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(generated from captions) That's the latest from the Canberra newsroom. Coming up on 7.30 with Leigh Sales, mining versus tourism, is the Great Barrier Reef under threat? I'm Virginia Haussegger and I will be back with a news update in about an hour. Until then, goodnight. Captions by CSI Australia

This Program is Captioned Live.Welcome to 7:30. Tonight - reef row, is a conflict of interest threatening the great barreer reef? Tony Mooney gets paid up to $250,000 a year to manage stakeholders for a coal company. I'm sure it's much easier to manage a stakeholder like the Marine Park Authority if you sit directly on the board.Australia's troops in Afghanistan will be home by Christmas but was it worth being there at all? In my opinion if we'd pulled out 3 or 4 years ago yes, now I don't think so.And where's Ricky? The Motoring Enthusiasts Party wants to know where its senator is.I've invited him around for a drink just to see how he's going and seeing if he's doing OK and there's been nothing.What's going on? Who knows, that's what we're here to find out tonight. Australia's most loved environmental asset, the Great Barrier Reef, has faced many threats over the years. Everything from marine pollution to predatory starfish have endangered the world heritage listed site. Now massive port development s and dredging are fueling concerns and UNESCO is considering listing the reef as in danger. Against this backdrop 7:30 has learned of disturbing accusations about the body charged with protecting the reef, the Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Our investigation has revealed two of the Authority's board members have links to mining and resources companies that could benefit from port developments. They also have links to the family of infamous NSW politician Eddie Obeid who is currently facing another corruption inquiry.At the same time, the authority board is accused of watering down its policy on protecting the reef against such developments. Conor Duffy has this exclusive report.Clearwaters, diving and famed white sands make the Whitsunday Islands a paradise for visitors from all around the world.Dive master Tony Fonz was one of them. He came for a 2-week holiday 30 years ago.I discovered the Great Barrier Reef. It was really quite simple. I left California in 1978, I had plans to travel the world as a backpacking dive instructor. Once I hit Australia that was the end of my plans and I've been here since.Today he's heading to Manta Ray Bay for a dive spot that's one of the best in the Whitsundays.Well, my favourite of the corals but your favourite is going to be the fish and you're going to meet a fish which is just about as big as you are but very friendly. Very friendly.In this underwater world the fish wait to catch the eye and the feeds. There's coral as big as a house, the colours are rich and varied and with so many fish to go with the coral Manta Ray Bay is one of the best dives in one of the wonders of the world. But Tony Fontes fears this is at risk from developments up and down the Queensland coast. Dgets we've got Abbott Point to the north which is quite small at the moment but if it goes ahead as planned lit be the largest coal export port on the planet and if Mackay goes ahead it will be the second biggest port coal on the planet and the Whitsundays lie in the middle. Just 50 kilometres north of here at Abbott Point, plans are under way to build the world's biggest coal port with a final decision due in mid December. If the Federal Minister approves it, 3 million cubic metres of mud will be dredged up, then dumped in the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area.This is the spot along the reef that's closest to the port and of course I worry. I worry for the entire Great Barrier Reef but the Whitsundays is the jewel in the crown so with ports north and south we're kind of in the middle of a hard spot.Charter boat operators are among a growing number of tourism businesses pushing back against the dredged dumping plans. There are fears the plumes from the dredging will travel here, muddying the famously Clearwaters and even damaging reefs.Charter boat veteran Tony Brown is organising a coalition of local businesses and is meeting with the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt tomorrow.Let's have a look at other options out there. Do we need to really dump the spoil in the Barrier Reef? Is it that necessary or is this just an economics that means it's a cheapest option and we can just go ahead and do this and forget about it?The company building Abbott Point, North Queensland Bulk Ports, says a 2-year assessment shows the impact from the dredge will be limited. But another report commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and disputed by the port, found the pollution can travel much further than previously thought.Nobody knows the impact. They did some dredging in Gladstone, as many people are aware, based on science and the science was wrong. It has been a total disaster.Save our reef!The debate is playing out up and down the cities hugging the Barrier Reef coast with dredging and massive port