The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce and Greens Leader Richard Di Natale today to request their support for a Koala Protection Act. (Read letter here)
The Koala Protection Act is a piece of national legislation that has been formulated by the AKF in consultation with legal teams in Australia and overseas focusing on protecting Koala habitat. Current legislation focuses on the Koala itself but not their habitat.
A draft of the Act was enclosed, along with a Statutory Declaration for all leaders to sign prior to the election that states that they will seek to support the Koala via this legislation should they be re-elected.
CEO of the AKF Deborah Tabart OAM said that the Act is based on the USA’s Bald Eagle Act that brought the Bald Eagle back from the brink of extinction.
She said as Australia’s national icon, the Koala needs the same strength of purpose.
“It is not our intention to offend the leaders by requesting they sign a Statutory Declaration, but rather a determination borne of frustration over the AKF’s 30-year experience,” said Ms Tabart.
“Since 1988 when I was appointed as CEO of the AKF I have had conversations and correspondence with the who’s who of Australian politics; Environment Ministers at the Federal level and Premiers at the State level."
Ms Tabart said the number of Environment Ministers in each State and the Mayors of the 320 Councils in Koala Habitat that she has also corresponded with is too high to remember.
“All of them have a case to answer regarding the destruction of Koala habitat on the eastern seaboard. With the next Parliament I am going to seek a Senate Inquiry to investigate the role of each and every one of them with particular reference to their relationship with development and other industries that have wantonly killed Koalas.”
The AKF endured a Senate Inquiry in 2012 that did list the Koala in Queensland, New South Wales and Canberra under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. This did not include the state of Victoria.
“I have now signed off on the Koala Protection Act,” Ms Tabart continued. “The legal team said that it will be politically unfavourable – that says to me it will work to save Koalas and their habitats.”
“I can assure you that the AKF will not negotiate one point on this Koala Protection Act. We believe the plight of the Koala is dire and the Senate Inquiry proved that the EPBC Act is too weak to stop the declines. Strong action is needed to ensure the survival of the Koala for future generations.”