2022 Election - Key Policy Asks

Protecting Australia’s oceans and the 2022 Federal Election: the commitments we are seeking

Australia’s oceans are the most biodiverse on the planet, and we are custodians of some of the world’s most important marine ecosystems, including the Great Barrier Reef. Their health is also essential to our economy and our way of life.

However, as reefs on our eastern and western shores bleach because of global heating, it is clear that this election is critical for the future of Australia’s oceans and climate.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is a leading national environmental organisation with 300,000 supporters across the country. We’ve strived for 55 years to protect Australia’s oceans for the sake of current and future generations.

For the 2022 Federal Election, we are working hand in hand with our supporters to ensure all political candidates and parties commit to delivering the key priorities our reefs and oceans need (see below). The protection of our oceans is a high priority for Australians, and political leaders must demonstrate they will act.


1. Protect our Reef and oceans from global warming by delivering a ‘Reef-safe’ climate policy

Climate change is the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef, and Australia isn’t doing its part to reduce emissions. Scientists have determined that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is a critical threshold for the future of all reefs, and the World Heritage Committee is calling on Australia to do more, faster to address the threat.

The next Australian Government must:

  • Rapidly develop and implement a national Climate Action Plan that puts Australia on a 1.5oC compatible pathway.
  • Deliver 100% renewable electricity by 2030.
  • Set a stronger emission reduction target of 75% reduction by 2030.
  • Commit to immediately ending the public funding and subsidies of coal, oil and gas.
  • Commit to no further approval of fossil fuel infrastructure; no new thermal coal, oil or gas. projects.


2. Clean up water pollution of the Great Barrier Reef

Poor water quality, driven by sediment and nutrient pollution in agricultural runoff,  is a major threat to our World Heritage listed Reef.  The clearing of native vegetation in Reef catchments exacerbates the problem.

Funding to tackle poor water quality still falls short of the estimated $4 billion needed, and on ground actions to reduce water pollution have been too slow to meet the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2025 targets.

The next Australian Government must:

  • Commit $500 million, in coordination with the Queensland Government, to meet the 2025 water quality targets
  • Commit $500 million for targeted Reef catchment restoration
  • Commit to ending land clearing in Reef catchments by 2026.


3. Protect endangered wildlife from the impacts of fishing and improve fisheries sustainability

Australia’s fisheries operate in the most biodiverse waters on the planet which are home to globally significant populations of endangered and protected species, such as turtles, dolphins, sawfish, seabirds and species of sharks and rays found nowhere else on earth. Commercial fishing is the most immediate threat to many of these species, with certain types of fishing, such as gillnets, posing a significant risk to marine life and fish stocks. Improved, independent monitoring is needed to ensure that commercial fisheries are sustainably managed and following best practice.

The next Australian Government must:

  • Ensure independent monitoring of commercial fisheries.
  • Deliver a $40m funding package to protect endangered species from Great Barrier Reef fishing operations, including removing industrial gillnetting.
  • Ensure the protection of unique sharks, skates and rays across eastern Australia through spatial closures and improved transparency and accountability in commercial fishing.


4. Be a leader in establishing and managing marine protected areas at home and internationally

Marine protected areas are the backbone of ocean conservation efforts, protecting and recovering biodiversity while building resilience to climate and other impacts. Australia has made good progress towards establishing a robust nationwide network of MPAs but  continued progress is needed to meet scientific targets.

The next Australian Government must:

  • Ensure Australia champions international efforts to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030.
  • Deliver an effective review of the South-east region MPA network.
  • Play a leadership role internationally.
  • Ensure Australia finalises a Sustainable Oceans Plan by 2025.


5. Tackle plastic pollution of our oceans

Plastic pollution is devastating to our coasts and seas, inflicting a huge toll on marine wildlife. An estimated 130,000 tonnes of Australia’s plastic waste leaks into the natural environment every year, entangling, suffocating and starving our turtles, whales and seabirds. So much plastic is entering our oceans, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

The next Australian Government must:

  • Commit to a national 70% plastic pollution reduction target.
  • Make the 2025 National Packaging Targets mandatory.
  • Set compulsory national standards for compostable packaging, banning all biodegradable products that are not compliant with composting standards.


6. Protect Exmouth Gulf, Ningaloo, from industrial development and support a positive, sustainable vision for the area

Exmouth Gulf is a globally unique ecosystem, with strong ecological links with the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area. It is a stronghold for threatened species, including manta rays, dugongs, turtles and sawfish, and an important area for one of the world’s largest humpback whale populations.However, Exmouth Gulf is under threat from industrialisation and the opportunity must be taken to protect its unique natural, cultural and social values..

The next Australian Government must:

  • Facilitate economic opportunities that are compatible with the area’s values, and not support industrialisation in Exmouth Gulf.
  • Support and establish a clear process to deliver National and World Heritage listing for Exmouth Gulf.
  • Boost funding for natural resource management initiatives including for joint management with First Nations people, and natural and cultural heritage assessments.


7. Reform the laws that protect Australia’s oceans and environment

The existing Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act is failing to address the threats to Australia’s ocean and terrestrial environments. If reforms to the Act are not progressed, and further funding for the departments and agencies charged with protecting our environment not secured, then Australia’s natural heritage will continue to decline and the biodiversity crisis will continue unabated.

The next Australian Government must:

  • Reform the EPBC Act to ensure the protection and restoration of Australia’s nationally threatened Ocean ecosystems.
  • Create an independent and well resourced national Environment Assurance Commission to audit performance and oversee implementation of national environmental standards.
  • Create an independent compliance regulator to safeguard Australia’s environment.
  • Boost funding for the Environment Department and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.


8. Protect our oceans from offshore oil and gas developments

Offshore oil and gas development threatens the marine environment through exploration (including seismic testing), building of infrastructure, shipping, the failure to adequately maintain and decommission facilities and oil spills. In addition, carbon emissions from the production, processing and burning of these fossil fuels drive ocean warming and acidification.

The next Australian Government must:

  • Immediately rule out all new offshore oil and gas exploration and development from marine parks and critical habitats for ocean wildlife.
  • Develop strong laws around maintenance and decommissioning of offshore oil and gas facilities, to protect marine life and ensure fossil fuel companies are responsible for all costs.
  • Ensure all new MPAs are zoned to exclude oil and gas exploration, to align with the existing provisions of the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks.


What Ocean Protection Policies Have Parties Committed To?

AMCS has written to the main parties to let them know what’s needed to protect our oceans and marine wildlife in the next term of government, and to seek their commitments. We have independently assessed each party’s position based on their responses, published policies, statements and election announcements. Read our assessment here.


Authorised by D. Kindleysides,  4/145 Melbourne Street, South Brisbane, QLD 4101