expansions planned in Gladstone, Mackay, Abbott Point, Townsville and Cairns, that will mean big dumps of contaminated mud throughout the world heritage area.Looking at Townsville 5.6 million cubic metres, we're looking at Abbott Point of 3 million cubic meters, Gladstone 12 million cubic metres, Cairns looking at 5 million cubic metres.Last year dredging at Gladstone was blamed by local fishermen for a mass fish kill, though the port's operators dispute that.When you look at Gladstone what happened down there, no-one really knows what's created their problems. But we sure as hell don't want to have that issue happening here and that would be just devastating.The body that has the job of protecting the reef is the Federal Government's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. It's headed by a 5-person board but environmentalists are now accusing two of those board members of having a conflict of interest. The first is Queensland's top public servant John Grayson who represents the State Government on the board. He owns a one sixth share of a company called Gasfields Water and Waste Services founded in June this year.This particular company stands to profit from the growth of the gas industry and the gas industry in order to expand wants to have massive new developments, particularly in Gladstone. So we think that there are questions about whether Mr Grayson would benefit from the expansion of gas ports in Gladstone.Until two months ago one of the 5 other shares in Gasfield Water was owned by Eddie Obeid Jr, the son of notorious former NSW minister Eddie Obeid who was found to have acted corruptly in other mining deals.Eddie Obeid Jr sold his stake in August.Just up here in Townsville with Tony Mooney, a terrific candidate in this area.The other Marine Park Authority board member in the sights of environmentalists is former Labor candidate Tony Mooney who unsuccessfully ran for Federal Parliament in 2010. He was also Labor mayor of Townsville for 19 years and was appointed to the marine park Board by the Gillard Government in 2011.And I've got the experience to deliver. Queensland electoral records show he received a $5,000 donation for his 2010 campaign from the Obeid Corporation.Mr Mooney's day job is here at Guildford Cole where he's a mining executive paid $250,000 as manager of stakeholder relations. The company plans to run 6 coal mines in Queensland. A Townsville port wants to break into the billion dollar coal industry...Guildford Coal helped fund a feasibility study into the Townsville port expansion signing a memorandum of understanding with the port.Tony Mooney gets paid up to $250,000 a year to manage stakeholders for a coal company. I'm sure it's a lot easier to manage a stakeholder like the Marine Park Authority if you sit directly on the board.Tony Mooney denies there's a conflict of interest but told us he declared his employment with Guildford. The company's website still trumpets the port memorandum and also has this quote from Mr Mooney from a mining industry publication. In March last year the Great Barrier Reef board held a critical meeting in Gladstone. Tony Mooney was one of 5 people present. Their job was to formulate the marine park's position statement on port development. It was to be a crucial document.Before the board was a recommendation from Authority scientists that take a tough line. The draft statement prepared by its experts read:

At the next board meeting, this time in Townsville on September 5, 2012, minutes record the board requested the position statement be changed. Both Tony Mooney and John Grayson took part. The new watered down version dropped the reference to not supporting port expansions and instead said this:

Environmentalists believe that change by the board is crucial and could decide whether a port development is approved or knocked back.The port's position statement will guide the authority in how it applies the rules relating to port development along the coast. So it could make the difference between whether the Authority supports a development or opposes it. There is no indication of the position individual members took but Green peace campaigner Louise Matheson says a number of clauses were weakened and believes both men should resign from the board.I think it would greatly increase the confidence that the Australian public and the international community could have in the management of the reef if these two men stepped aside from the board. The new Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, was not responsible for appointing them, we'd urge him to take a close look at their interests and revisit the decision to have them on the board.After the changes the position statement was approved and sent out for consultation with a request from the board for more extensive consultation with the mining industry. It still hasn't been publicly released. In a statement the Marine Park Authority says board members with different qualifications lead to more robust debates and the changes to the position statement were appropriate. The

John Grayson also declined an on-camera interview but a spokeswoman for the Premier issued this statement to 7:30.

