AFTER a decade saying climate change was the greatest danger to the reef to justify killing coal, the Queensland Labor government now focuses on farm run-off to justify attacks on farmers.

I recently called on both the Premier and the Prime Minister to withdraw funds from the Reef 2050 Water Quality program and use the money to support the farmers trying to rebuild the Queensland economy. I was surprised to get a letter from the Premier saying run-off was one of the greatest threats to the reef when we have been told for years the biggest threats all came from climate change caused by coal mining, including warmer seas, higher sea levels, acidic oceans, and (first more and then fewer, but more intense) cyclones. They have changed the scientific “consensus” story because they need to pivot and start attacking a different part of the community.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, in her letter rejecting calls to redirect Reef 2050 funding, said the “Queensland Government accepts the established scientific consensus that land run-off is one of the greatest threats to the GBR”. But last week in Mackay, I met with leading reef scientist, Dr Peter Ridd, who not only rejected the notion of science by consensus but also refuted claims about run-off affecting the reef.

“My group took more measurements of sediment on the reef than any other group, put together, it does not get out to the reef, except for once or twice every decade or so,” Dr Ridd said. “They claim that the fertiliser causes Crown of Thorns starfish outbreaks, but a lot of this evidence is highly dubious. The most distant reefs, which are the Swains Reefs, which are a couple of hundred kilometres off here, that’s the area where there has been the most persistent Crown of Thorns starfish outbreak yet it’s the furthest away from the affected run-off. And in Western Australia, where there is no agriculture, there are Crown of Thorns outbreaks. So this idea that the run-off is killing the reef is just completely ridiculous and, actually, when you look at the data, the coral growth rates have not changed in the last 400 years. We know that because coral grows like tree rings and you can drill holes in them and you can go back with these really great big corals you can find out what they were doing many hundreds of years ago. There has been no change in growth rates since agriculture started on this coast. If farmers were putting all this poison into the water, the growth rate should reduce. They’re not reducing.”

By diverting money to fight an ideological war against a problem that doesn’t exist, the focus was shifted from the real environmental threats faced by farmers and the wider community. The major parties, at both levels of government, are spending taxpayer money on this ideological attack on farmers when they could be funding the fight against real environmental threats such as Giant Rat’s Tail Grass and lantana.

We have a wide variety of feral animals and noxious weeds having a direct impact on the environment, on farmers, production, and our economy, but it seems the socialist agenda of demonising farmers is the vote winner in the south-east corner. The majority of the population and votes is in the south-east corner where people are very insulated from the real world and the economies that drive the state. But if, heaven forbid, the socialist agenda was ultimately successful, there would be no mining royalties to build their tunnels, there would be no food on their tables, and there would be no clothes in their walk-in-robes.

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