Monday, 18 June 2012

ANU delegation condemns Opposition party from preventing Environment Minister from Attending Rio+20

By Julie Melrose 

The ANU Rio+20 delegation is outraged at the news from home that the Coalition party in opposition has prevented our Environment Minister Tony Burke from attending the historic Rio+20 conference in which Ministers and world leaders from around the world are meeting to discuss a way forward for humanity. 

The Coalition has refused to grant Burke leave from Parliament until after Question Time on Tuesday, demanding that he stays in Australia to explain his expansion of marine parks plan - which, by the way, has been hailed in Rio+20 as a major mark of leadership on global oceans policy and is being used as an example of decisive national leadership. Oceans make up 71% of the earth. We are planet ocean. This is a crucial global issue that requires the sort of action announced by Burke. 

I attended a side event by the Global Alliance on Marine Protection yesterday at the Rio+20 Conference - where the Zoological Society of London and the Pew Environment Institute presented an overview of the state of the oceans, and why marine protected areas are so important. There will be more on oceans from me to come, but the scientific evidence and research is resoundingly clear on two things. First, that over 80% of the world's oceans are exploited, depleted or depleting, and this has happened in the last 80 years - one lifetime. Second, marine protected areas are scientifically proven as effective in boosting environmental wellbeing of the oceans as well as boosting fish stocks and thus contributing to the economy and the production of food. There's a short explanation for you, Tony. 

Every time I have felt inspired and motivated and moved by the magnitude of the occasion that is Rio+20 (which certainly has its faults/many challenges/political hurdles), I have felt sad to think that we have an opposition that might gain government next year, who just would not fit in here with the international community. Their ideas and policies are backward and negative and lack the vision and inspiration we expect and we DEMAND from our leaders at this point of crisis we now face in the context of environmental degradation. Where is Tony Abbott's vision for our future and our children's future? 

Today I also attended the UNEP World Congress on Law, Governance and Development, at the Supreme Court of Rio de Janeiro, where Chief Justices from around the world have come together to talk about their role in sustainable development and how the judiciary must start to act and implement environmental norms and principles where legislators have failed to do so. It was an incredibly inspiring occasion and a moment where I regained hope for change, seeing so many committed individuals in the one room ready to start an important conversation. 

Then I felt despair and shame once I heard of the coalition preventing Minister Burke from attending Rio. 

The ANU Delegation to Rio+20 condemns this behaviour and calls on the Parliament to grant Minister Burke a pair to attend Rio immediately. This is not a time for partisan politics. This is a time for united leadership and a vision for the future that goes beyond next years election. 

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