other smaller and fully offset over two
years'. These were rejected in favour of a 'tied reef fund, with a partner
outside the general government sector, to be funded in 2017/18'. On this, Mr
The arrangement allowed the Government to book the grant
expenditure in one year, 2017/18, notwithstanding that the investment of the
funds in the various reef projects by the GBRF would take place over a period
of six years.
Although the justification given was that the Foundation Partnership
would drive private co-investment, it could equally be argued that the decision
was made for more cynical reasons. That is, the Partnership was designed not to
meet a genuine and
well-founded policy rationale, but to make the 2018–19 Commonwealth Budget look
stronger by loading payment into the 2017–18 financial year.
In doing so, this measure has pumped public money into a private
Reef-related organisation as a single payment, where it will not be subject to
due oversight by the Commonwealth and the Parliament, including through the Senate
Estimates process scrutinising 2018–19 Budget measures.
The hasty reverse-engineering of this policy to meet short-term Budget
optics, required it to be delivered by grant, rather than a lengthier and
rigorous open tender process. Many stakeholders provided evidence which
indicated a preference for an open tender process. As the Queensland Government
submitted to the committee, it is:
...concerned at the unprecedented approach of providing such a
level of funding to a single private organisation without going to the open
market to ensure a transparent and accountable procurement process.
The committee also notes the convincing arguments from stakeholders that
an open tender process would have been a more appropriate mechanism, given that
the Foundation Partnership will be expanding its capacity to deliver and fulfil
Government objectives. For example, Environmental Justice Australia stated:
With a grant, the recipient receives financial assistance
from the Commonwealth to help achieve its own goals (consistent with
Commonwealth goals), whereas in a procurement, the Commonwealth is usually
purchasing goods and/or services that assist the Commonwealth in achieving its
The committee acknowledges that the department has argued that the
Commonwealth took this approach fully meeting the conditions of the
Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines and procurement frameworks. However,
this committee considers that the evidence for this is less than convincing, and
there is the potential for this decision to have been an abrogation of the
requirement on the Commonwealth Government that it must ensure that the
spending of public money is subject to due diligence, transparency and
Capacity of the Foundation and Commonwealth assessment of risk
The committee understands the Foundation has a good reputation in the
Reef sector as an organisation that has administered small programs of research
and delivery to assist the health of the Reef, effectively liaised between the
private, public and research sectors, and has a good track record of leveraging
and disbursing philanthropic and public funding.
However, despite its good reputation and track record, it is clear to
the committee that its existing capacity and experience in no way merited the
unprecedented awarding of a Commonwealth investment of $444 million.
The committee considers that it is not the Government's role to turn
serious funding matters for crucial policy areas into a lottery system, whereby
funds are provided to recipients who are unprepared to receive them.
This is particularly the case where hasty policy development is
accompanied by a lack of due diligence and an appropriate weighing of risk in
making funding decisions.
Risks of the Foundation Partnership
The significant risks of the Foundation Partnership were outlined in the
Collaboration Principles developed between the department and Foundation, after
the funding had already been decided by Government and offered to the
Foundation by Mr Turnbull and Mr Frydenberg, as well as the departmental
Proposal Evaluation available to the committee.
The committee considers that any of these concerns should have been
grounds for at least delaying the granting of funding. With a delay,
appropriate due diligence and consultation could have been undertaken by the
In the Collaboration Principles, there was an acknowledgement that the
'rapid increase in operational scale...poses significant capacity, governance and
capability challenges'. This could, the Principles note, 'delay delivery of
on-ground projects, leading to loss of local capacity and momentum', as well as
necessitating the Foundation's development of new skills in overseeing
occupational health and safety risks of delivery projects.
The Proposal Evaluation undertaken by the department noted other
concerns, including the Foundation's serious lack of experience and skills
'relevant to four out of
the five partnership outcomes' including water quality improvement,
crown-of-thorns starfish control, Indigenous and Community Reef Protection
Actions and Integrated Monitoring and Reporting.