Former Marine Park Authority board member Daniel Gschwind is worried by the weaker position on ports.The is that something that would concern you? Port development is something we can influence. We know from the science which has been very strong over the last few years, over the last couple of decades, very much more supportive of the kind of debates that we're having. We know from that science that one of the great manmade threats to the reef is sedimentation, is water quality.I can remember coming here near 30 years ago and it used to be a really nice dive site. Back in the Whitsundays, Tony Fontes is showing his son Taylor a reef locals believe have been damaged by dredging on a much smaller scale than Abbott Point. They capture footage showing murky water quality and a much diminished dive.Although the dredge spoils were tipped onto land, not into the sea, the disturbance of the seabed loosened up the soil and now, and this was about 2.5, 3 years ago, any time you get, not even a big weather event, just a strong wind you will see the sediment rise up and move jaf shore and some of the nearby islands the visibility has been compromised for the last 3 years from a very small dredging.With major decisions on ports looming up and down the coast, many on both sides are gearing up for a fight that could get dirty.Conor Duffy reporting. Late today a spokesman for the Environment Minister Greg Hunt told 7:30 he's ordered an immediate probity inquiry into Labor's appointment of Tony Mooney to the Marine Park Authority board. Mr Mooney and John Grayson declined to be interviewed as did the Marine Park Authority and port operators, written statements provided to 7:30 will be on our website.In the past 12 years 40 Australian soldiers have given their lives on the battlefields of Afghanistan. These are their names and kounless more have been wounded.By Christmas all Australian troops will finally be out of Afghanistan. An announcement marked today by Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten in Tarin Kowt. But has Australia's involvement been worth the terrible cost? When Australia went to Afghanistan in 2001 it had one purpose, track down the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and decimate Al-Qaeda. Over time the goals of the campaign kept changing, to counter insurgency, to military training, then nation building. Yet all these years later Afghanistan is far from a stable nation and the families of these men have paid a very heavy price for that legacy. Defence correspondent Michael Brissenden accompanied Tony Abbott to Afghanistan and filed this report.

After the first plane hit I just saw a second plane come in from the south and hit the south tower.It began as retribution and revenge for the murderous terrorist attacks on September 2001. I saw the plane hit the building.Thiess acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed.Our country is strong.And even before the war was officially declared, Australia was committed. We haven't been requested to provide any military assistance but obviously if we were asked to help we would.On 7 October, Australia joined the US and other Western countries to hunt down Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in what was called Operation Enduring Freedom. 12 years later the current PM Tony Abbott has flown to Australia's base in the southern province of Oruzgan to bring this long conflict to a symbolic end. This is a bittersweet moment for Australia. Sweet because hundreds of soldiers will be home by Christmas. Bitter because not all Australian families have had their sons, fathers and partners return. Sweet because our soldiers have given a magnificent account of themselves. Bitter because Afghanistan remains a dangerous place despite all that has been done.This area of Oruzgan has been the main focus of Australia's war in Afghanistan. The last troops will leave this base in Tarin Kowt by Christmas. Most of what's left here will be gifted to the Afghan Army but we leave behind more than just infrastructure. We also leave a complicated legacy. One that many can be justly proud of but also one that's been frustrated by the complicated and political realities of a country that has for centuries resisted all efforts to change it or dominate it.Over time, as part of the NATO international security assistance force, Australia's military involvement has developed from the initial mission to hunt down Al-Qaeda through a war against the Taliban, to a more broad nation-building exercise, reconstruction, training and mentoring.In the hope that Afghanistan can be transformed into a more secure, governable place. But as the international forces begin to leave, the judgment from the political leadership they supported has been uncompromisingly tough. On the security front the entire major exercise was one that caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering. And a lot of loss of life. And no gains because the country's not secure.I don't agree with what he said. I don't think it's been pointless. I think we've achieved a lot and he should be perhaps a little bit more gracious about the soldiers and sailors and airmen who have been there and have given their lives for his country and the people of Afghanistan.From 2002 to 2008 Peter Leahy was chief of army, he clearly doesn't agree with the Karzai assessment. But like many he concedes the NATO forces have failed to guarantee a more secure future.I'd