From the DEA Queensland medical students
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) is an independent, self-funded, non-governmental organisation of medical doctors and medical students in all Australian States and Territories. Our members work across all specialties in community, hospital and private practice. We work to minimise the public health impacts and address the diseases caused by damage to our natural environment.
Queensland currently has a number of interrelated policies which collectively are damaging to its environment and to the health of Queenslanders. These policies call into question the ability of successive Queensland governments to provide a sustainable future for the state.
These policies are unconscionable given Queensland’s many natural advantages: sustainable tourism provided by the Great Barrier Reef and Tropical Rainforest; climatic advantages for sustainable and productive agriculture; an excellent educational system providing the state opportunities for employment in innovative technology and sustainable clean industry.
These advantages contrast with policies which have rendered Queensland as one of the highest emitters of greenhouse emissions in the world. Furthermore, Queensland is intent on exporting coal, which is the primary cause of air pollution as well as world greenhouse emissions. Further, these policies contrast in principle with Queensland’s own plan for 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
In promoting the Carmichael mine for its jobs, the Queensland government and opposition emphasise their own past failures and current inability to create sustainable employment in a state which has so many advantages. As doctors we have no doubt that unemployment bestows ill-heath on the unemployed and their families, but surely one ambition must be to export renewable energy technology to India, a country that is terribly burdened by the health effects of air pollution.
Enlightened societies hold to two important premises; that health and the environment are indivisible and that governments must adopt health in all policies, as enunciated by the World Health Organisation. It is on this basis that we now ask all elected representative to work towards the following goals:
1. Preservation of the Great Barrier Reef
The reef is World Heritage listed and, as such, is entrusted to Queensland by the world. Furthermore, the Deloitte Access Economics report indicates that the reef underpins 64,000 jobs in tourism-related industry and fishing and contributes A$56bn to the economy each year. Its loss will be devastating. Yet, as scientists as well as doctors, we recognise that the chances of the reef surviving are already small. Queensland Governments have been in a state of denial, a common human position in the face of threatened calamity. Nevertheless the facts must be accepted and a huge effort made to arrest injurious factors. There are three: land clearing, harmful consequences of mining, and greenhouse emissions.
In recent years, while most states were reducing land clearing, some even achieving net increases in forest cover, 90 per cent of Australia’s land use emissions from clearing occurred in Queensland – an issue of national and international importance.
Land clearing rates in Queensland have tripled since 2010. The State-wide Land Cover and Trees Study (SLATS) for 2012-2014 showed that the annual rate of clearing increased from 153,638 hectares per year to almost 300,000 hectares per year in the 2013-14 financial year. SLATS data have shown land clearing in Queensland is now releasing more stored carbon into the planet’s atmosphere than at any time in the past eight years, almost 36 million tonnes each year. https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/land/vegetation/mapping/slats
One of Queensland’s most distinguished researchers, Bill Laurance, asks
“How did we get to a situation where land clearing rates in a country like Australia – wealthy, developed and once a global conservation leader – are increasing, rather than declining?”
Current practices are also harmful to sustainable agriculture, as recognised by modern sustainability practice. DEA’s submission on the health implications of agricultural practice is at https://www.dea.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Action-on-the-land-submission-04-17.pdf
A number of remediable contributors currently harming the Reef include: run-off from mines, port development, shipping movement and direct coal-particle pollution of the reef.
Science indicates that a rise in ocean temperature remains the most damaging consequence and it is incongruous that Queensland has done so little about its greenhouse emissions (discussed further in point 2).
We ask all candidates to:
- develop an understanding of the scientific causes of the demise of the Reef and work towards correcting them
- oppose further land clearing and provide more support for farming communities to modernise land practices and to become more sustainable
2. The rapid phase-out of fossil fuel mining
The continued development of coal mines flies in the face of evidence about the dominant contribution of coal to global warming. As now outlined, current policies
- enable one of these mines, Adani, to use 0.6% of the world’s remaining carbon budget and if this mine was a country, it would be number 38 in emission-production by all world countries
- disregard the pleas of Pacific neighbours facing inundation from sea-level rise
- bring criticism from many governments and mainstream media in many developed countries
- are damaging to the image and standing of Queensland
- negate Australia’s ability to operate in the world as an esteemed citizen
- damage the environment and health of Queenslanders
- are a significant factor damaging the Great Barrier Reef
- are a factor in the more extreme weather events damaging Queensland’s own economy
- provide insecure investments, for the lifetime of coal will be curtailed when international communities becomes serious about a 2 degree target
- deflects finance from technologically-advanced projects which could provide a sustainable future for Queenslanders
The policies of successive Queensland governments have promoted these harmful consequences.
We ask all candidates to:
- understand the science and consequences of these policies for Queensland and the world
- recognise that employment in this dirty industry provides only meagre numbers of jobs compared with the number of potential lost jobs if the Reef dies
- recognise the advantages in the technological renewable energy industry
- visit Port Augusta SA where over five years the closure of a coal mine and coal power station has produced a healthier town, increased employment with solar thermal, pumped hydro, battery storage and many other satellite developments all lessons for Queensland
DEA has a fact sheet on Health and the Adani mine:
And a fact sheet on the health implications of climate change:
DEA has made a submission to the Queensland government on climate change:
3. The reform of Queensland regulatory processes
The recurrence of black-lung disease in Queensland coal-workers was a shock to the Australian community and a black mark for government regulation. However, it served to highlight the many other regulatory failures in Queensland which are harming community health.
In 2014 DEA submitted detail of poor regulation in relation to unconventional gas development which had the potential to harm the health of the communities in the Tara gasfields
Since then these have been numerous examples of poor regulation including
- Failure to regulate over 5 years air-pollution and water-consumption and other public health hazards at the New Acland coal mine – condemned in a judgement before the Land Court https://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2017/QLC17-024.pdf
- Failure to regulate and monitor Underground Coal Gasification development to the detriment of health of workers http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-09/flammable-levels-hydrogen-found-near-queensland-gas-plant/8256808
- Failure to make appropriate decisions on the water allocations for the Carmichael coal mine https://www.dea.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/DEA-Adani-Long-Fact-Sheet_final.pdf
We ask all candidates to:
- commit to reform by working for an independent review of environmental health processes in Queensland
- work for the reintroduction of an effective, transparent Environmental Protection Authority using the recent reform in Victoria as a model
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