While You Weren’t Looking ScoMo Rushed Through A Report To Stop The GB Reef Being Protected

The ABC has uncovered emails that show the report was pushed through so so the government could keep the reef off the UNESCO 'In Danger' list.

Image of the Great Barrier Reef with a red wash

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While you were doing other shit back in July, the federal government directed the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) to push through the release of a report that said the Great Barrier Reef was ‘recovering’, according to the ABC.

The ABC claims this was done to help Environment Minister Sussan Ley lobby to keep the natural wonder off the UNESCO’s In Danger List. And you know what happened? The Great Barrier Reef is not on the In Danger list. Instead, the decision was delayed.

You may not remember all of this, because at the time, NSW was going into lockdown, and everyone was pissed about vaccine shortages and tone-deaf government ads.

But UNESCO was hoping to put the Great Barrier Reef on the In-Danger list due to increased degradation, and the federal government was literally lobbying against it. So much so they sent the environment minister Sussan Ley to Europe to try convince people otherwise, before the vote. And a whole lot of Australian-based foreign diplomats were also sent on a snorkelling trip so they could essentially ‘make up their own minds’ about the health of the reef.

And around the same time, the AIMS report was “leaked” to The Australian and The Courier Mail, saying the Reef was experiencing a “recovery window”. The report said that at least 69 of 127 surveyed reefs had seen an increase in hard coral cover. The reef had had a moment to catch its breath.

But let’s not forget that it had also experienced the most widespread coral bleaching event ever on record, and the third in five years. And while there was a significant jump on coral growth, the AIMS scientists clarified this was not a long-term trend.

“Full Steam Ahead”

The ABC obtained emails, texts and Microsoft Teams messages between the institute’s senior staff via the Freedom of Information act ahead of the report’s release, and a Teams chat shows discussion about the report being published sooner than originally planned, and that it was “full steam ahead to try and get things ready ‘just in case'” following chats with Canberra.

Another email discussing the pressure to hurry the report says, “it’s not ideal but we must comply”. Further correspondence shows team scrambling to get it together, according to the ABC.

When the report was leaked, The Australian published an article titled Coral Repair Raises Hope For Reef As Heritage Vote Looms. A couple of days later, and the decision about whether to put the Great Barrier Reef on the In Danger list was delayed, as agreed by 19 of the 21 committee members. Instead, its status would be reassessed in 2023. At the time, Ley said the draft decision to add the region to the woeful list “made no sense”.

“Our concern was always that UNESCO had sought an immediate ‘in danger’ listing without appropriate consultation, without a site visit and without all the latest information, and it is clear that this process has concerned not only Australia but other nations as well,” said Ley.

The ABC believes the leaked information illustrates that the report was rushed ahead to correlate with Ley’s campaign, but a spokesperson from her office defends that it was “entirely appropriate” for the government to request its publication because “the information in the report was complete and all results verified.”

AIMS’ executive Paul Hardisty told the ABC that any “suggestion that the report was rushed was incorrect,” even though he was the one to say in an email that the direction from the government was “not ideal”.

“The ABC can reveal the draft AIMS provided was forwarded to every foreign delegation on the World Heritage Committee by Australia’s ambassador to UNESCO, Megan Anderson, as part of the ongoing lobbying effort,” its damning article reads.