28 June 2016


In the midst of native animal extinctions and the devastating coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, a new analysis shows that the next Australian Government must ramp up its environmental commitments, regardless of which party takes office.

The final policy scorecard – rating the environmental election policies of the major parties – was released today by WWF-Australia.

The scorecard evaluated party policies for saving threatened species, protecting the Great Barrier Reef, and addressing climate change. Policies have been assigned a traffic light rating of Green (committed to policy), Amber (partial commitment to policy), or Red (not met).

“Our environment faces huge challenges. The places, species and Aussie lifestyle that we love are under threat,” WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said.

“This election, in the midst of extinctions and the Reef becoming a top five issue for the first time, this generation of political leaders has not yet stepped up to reflect the concerns of the vast majority of Australians.”

Great Barrier Reef

The two main parties have not committed the level of funding required to turn around the Reef’s decline and secure the future of the $6 billion tourism industry.

The Coalition’s $1 billion loan announcement is the wrong tool for the job. It is an existing climate fund rebadged as a Reef water quality initiative. Assessing this policy announcement has been challenging as little information has been forthcoming. 

While it will target existing funding towards clean energy in Queensland, there is no certainty on how much investment will actually go on-ground to farmers wanting to improve Reef water quality. The Coalition have also not committed to a legal cap for pollution flowing to the Reef. Accordingly, the Coalition’s policies for improving water quality have been assessed as not meeting what is required for the Reef.

The ALP’s promise to increase funds by $377 million is a good down payment, but it’s not enough. The ALP made also very positive commitments to introduce a legal cap on pollution flowing from the catchment into the Reef; and a promise to reform the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to make it more independent.

Both the Coalition and the ALP have made an important commitment for satellite tracking of commercial fishing vessels to improve protection of green zones.

“Our next government has just three years left to demonstrate to UNESCO and the world that Australia, as the planet’s custodian of the Great Barrier Reef, is prepared to make the difficult choices to keep the Reef out of danger,” Mr O’Gorman said.

“If not, the Reef, the Reef economy, and our global icon, could be lost for future generations of Australians. Whichever party wins Government on Saturday – further commitments and action must be delivered if we are to bend the curve of the Reef’s downward trajectory,” he said.

Protecting Australian wildlife

The extinction of Australia’s rare Bramble Cay melomys – due to rising sea-levels caused by human-induced climate change – was confirmed during the election campaign. Despite this sad news, neither of the major parties committed to the dramatic change in funding needed in order to deliver on Australia’s Threatened Species Strategy.

On a positive note for threatened species, the ALP’s commitment to overhaul Australia’s aging environmental laws was a welcome move.

“Australia has the worst rate of mammal extinctions in the world."

“To turn this around the Government needs to commit at least $100 million per year to protect critical habitats, deliver on species recovery and reduce feral animals. We need to end the extinction crisis in Australia.”

Climate change

Over the last two months Australians witnessed the devastating impact of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef, and expected parties to respond with stronger climate change policies to protect its future.

Neither the Coalition or ALP committed to ending non-agricultural polluting fossil fuel subsidies.

However, the policy bar has been set high by Labor and the Greens when it comes to reducing emissions and transitioning to clean renewable energy. 

“Disappointingly, we saw nothing during this election campaign as to how the Prime Minister or Opposition Leader will deal with the wasteful $7 billion per year of polluting fossil fuel subsidies – at a time when we need budget repair,” Mr O’Gorman said.

WWF-Australia Media Contact: Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager, 0432 206 592, drockett@wwf.org.au

Note to editors:

WWF-Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society, as part of the Fight for the Reef campaign, will also release a scorecard today, taking a deeper dive into the Reef-related policies of the major parties.

WWF-Australia is a science-based organisation, and is proudly non-partisan. WWF does not endorse parties, but does evaluate and communicate policies, on their merits. WWF never directs people how to vote.