"How do you exaggerate the greatest bleaching event on the planet? How do you exaggerate that one quarter of the world's largest reef is dead? You don't," Tony Fontes, a prominent Great Barrier Reef diver and tourism operator, told a crowd of up to 2000 at Steyne Park, Double Bay, in the heart of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's electorate of Wentworth on June 26.
The rally was organised by a coalition of groups, including GetUp, Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society and the Nature Conservation Council.
The "Fizza" climate change action was called to highlight the PM's betrayal in refusing to adopt realistic policies on climate change in the federal election on July 2.
The publicity quoted Turnbull when he was Liberal opposition leader in 2010: "Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice, the like of which I have never seen."
"If the cap fits, wear it, Mr Turnbull."
Standing in front of a large banner reading, "Malcolm: Choose the Reef, Not Coal," speakers told the crowd that the reef was dying under Turnbull's watch, and that climate change needed to be much higher on the political agenda.
Former Liberal Party leader and former member for Wentworth John Hewson skipped the party's national election launch in western Sydney to speak at the climate protest.
“It is a national disgrace and tragedy that the challenge of climate change has just been dominated by short-term, opportunistic politics over the last couple of decades that has seriously delayed the essential, substantive and urgent policy responses,” Hewson said.
“It is now imperative that political point scoring be put aside. We need bipartisan leadership. It is now more than urgent. Enough is enough. It's time to act."
Other speakers included CSIRO atmosphere scientist and CSIRO Staff Association president Dr Michael Borgas, who has been campaigning against the axing of CSIRO climate scientists; a young Indigenous woman from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Dr Kate Charlesworth, a GP and expert in climate health impacts.
“The climate crisis is a health emergency,” Charlesworth said. “Health professionals have both a responsibility and an opportunity to act on climate change: responsibility because the health impacts of climate change will be potentially catastrophic; but also an opportunity because so many climate actions will also improve human health.
“The health and wellbeing of our children's generation are entirely dependent on a safe climate. As both a doctor and a mother, there is nothing more important I can do than advocate for urgent action on climate change.”
During the rally, protestors waved cardboard cut-outs representing coral, turning them from colour on one side, to white on the other, to denote the bleaching of the reef. Following the rally, a group of Greenpeace demonstrators took to Sydney Harbour by kayak and protested outside Turnbull's waterside mansion.