On the dubious basis that "Mr Katter insists there is no safe harbour for boaties between Cairns and Townsville", Wayne Swan has apparently bypassed all state and commonwealth legal, planning and approval processes.
He has given away $5.5m of Australian taxpayers' money for a boat harbour which can never be all-weather safe, on the cyclone-exposed Clump Point on the Cassowary Coast, a development idea for which there is not even an application.
And all of this is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) and Marine Park (GBRMP), the greatest coral reef system on earth. Queensland's coastal developments have already resulted in the threat of this international treasure being put on the World Heritage in Danger list.
The UNESCO is examining, right now, the processes by which coastal development decisions are made. The Government response (State Parties Report on the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area) says:
Both the Queensland and Australian governments have rigorous development assessment processes embedded in legislation that already takes into account world heritage values.
Mr Swan has just provided a brand new example of "rigorous assessment" Australia-style when it comes to protecting the integrity and Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the GBRWHA and of the adjacent Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
Despite the sensitivity of the region and international scrutiny, Mr. Swan has preempted the proper decision of the Commonwealth Environment Minister, who must decide whether or not to grant a Consent (under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act) for activities impacting on Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES).
This is essentially what John Howard and Tim Fischer (then PM and Deputy PM) did in 1996, when they forced the hand of the then Commonwealth Environment Minister (Senator Robert Hill), resulting in a Consent for the disastrously unsafe "Port Hinchinbrook" canal estate, also on the Cassowary coast. The published reports about severe siltation, and environmentalists' warnings, were all ignored: now purchasers and developers alike wants us, the public, to subsidise their bad business decisions.
As for safe harbour: in terms of cyclones, there can be no guarantee of safety, because the storm "surge" can lift the sea by 6 or 7 metres (as at Cardwell) and carry destructive waves of a further 10 metres height over any sea wall. As boatie Margaret Moorhouse said "When it comes to the common (non-cyclonic) gale force winds, boats may be able to be moved within a walled harbour, but where will they go then? outside into strong winds and high seas?"
"The safest shelter on the Cassowary Coast is the Hinchinbrook Channel, in which experienced boaties have always sheltered safely - without any need for construction. Land-locked Mourilyan Harbour, the Hull and other rivers and mangrove creeks, also provide cyclone shelter."
One can only speculate as to the reasons Mr Swan fell for Mr. Katter's line. We await with eager anticipation a logical explanation for his actions.
CONTACT: Margaret Moorhouse 0427 724 052 firstname.lastname@example.org