Australian PM pledges A$1 billion to help ailing Great Barrier Reef

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, facing a tight re-election battle, pledged a A$1 billion ($738 million) fund for the Great Barrier Reef, where scientists say mass coral bleaching has destroyed vast tracts of the World Heritage site. Turnbull, on the campaign trail for the July 2 election in tropical northern Queensland state, the usual jumping-off point for tourists going to the reef, said he would instruct Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to redirect A$1 billion of its A$10 billion fund. The money would go to a loans scheme aimed at reducing the agricultural and waste water run-off that is diminishing the reef’s ability to withstand rising sea temperatures.

Malcolm Turnbull is misleading Queenslanders and other Australians in saying he’s providing any additional funding to the Great Barrier Reef at a time of great crisis.

Labor’s environment spokesman, Mark Butler

A report last month said mass coral bleaching, caused by climate change, had destroyed at least 35 per cent of the northern and central Great Barrier Reef and that the coral mortality rate would likely rise. The report cast a shadow over the long-term prospects for the reef, which attracts about A$5 billion ($3.7 billion) in tourism each year. Pollution from water-borne fertiliser and nutrient-rich run-off limits the ability of corals to withstand higher sea temperatures associated with cyclical El Nino weather events and global warming. Bleaching occurs when the water is too warm, forcing coral to expel living algae and calcify.