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Reef Report for Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Legislation to Strengthen Protection of the Great Barrier Reef

This past Friday the Australian Labor Party (ALP) introduced legislation to Parliament, that if passed will strengthen the current laws that protect the Great Barrier Reef. The legislation was introduced by the ALP Minister for the Environment, whose passion for environmental causes goes way back to his days as lead singer for the band Midnight Oil.

As the Labor Party is the majority party in the Parliament itís extremely likely that this legislation will pass. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises According to Minister Garrett the legislation would:

-offically recognize the World Heritage status of the Great Barrier Reef

-apply a new streamlined environmental impact assessment process

-have an improved enforcement and compliance regime providing a wider range of enforcement options tailored to the circumstances, and

-address gaps in emergency management

We have yet to see a copy of this legislation. From my years living in the United States and recent experience there with wonderfully titled environmental legislation (like the "Clear Skies" Initiative) that does exactly the opposite of what it implies I am a bit skeptical, especially when I read about "streamlined" regulatory processes that apply to environmental legislation.

To be fair and honest though, the ALP has not just talked the talk, but they have acted in the best interest of the Great Barrier Reef at every opportunity. In just a few months since taking office the current Australian government has signed on to the Kyoto protocol, made global warming a priority (and backed it with significantly increased funding) and taken many other progressive approaches, all just in the few months since the last election that gave the ALP the controlling interest in government. Given this track record we will commend this legislative effort, but still look forward to reading all the details!

The Australian Labor Partyís news release on this legislation.

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as† many other local sources in the dive community.

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