Politics Opinion

Barrier Reef funding smells like another Morrison Government rort

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Scott Morrison has pledged $1 billion for the Great Barrier Reef as an Election date looms (Image by Dan Jensen)

Scott Morrison has pledged funds to save the Great Barrier Reef, conveniently at a time when he needs to win votes, writes Darren Crawford.

AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER Scott Morrison has pledged over $1 billion to help improve the Great Barrier Reef, which has been heavily impacted by climate change.

For 20 of the past 30-odd years, Australia has been led by the Liberal-National Coalition and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which has meant no real action on climate change has occurred in Australia due to their combined support for the fossil fuel industry.

As a result of this decades-long inaction, along with outdated farming practices and increased coal mining activity in the surrounding regions of central and northern Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef has deteriorated in many places due to the cumulative impacts of bleaching, chemical runoff and invasive species such as the crown of thorns starfish.

In 2020, UN science advisers recommended the reef be placed on the world heritage “in danger” list — the first time any site had been recommended for the listing primarily because of the impacts of climate change. While the World Heritage committee refused the request, the Australian Government is required to officially respond to the UN about the state of the Reef by 1 February 2022.

The Federal Government updated their Reef 2050 Plan in December 2021, which was widely panned by environmentalists as being inadequate as it is linked to the Government’s response to reach a net-zero greenhouse emissions reduction target through the use of yet undeveloped technology by the year 2050.

This latest round of funding is to be spent over a ten-year period and is targeted at marginal seats held by the L-NP, adjacent to the Reef, and is of course conditional on the L-NP being re-elected. The current L-NP Government led by Scott Morrison has a reputation for blatant pork-barreling and rorting public money while electioneering.

Car park, anyone?

In March 2021, a senate enquiry found “overwhelming evidence” that then L-NP Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie and the Prime Minister’s Office had used a $100 million community sports fund as a means of “gaining political advantage for Coalition candidates in the 2019 federal election by favouring applicants located in marginal and ‘targeted’ electorates”.

As a result, the Senator was stood down from the ministry, but then reinstated on the quiet last year, into another portfolio.

In July 2021, a parliamentary committee was told that in late 2018, then L-NP Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge had requested that his department, in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s Office, compile a list of the 20 most marginal seats in the state of New South Wales.

During the run-up to the 2019 Election, voters in these electorates were then promised upgraded transport facilities, including new car parks predominantly around train stations if they voted L-NP, with money coming from the $660 Urban Congestion Fund.

As a result, the Auditor-General pushed for a full senate inquiry as it was found that the Government’s use of the scheme was neither effective nor merit-based as none of the 47 commuter car park sites chosen by the Government before the 2019 Election were selected by the Infrastructure Department itself, and 27 were approved the day before Mr Morrison called the Election. Minister Tudge’s electorate received two of the projects.

Finally, it was reported in August 2021 that only two of the promised car parks have been completed post-Election, while some of the projects have been dumped all together. Minister Tudge remained in the ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office has refused to acknowledge any involvement in the affair.

Stop the boats — how about we stop the rorts?

A Federal Election is due to be called at any minute. With his failed 2019 Election promise to implement a federal anti-corruption body hanging around his neck and the L-NP’s abysmal record on climate change looming large in the public consciousness, it is difficult for many to see how this Great Barrier Reef announcement from Morrison is nothing more than pandering to the centrists in his Party to appease them on climate change while throwing public money at a problem he has helped create.

Similarly, his Government’s response to the pandemic has been a shambles. Morrison allowed some of Australia’s wealthiest citizens to take advantage of the JobKeeper program, handing over billions of dollars of public funds to private companies to help them retain staff during the pandemic, only to see that money boost those same companies' profits and share prices, never to be paid back to the Australian people — another problem he helped create.

Liar, liar, pants on fire

Morrison proved to the world in Glasgow last year that he will blatantly lie to anyone to retain power (including the President of the USA) and his ministers have proven that there is no limit to how much taxpayers' money they will spend on being re-elected. News Corp, via their 80 per cent plus ownership of Australian print media, has continued to praise Morrison and his ministers through every one of these very public failures. While there is no official watchdog at a federal level, Morrison and co will continue to rort as they please.

Saving the Great Barrier Reef should be a priority for our Federal Government, but how can Australia be rescued from the clutches of Morrison, the L-NP, and News Corp?

Morrison once claimed he “stopped the boats” full of immigrants from entering Australia.

The question now is, when will he “stop the rorts?”

Darren Crawford is a surfer, environmentalist, sports coach/administrator and academic.

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