On March 18, 2022, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) confirmed on that there had been severe and widespread bleaching to 60 per cent of the corals along a 500-kilometre stretch of Great Barrier Reef.

This was the fourth mass bleaching event to occur in the past 6 years and the first mass bleaching event to occur during a La Nina weather event which is typically cooler than average.

But the devil is in the details. How much coral bleached, which reefs bleached and how much coral mortality occurred? This information is important for determining the future health of the various reefs and the likelihood of their survival in future bleaching events.

Where are the details?

The Reef Summer Snapshot 2021-22 is the official GBRMPA report released annually that summarises how the reef has fared over summer and was due to be released several weeks ago but has been delayed.

Why has it been delayed?

A GBRMPA spokesman said the report had been delayed and “it’s not likely to go out now until after the election”.

A very unsatisfactory answer that actually raises more questions than it answers.

Professor Terry Hughes, the founding director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, commented; “They have clearly made the decision to hold on to that information, which is disappointing,” Hughes said. “Should they have the map out by now? The answer is yes. What’s the benefit of hiding it?”

The Coalition has also been criticised for not releasing another major study, the State of the Environment report, until after the election. Environment Minister Sussan Ley said she would comply with the statutory requirement, which, (surprise, surprise) allowed her to hold off publishing it until after the election.

Here is the scary bit.

There seems to be a pattern here. In both cases, the government is withholding bad news regarding the environment from the Australian people. In both cases, the bad news strongly reflects on the government’s inaction to protect the environment. In both cases, the withheld information would influence the outcome of the federal election.

Politics is a dirty game, especially when it used to compromise the future of the Great Barrier Reef.

Main photo supplied by Greenpeace