The Australian Greens today called for changes to prohibit people with coal and gas interests from sitting on the Great Barrier Reef's management board, and backed calls for the Abbott Government to pause port approvals until the inquiry into conflicts of interest is completed.
"Big coal and gas should get their hands off the Reef, and off the Reef's management board," Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said.
"While we welcome Minister's inquiry into these alarming allegations of conflict of interest, clearly our conflict of interest laws are not strong enough, or are being flouted, and they need to be changed. Anyone with coal and gas interests should simply be precluded from serving on the board of management for the Great Barrier Reef.
"Moreover, port approvals should be put on hold while this conflict of interest inquiry is undertaken, so there can be no taint of improper influence over decisions.
"Minister Hunt is at Abbot Point today where he is expected to make a decision on Gina Rinehart's Kevin's Corner mine, which would be a disaster for the climate and the Great Barrier Reef if approved.
"If the Abbott Government ticks off on this mega coal mine for Gina Rinehart, it will be granting de facto approval of the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion, which would see 3 million cubic metres of seabed dredged and dumped offshore, treating the Reef like a rubbish tip and shipping super highway for the big miners.
"With allegations that mining interests have significant weight on the GBRMPA Board, the Abbott Government cannot simply tick off on the mining magnates' wishes to turn the Reef into a dumping ground for dredge spoil and a shipping super highway, without first getting to the bottom of these allegations undermining the independence of the statutory authority charged with protecting the Reef.
"It's an international embarrassment that mining interests are allegedly influencing the GBRMPA board, while UNESCO is warning that the Great Barrier Reef could be added to the World Heritage list of sites in danger within a year," Senator Waters said.