Peter Garrett, Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage and Arts has issued a statement on his website entitled “New research points to collapse of Great Barrier Reef: Labor calls for comprehensive action ” discussing the recent article on the decline of Indo-Pacific reefs (in particular the Great Barrier Reef):

New research showing a severe decline in coral reefs is a wake-up call to the Howard Government. Comprehensive action to save the Great Barrier Reef from collapse is urgently needed.

The Great Barrier Reef is our greatest natural asset but the failure of the Howard Government to introduce a comprehensive climate change plan is compounding its risk of extinction.

The University of Carolina researchers, John Bruno and Elizabeth Selig, have been backed by Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Centre for Marine Studies at the University of Queensland.

But the story doesn’t end there. ABC and Channel 7 news are now reporting that Garrett applied to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for scientific reports on the health of the Great Barrier Reef through a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request, which have since been refused on the grounds that the Garrett was seeking the documents to assist with his political campaign. Strange times indeed.

To quote Garrett on the issue:

“What’s happened is we’ve been knocked back in those applications on the basis that we would use this material in a political campaign,” he said.

“This is a complete corruption and a complete betrayal of the Freedom of Information legislation.

“I’ve written to the Ombudsman seeking his investigation of this matter.”

The Herald Sun newspaper are reporting that GBRMPA not only denied the FOI requests for documents on the effect of global warming on the reef but also refused to waive a $12,000 administration charge for the privilege:

In my view, given the current political context in which this request was made, it appears likely the documents have been sought by the applicant to assist with his political campaign in the lead-up to the impending federal election,” Fiona Macdonald, executive director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said.

Although the Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that decisions on FOI applications to his department were “made by officials and not by him”.

“I’m not sufficiently aware of it to give you useful answers,” Mr Turnbull said.

“It is not a political decision,” Mr Turnbull said.

“I get told about the FOI decisions after they are made.”

The last statement made me chuckle. Sure!

But what is quite mysterious to me is why the Government would act this way. After having been directly involved in the vulnerability assessment exercise (I co-authored the review on reef-building corals with an appropriate group of experts) it would seem that the government and its internationally acclaimed GBR Management Authority really don’t really have much to hide. After all, the chapters were peer-reviewed, processed with the authors consent and placed on the Web. Each one has a long list of source articles from which the opinions were drawn.  All very professional.

Quite in contrast to Peter Garrett request for background documents, it seems that the government’s response has been entirely political. I guess we’re getting used to this type of response from the government on the issue of climate change!

But why they would frustrate the opposition’s attempt to gain information on this important issue – especially when there appears to be little to hide – is beyond me!

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