like to think that we'd be in a better position now to say well we can leave and the future of Afghanistan is assured and I'm not able to say that right now. I don't think it's assured.And in Oruzgan province this man is one of the reasons why. The local chief of police was named in a 2010 congressional report as one of Afghanistan's most corrupt war lords. He's the most powerful figure in Oruzgan with a private army of more than 2,000 men. Over the years he's earned millions of dollars extorting money from NATO transport convoys. The Dutch took a stand and refused to engage with him but Australia's special forces in particular have worked closely with his militia. We've spent a lot of money. We've thrown a lot of money at people we probably wouldn't have thrown at.For somiers during the campaign John Blaxland was the chief intelligence staff officer at Australia's joint operations command. Afghanistan takes up a good chunk of his just published history of the Australian Army. Khan, he says, was the price we had to pay.Without us making a significant surge in commitment to the place would we have come up with a better option, I'm not sure we could havement - have.The other figure Australia has empowered and enriched is this man, the governor of Oruzgan, a close ally of President Karzai. He as allegedly demanded brooids bribes and is understood to have made millions skimming money off construction projects. He's so rapacious that Australia's biggest aid project in the rooedge has abandoned any attempt of building new infrastructure. The number of schools Australia has built is often lauded but the Save the Children program director said that should not be the real measure of success.A lot of the things that we've built are nothing more than a room and a house or we're refurbishing the local hall, we're training community-based educators and community-midwives. Give the people the skills and that's a far more sustainable solution.The children of Oruzgan program is a $36 million aid project funded by the Australian Government. This is the legacy project for Australia, operating in more than 700 villages. You've gone from 1 million kids in school up to 7 million. We've decreased the number of kids dying before they hit their 5th birthday from 1 in 4 to 1 in 14. We've increased the average life expectancy by over 10 years. They're incredible success stories and I wish more investment had been made in fixing those things because on average we're spending about one fifth of what we're spending on the Defence budget in Afghanistan and I'm not sure we've seen a corresponding return.The Save the Children program is hoping to build a lasting legacy that's not reliant on an ongoing military presence. Frankly no-one is confident predicting what the security situation will be like once the ISAF forces leave.What will emerge after we leave is a state that it's not necessarily Taliban controlled, it probably won't be Taliban controlled. It will certainly be Taliban influenced in large portions of it, particularly in the south.Has it been worth it? In my opinion if we'd pulled out 3 or 4 years ago, yes. Now, I don't think so.The bucolic farming region in Victoria is about as far as you can get from Afghanistan. Leon Gray served 2 tours in Afghanistan. His best mate was one of 40 killed in Afghanistan. He's not confident they can maintain the fragile security.They're working with the Afghan Army and espheshlly Afghan police is very difficult at the best of times. I mean a lot of them were very hard to motivate and there was a lot of corruption going on there.And Leon Gray says he and many of his mates have mixed feelings about what it's all been for.Everyone knows it's going to go back to how it was before we went there in the first place. So what do you say to that? Firstly, no, it wasn't, not playing down our contribution and I know every man and woman I served with is immensely proud of the contributions they made because it's just remarkable, but on the strategic level maybe not.What we've got in Afghanistan is a country that is not wanting to conform to a Western mould and our efforts to squeeze it into that mould have failed.Michael Brissenden with that report.The Motoring Enthusiast Party should be riding high on its unexpected entry into the Senate at the recent federal election. With father of 5 Ricky Muir set to become a senator next July.But since that victory the party has effectively torn itself apart and Ricky Muir is caught in the centre. His Victorian State branch claims he's ignoring them and that the party's been hijacked by its Queensland founders. They're accused of stitching up a deal to lock Ricky Muir into the voting bloc with the Senate team of Clive Palmer. As for Ricky Muir himself, the motoring enthusiast has all but disappeared from sight. National affairs correspondent Heather Ewart reports. We're on the road with the motoring enthusiast Party.A 1966 Mustang is the vehicle of choice on this day for the Victorian branch secretary Peter ka - Kazanzis but he has plenty of others. I have a 1974 Holden Tarana hatchback, I have a 1968 Pontiac Firebird.We're headed for the second ever Victorian branch meeting of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party since it was formed in July just weeks before the election. The party's new Senator-elect, Ricky Muir, has been invited. What do you think? Will he show up? I don't hold high hopes of him showing up, unfortunately. The