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Townsville’s bishops call for protection of Galilee Basin in joint pastoral statement

Concern: The impending loss of the Great Barrier Reef “with back-to-back yearly coral bleaching across two-thirds of its length” is worrying for bishops in Townsville.

CATHOLIC and Anglican bishops in Townsville have criticised the dangers of  “projected mega-mining developments across Queensland, especially the Galilee Basin”, and environmental damage being inflicted on the Great Barrier Reef and the water resources of the Artesian Basin.

“As Christians and people of the world, every one of us has been called to care for the gift of creation both today and for future generations,” Townsville Bishop Tim Harris and Anglican Bishop of North Queensland William Ray said in a joint statement issued through their parishes.

“For Christians, this care for our common home, is not an optional or secondary aspect of our daily living, rather it is ‘an essential part of our faith’.”

The joint statement adds weight to debate in North Queensland, where the community is already divided over the $16.5 billion Adani coal mine proposed for the Galilee Basin.

Both State and Federal governments support the mega-mine, and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has been heckled on the state election campaign trail over her backing of the project.

Both Labor and the LNP back the Adani mega-mine.

The Premier said she was committed to renewable energy as well as supporting mine workers who were desperate for the promised jobs from the Adani mine.

In their joint statement, the Townsville-based bishops cited Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, in which he said “the Earth, our home, is beginning to look … like an immense pile of filth”.

They did not name the Adani mine – their concern for environmental and social stewardship stretches wider than that.

“We … as bishops in North Queensland, have concerns about many global and local issues that are impacting negatively on our environment and which require greater dialogue, examination, prayer and action,” they wrote.

However they did warn against “projected mega-mining developments across Queensland, especially the Galilee Basin”, adding that such projects sought to exploit a “coal resource for all ages”.

They expressed their support for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, the state’s forests, groundwater and the well-being of people.

They lamented the “impending loss of the Reef with back-to-back yearly coral bleaching across two-thirds of its length”.

“Continuing toxic run-off from land holdings, increasing ocean temperatures, regular monsoonal failures, a prospective wholesale increase of freighter traffic, the loss of marine diversity and extensive marine pollution are accelerating reef deterioration,” they said.

They are critical of “big business”, the maximising of profits and shareholder dividends, and they stand instead alongside “greenies”, “leftists”, scientists, “First Australians” and employees in need of permanency.

“We are concerned with the escalating gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’

across North Queensland which we believe leads to extreme political stances in our

communities and result in less community harmony, justice and peace,” they wrote.

“Other issues of concern are the significant increase in lung disease with local coal mine employees and the one-third increase in land-clearing across the state.

“We applaud those in our communities who have responded already to the many serious issues that our ‘Common Home’ faces; those who undertake their stewardship seriously day by day. You are making a difference.

“We see families and individuals living more sustainably, businesses with ‘common good’ ethical practices, fishermen, farmers and pastoralists who have changed old practices and really care for their, and our, land and seascapes.”

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