Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Coal terminal threatens Great Barrier Reef

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The decision by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to approve a proposal to dump dredge spoil from the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion in the marine park area has angered many thousands of people. This decision comes shortly after the plan was given the green light by Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

This is part of a ludicrous decision making process aimed at facilitating the development of one of world the biggest coal ports on the central Queensland coast.

The dredging of undisturbed seabed within the World Heritage Area is required to make room for six new ship berths. The expansion was pushed by big mining companies who are set to make mega profits from the Abbot Point project.

The plan, if carried out, would see three million cubic metres of spoil dredged. The sediments of this process would be dumped into the pristine water of the Reef’s area.

Despite saying the government will impose strict environmental conditions and set a target of “150% net benefit requirement for water quality” in the area, experts and environment groups believe it is unachievable with the scale of the development.

Many of the areas to be dredged are feeding and breeding grounds for turtles, dugongs and other sensitive species. The development of the port of Gladstone in 2012 was detrimental to the marine life there. Even a retaining barrier couldn’t stop the leaked sediments.

Major projects along the Queensland coast would transform the Great Barrier Reef into a shipping superhighway with an estimated 7000 coal ships crossing the Reef every year by 2020.

If this project proceeds the precedent will be set for other developments to follow. Alongside climate change these projects will contribute to destroying the Great Barrier Reef and its ecosystem. Far from protecting the environment, the government is prioritising the short-term profit making interests of the big mining companies.

The Queensland Resources Council – a lobby group for big mining companies – praised the Environment Minister for not caving in to “hysterical environmental activists”. Disgracefully two members of the Marine Park Authority are major shareholders of companies that are set to make profits out of destroying the Reef.

This dredging of the Reef and the entire Abbot Point project needs to be opposed. While many community and environmental groups are already campaigning against the plans, the trade union movement needs to join the fight. Work bans on the dredging and construction of the terminal could stop the government in its tracks.

Instead of just accepting the destructive projects that big business puts on offer we need to campaign for infrastructure projects that prioritises people’s needs and the environment. Our future is in sustainable jobs.

Ultimately it is the reckless race for profits that drives this sort of environmental destruction. Socialists campaign to replace the profit driven system with a collectively owned and democratically planned economy. This is only way to ensure that we create the jobs we need while protecting unique areas like the Great Barrier Reef.

By Tim Tran


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