Such serious concerns involving such a significant investment using an
untested proposal should have given the Commonwealth pause for thought, even if
these concerns had only come to light after funding had already been offered to
Fundraising targets set by the
The committee notes that the Collaborative Investment Strategy released
by the Foundation on 24 December 2018 sets targets for the expected level of
fundraising over the course of the Partnership.
The strategy states that the $444 million of Commonwealth funding will
be supplemented by the Foundation attracting $300 to 400 million of funding
from corporate philanthropy and individual giving, as well as through formal
agreements with delivery partners.
The committee considers these targets are very ambitious, and would
require the Foundation to significantly lift its previous fundraising levels,
which it states have attracted $90 million over 18 years prior to the
commencement of the Partnership.
The committee also notes that the fundraising quantum set out in the
strategy is aspirational, rather than a condition of the Agreement. In this
regard, the Commonwealth has few mechanisms that could ensure the Foundation is
able to achieve its fundraising targets.
Governance of the Foundation and
additional complexity in the Reef sector
Foundation Partnership also raises a number of governance issues that should
have been considered more deeply by the Government before its adoption and
Evaluation noted only one potential governance issue: Dr Russell
Reichelt's role at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and
his directorship of the Foundation, given GBRMPA may be eligible for funding
disbursed by the Foundation.
notes the more complex governance issues that should be resolved regarding
members of the Foundation Board, the Chairman's Panel, and the broader Reef
sector noted in an earlier chapter of this report.
The Foundation's Board has clear and publicly acknowledged ties
to sectors that profit from fossil fuels and other industries that contribute
to Reef damage, both directly and indirectly.
Additionally, there are still unresolved questions about the role and
influence on the Chairman's Panel on the Foundation, its culture, management
and decision making.
The committee is also concerned that the Foundation Partnership has
created uncertainty in the governance in the sector more broadly. It notes
particularly that the Foundation has duplicated some functions of other Reef
organisations, including GBRMPA as manager of the Reef.
In considering both the governance of the Foundation and the
implications for the sector more broadly, the committee also notes that the processes that the Foundation
will adopt to seek, assess and select potential projects have not yet been
fully determined and released publicly, including how the Foundation builds
relationships with the Reef 2050 Expert Panel and the funding delivered through
the Reef Trust.
Duplication of costs and value for
The committee understands that the Foundation Partnership allows for the
expending of up to $22.5 million of the initial grant payment on administration
costs, as well as the use of interest over the six years of the Partnership up
to an additional $22 million.
The committee has several concerns with this expenditure. First, it
shares the concerns of stakeholders that the real costs of administration may
be greater, particularly given the clear challenge that the Foundation has in
upscaling its workforce, activities and expertise. It notes that it has
already, along with drawing on the experience of Commonwealth agencies and
departments, moved to engage external consultants to assist it transition to
its increased budget and responsibilities.
Secondly, the committee is aware that the Foundation may deliver
substantial funding for research and delivery programs undertaken by public
bodies, such as GBRMPA, CSIRO and AIMS. This will add an unnecessary layer of
duplication that will increase administrative expenditure of Commonwealth funds
without sufficient oversight and accountability. In addition, it will have the
effect of introducing some uncertainty to the work program of these agencies,
and potentially make them subject to decisions made by a private organisation
disbursing public funds.
The committee considers that the very first project to be funded under
the Partnership Agreement justifies concerns that the use of the Foundation
will add unnecessary administration and costs to the Reef sector.
This project will see $574 000 of Commonwealth Reef Trust funding
delivered to AIMS, a Commonwealth agency via the Foundation. This will fund an
activity that Dr Paul Hardisty, the CEO of AIMS, has suggested is
part of the agency's ongoing 'commitment to survey the current health of the
Great Barrier Reef, as it has done every two years for the past 35 years'.
This would appear to be Commonwealth funding for core AIMS business,
funnelled through the Foundation as a clearinghouse, adding administrative
costs, and potentially making governance, oversight and accountability more
Meeting Australia's World Heritage commitments
It was asserted by some stakeholders that the Government chose to make
such this unprecedented grant to the Foundation as a one-off payment to ensure
that Australia's commitments to the World Heritage Committee are met.
