China's illegal trade sanctions have had a major impact on our agricultural and resource exports since the coronavirus escaped from Wuhan. China is now targeting our tourism exports too, and specifically the Great Barrier Reef.
In two weeks, 21 countries will meet (online) for a conference hosted in Fuzhou, China, which could have a major impact on our economy. In draft documents prepared for the 44th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), it is recommended that the Great Barrier Reef be placed on the "in danger" list.
Listing the reef as "in danger" would damage the Reef's reputation as a tourist destination and it would threaten even more regulation as governments respond, however corrupt that process was.
UNESCO's 21 member countries elected China as the Chair at their last meeting in Azerbaijan in 2019. Of the 21 member countries, 14 of them have signed up to China's Belt and Road Initiative. They include such examples of good governance as Cuba and Zimbabwe.
The decisions of this committee should not be given any respect. Very few of the 21 countries have an environmental record anywhere near Australia's. It is completely hypocritical for China to express crocodile tears over the reef when it is illegally building militarised atolls in the South China Sea with no approval at all, let alone an environmental impact statement.
But, unfortunately, we only have ourselves to blame for this draft decision. The Australian Government has responded by saying that UNESCO should visit the reef before making conclusions. In fairness to UNESCO, they really do not need to given the inaccurate descriptions of doom about the reef that Australian governments have produced over many years.
UNESCO uses Australian Government reports to conclude that the reef is in danger: "An assessment of progress towards achieving the targets of the Reef 2050 Plan notes that while some of them are being met, significant improvements will be required to meet other targets, including those for biodiversity and water quality." Indeed, UNESCO themselves told *The Guardian* newspaper that its decision is based on official government reports on water quality, including from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
We have made a rod for own back. The water quality targets set by the Queensland and Australian Governments are arbitrary and were always unattainable. They are based on the view that farmers are fundamentally inefficient and let lots of valuable sediment and fertilisers just wash off their properties. If that's your view saving the reef is easy just pass laws that force farmers to be "efficient".
The assumption is the cause of this stuff up. People who actually know farmers know that most of them don't just sit on their porch and watch their farms wash away. They already have invested in ways to reduce run off, not necessarily to protect the reef, but to protect their bottom line. Soil is valuable and fertiliser is expensive.
So while the regulators have been confused about why their new laws haven't reduced sediment and nitrogen run-off, others with on the ground knowledge were predicting this all along. Now our failure to achieve the targets is boomeranging on us and being used by our enemies to embarrass us.
By some with a deficient use of logic, the failure of regulation to work justifies even more regulations. This just confirms the conclusion that government is the only organisation where failure guarantees future success - at least in terms of acquiring more power to fail again.
While that is the most likely outcome, those of us that live in North Queensland should fight to take back our right to manage the reef. The regulatory failures are a consequence of the Ministers in the Queensland and Federal Governments being managed by people who don't live anywhere near the reef. Things would become much worse if we let UNESCO run the reef from Paris. Let's instead return control to the locals who know best.