Victorian branch is at the centre of a power struggle with the Queensland founders of the party over who is pulling the strings. They're furious head office has tried to sack the executive in Ricky Muir's home State and that's why tonight's meeting has been called.What do you think the members are going to decide? There's a lot of emotion around at the moment. Members are angry at the way they have been treated, they're angry at the way that they haven't been informed as to what is going on.Ricky's got a short statement he'd like to read and over to you, Ricky.The ructions came to a head after a deal with Clive Palmer's party was announced almost 5 weeks after the election.I'm happy to report today that I've enlisted the support of 3 Palmer Uniteded senators to support the motoring policies of our party and I'm happy to support them in their policy initiatives.It's the last time anyone in the Victorian branch has sighted Ricky Muir and that was just on their TV screens. As we arrive for the branch meeting, there's no sign of him fronting to explain the deal. His election running mate and close Gippsland neighbour, Craig Gill isn't surprised. He hasn't talked to Ricky Muir since election day.I've sent him personal e-mails, texts, so on and the response has been "Too busy, too busy". That's pretty much it. There's been no response. I've invited him around for a drink just to see how he's going and to see if he's doing OK and there's been nothing. What's going on? Who knows? That's what we're here to find out tonight and try to get a resolution.There's a small roll up , just enough to make a quorum. The organisers blame an e-mail sent by the founder to urge the supporters no t to attend but the show must go on.Good evening, everybody, and thank you for coming. Thank you for coming to find out the truth of what's going on. Those present are told the Queensland founder and his colleagues had no right to sack the Victorian executive.The claim itself is unconstitutional from an AMEP perspective and as a result we still represent the party membership within Victoria.And today we have Mr Palmer answering questions on behalf of the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party. I don't know about you guys and ladies, but I didn't vote for Mr Palmer.The membership vote unanimously against what they call a Queensland takeover and Ricky Muir's deal with the Palmer United Party.OK, that's right.This is a party that's tearing itself apart. Many of Ricky Muir's Victorian colleagues don't like his image of 4-wheel driving and kangaroo poo throwing. Yum, yum.Is Ricky Muir now beyond your control? He was - I don't look to control people. He wasn't actually ever under control. But certainly beyond our influence.I think anybody from the outside looking in would be looking at and saying there is a power struggle. There is the Victorian team who are trying to run things their own way. Other people are saying that the Queenslanders are taking hold of the senator, that they're trying to take over the power base. Is this very much about Queensland head office running the show and you being frozen out? Yes.How did it come to that? They just decided that's what they were doing.Do you feel hoodwinked? Absolutely. The Victorians are pointing the finger at the founder Keith Littler who has declined repeated requests from 7:30 for an interview. They claim he refuses to listen, consult or include them in central executive meetings.You have to be left wondering, as everybody in this State is left wondering, what exactly have we signed up for here? What's going on here? This is not right.It got to a certain point in time where we're now going down the downhill Right ride and we don't know where that's going to end.I came to a realisation before the election that there's not much point in talking to the Littlers because they weren't open on discussion to things, they were doing things their way and that was the end of the argument.The Victorians say a party that began with good will to improve the lot of motorists has failed to embrace broader policies for Ricky Muir to push.If he's got policy we don't know about them, none of the membership know about them. If there's any policies they're not being discussed amongst anybody. The Palmer deal with Ricky Muir added to existing tensions.For them to go and do something we hadn't even crossed our way of thinking, it was just complete betrayal.At a news conference this morning, Clive Palmer rejected the Victorian branch's complaints and its recent vote.Well I don't think that's true. As I understood it the Victorian people have had that meeting were expelled from the party prior to the meeting and they weren't members of his party at all.They say they have not been expelled and that's constitutionally incorrect? They may be wrong, they may be right, it's not a matter for me.Clive Palmer repeatedly refused to give details of the deal and the Victorian executive claim they're owed thousands of dollars or electoral expenses that haven't been imbursed by led office. How many thousands would you be out of pocket? Directly probably about 3.5, 4. Indirectly 6 or 7. I sent a message to Ricky Muir alerting him of this last week. No response.Ricky Muir is also steering clear of the media while his State colleagues say he's not the man they thought they knew.That's the program for tonight. We'll be back at the same time tomorrow. For now, goodnight.Captions by CSI Australia