This assertion is supported by the Auditor-General's Performance Audit
which, almost in passing, states that in June 2017 the Government was advised
by the department of the:
...need to 'escalate the response to the declining health of
the reef' to avoid an 'in-danger' listing by the World Heritage.
The department pushed back on this assertion, stating that funding estimates
provided to the committee did not take into account other Commonwealth
The Government had previously committed to expend $716 million on
Reef-related investment between 2015 and 2020 in the Reef 2050 Investment
However, given that the Foundation Partnership measure has introduced
great uncertainty in Commonwealth investment in the Reef, the committee
recommends that the Government work with the Queensland Government to publish
an updated Reef 2050 Plan Investment Framework, to give some clarity on the
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth and Queensland
Governments publish an updated Reef 2050 Plan Investment Framework that
provides current figures on established funding by source and priority area.
Investment of Commonwealth
The Grant Agreement sets out the conditions of the Foundation's investment
of Commonwealth funds. It includes provision that the Foundation may invest:
...as permitted under a written investment policy of the
Foundation in relation to the grant, which is consistent with sound commercial
practice and in respect of which the Foundation has consulted the Department
prior to the finalisation of the policy.
While the Foundation must consult with the department in relation to the
investment policy, there is not stipulation in the Grant Agreement that ensures
the Commonwealth's grant is not invested in industries that continue to
negatively affect the Reef. In particular, the committee notes the contribution
of the use of fossil fuels to climate change, which is a major stressor of the
The unprecedented Commonwealth funding awarded to the Foundation has the
preservation of the Reef for future generations at its heart. The committee
considers that any investment of grant funds in industries that contribute to
climate change is contrary to the aims of the grant and therefore should be
Should a Government decide to maintain the Foundation Agreement, the
committee recommends that all necessary steps be undertaken to ensure that the
Foundation's investment of public funds precludes investment in sectors or
funds that directly or indirectly contribute to climate change, particularly
companies that generate energy from or undertake mining of fossil fuels.
Parliamentary oversight of the Agreement
The committee understands that to meet its obligations under the
Agreement, the Foundation must meet a number of reporting requirements.
The committee is aware that, had the $444 million been awarded to a
public agency, it would also be able to be appropriately scrutinised by the
Parliament, including through the Senate and its estimates process.
The committee considers that the Parliament should be given the
opportunity to maintain oversight of such a significant grant of Commonwealth
funds. In order to ensure this occurs, the committee believes that information
about the Foundation Partnership should be tabled in the Parliament. This
information should be comprehensive and up to date.
Should a Government decide to maintain the Foundation Agreement, the
committee recommends that the Senate order:
be laid on the table by the Minister representing the Minister for the
Environment and Energy, by no later than 31 October each year:
annual performance statement for the previous financial year that provides
information about the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's performance in achieving
the purposes of the Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership Program; and
and audited financial statements for the previous financial year for all
receipts and payments relating to the Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership
Program funds, including any co‑financed contributions.
the Senate is not sitting when a statement is ready for presentation, the
statement is to be presented to the President under standing order 166.
order has effect until the end of the last financial year in which the
Agreement is operative, following the cessation of the Partnership.
Auditor-General review of the
Foundation Partnership Agreement
During the course of this committee inquiry, the Auditor-General has
completed a performance audit into the Award of a Grant to the Great Barrier
As set out in the previous chapter, this audit found serious flaws with
departmental advice on the selection of the Foundation, as well as shortcomings
with the processes used for the evaluation and award of the grant to the
Entity response and implications
for the department
As part of the Auditor-General's inquiry into the awarding of the Partnership
Grant to the Foundation, the department was given a chance to respond to the
findings of the audit.
In its response, the department suggested that: 'Given the available
timeframes, and consistent with Cabinet's decisions, the approach taken to
establish the partnership was sensible and thorough'.
Additionally, the department claimed that the Partnership represented
value for money for public resources, that the guidelines did include
assessment criteria (while conceding these could have been labelled better),
and that Program outcomes 'were appropriately specified in the grant
guidelines, in line with the outcomes of the Reef 2050 Plan', along with
appropriate reporting and evaluation process to ensure performance targets are
'further detailed, refined and reported against' over the Partnership.
The committee has noted this response, which does not reassure the
committee that the department had enough time to develop the Foundation
Partnership policy or program effectively and with integrity.
The committee supports the Auditor-General's findings that there were
serious shortcomings in the awarding of funding to the Foundation, which are
consistent with the committee's own views, and endorses the recommendations for
the department contained in the ANAO report.
In this regard, the committee notes that the Auditor-General was able to
consult the department and the Foundation over the course of its audit, and in
doing so obtained evidence to guide its report and recommendations to the
The rigour and transparency of this process suggests that the
Auditor-General's findings are supported by reliable and compelling evidence,
which should have guided the departmental response to the ANAO's
Implications for other Commonwealth
Additionally, the committee sees merit in the ANAO setting out the key
messages from the audit for all Commonwealth Government entities. These go to
the heart of the need to: strengthening governance and risk management in
developing funding proposals; more effective design of policy and programs when
responding to ministers seeking innovative approaches; administering the
Commonwealth's grant process effectively; and keeping good records on decisions
when departing from departmental policies and proven practices.
Further ANAO audit of the
The Auditor-General has informed the committee that the ANAO will
consider undertaking a second audit of the Partnership later in 2019–20, once
key aspects of the design of the Partnership have been finalised.
The committee considers that it is important for the ANAO to undertake
this second audit, to assure the Australian public that public funds are being
used with integrity.
Given the Auditor-General's findings in the report into the award of the
Partnership Grant and that a second audit is yet to be agreed, the committee
states its intention to maintain a continuing interest in the Foundation
Partnership and the performance of the Foundation in delivering its outcomes
beyond the scope of this inquiry, including through the estimates process.
6.98 Should a Government decide to maintain the Foundation Agreement,
the committee recommends that the Auditor-General undertake a second audit of
the Partnership in late 2019–20 once the design aspects of the Partnership have
Addressing climate change
This inquiry has received very compelling evidence of the need for the
Commonwealth Government to take immediate steps to address climate change. The
evidence broadly noted that the $444 Foundation Partnership does not address
the cause of climate change directly. While this evidence has concentrated on
the imminent disastrous outcomes for the Reef, environmentally, economically
and for local and national communities, this is a broader issue of national
importance that must be addressed.
The committee is aware that the Foundation accepts that climate change
is an underlying cause of ongoing Reef stressors, and that climate change abatement
is important for the Reef's long term survival and health. However, the
committee notes that the Partnership Agreement does not begin to address
climate change, as it is focussed on reducing stressors, such as improving
water quality and combatting crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, to enable
recovery and build resilience of the Reef.
the committee was reminded of the importance of this task over the course of
this inquiry, by the 8 October 2018 release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C on
8 October 2018. This report found that human activities have caused
around 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, that this had
already caused significant damage, and that without a large effort, this
trajectory would continue with a number of effects, including 'risks to health,
livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth'.
Change Council's summary of the IPCC report emphasises that Australia will be
particularly vulnerable to continuing increases in temperature. Regarding the
impact on reefs of a further 0.5°C rise, the summary states that:
reefs could lose a further 70-90% of cover, eliminating the Great Barrier Reef
as we know it.
ocean acidity in a 1.5°C world will affect the survival and abundance of a
broad range of marine species, from algae to fish.
Given this outlook, it is clear that the Partnership will only address
the symptoms devastating the Reef, at best. In doing so, it is another
indication that the Government does not accept the clear scientific consensus
on the looming environmental effects of climate change. Moreover, it confirms
yet again that this Government is unwilling to even consider undertaking
necessary and urgent work to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and taking
Australia's commitment to meet international emissions targets seriously.
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government take
steps to address and effectively tackle climate change as an underlying cause
of economic, social and environmental damage to the Reef and the Australian
environment more broadly.
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