Green Tape

Hello Koala Lovers,

Thank you, to all of you who made a submission to the Federal Government for the EPBC Act review and I am very pleased we were able to give you guidance on these complex issues.  Many other organisations did the same thing, so hopefully the reviewer will understand our concerns.

As you know I have completely lost faith in this and previous reviews, but I am hoping they will listen to you, the people.

In recent days, the Federal Minister Sussan Ley was mentioned in a Guardian newspaper article.

Quote

The environment minister, Sussan Ley, has flagged the government may change Australia’s national environment laws before a review is finished later this year.

Ley said she would introduce “early pieces of legislation” to parliament if she could to “really get moving with reforming and revitalizing one of our signature pieces of environmental legislation”.

When the review was announced, the government said it would be used to “tackle green tape” and speed up project approvals.

End of Quote

Since the Roundtable of Koala people held in Canberra on 26th February, 2020 and before COVID19 shut our country down like so many other places, I have taken the time to write to the Minister’s office. Every time I see either a report about logging in the fire burnt forests, the resumption of logging in New South Wales and Victoria, or any other threat to the Koala, I send it on with questions or comments. By and large I asked for answers to questions about existing legislation and why the federal laws of Australia cannot protect the environment. That is why the review is in place in the first place for goodness sake, so it not just me saying it. 

In my emails, I recommended that Mr. Samuel (the independent reviewer of the EPBC Act) on the Minister’s invitation should visit some of these sites so he could see first hand what is happening on the ground. I also asked whether the Minister would consider suggesting the AKF might be seen as a key stakeholder to meet with Mr. Samuel. On the Government review website, I do note that Mr. Samuel has met with “industry”, whom I suspect did suggest that “green tape” needed to be removed. It would have been nice to give him a counter view. I do wonder why the AKF would not be considered a key stakeholder?

I have written 19 emails which does not seem a lot, but they were relevant to the present day issues facing the Koala. We did get one reply, when we questioned why the Minister had not replied to my letters to her from June 2019 and well, she had not seen the letters and they were probably lost. They then found them and said they would send a reply. We are still waiting.

Email No. 6 was a reply from a previous Minister’s advisor written in 2013, who said by and large the same thing as the current Minister. In the past, I used to be more relentless with correspondence like this and many in Canberra know of my prolific missives about what I feel is wrong with the laws and their inability to protect the Koala. One bureaucrat in and around 2009 actually rang me to tell me stop sending emails which annoyed me greatly and I ended up sending them all again and they were in the thousands. I was delighted to see that public servant was questioned in the Senate hearing in 2011. At that time the AKF had nominated the Koala for protection three times, all of which were rejected. Now they are saying they may upgrade the Koala to Endangered, not Vulnerable. Although, not a lawyer, I can assure you that this listing will still rely on a legislation that is probably being watered down as we speak so that industry does not have to suffer green tape. Truly, how can anyone have faith in a system that only kicks in when a species or a habitat is nearly gone. The system is broken.

Had the Koala Protection Act been enacted in 2000 when we first proposed such a thing to the Australian Government, I am confident that forests would be thriving, and Koala populations in much better shape. I do not believe also that industry would have suffered, they would have just had to obey the rules. Why are “they” so reluctant to give the Koala such specific legislation? That is the question we all need to ask.

I will write more on this in future diaries, but at the moment, while we are all in lockdown, I want to assure you that I continue to think about what we will do when the world will be able to really get back into action. I am confident too that green tape will not be an issue for industry and they will have their way because it will be seen as essential for the economy.  I hope I am wrong.

The discussions around this virus on a daily basis, constantly talk about how the world will be so different, but I do wonder whether the system will just go back to its original shape. What I do know is that we, the people, have been amazing. Look how we have all been so trusting of our Governments (or not) in these terrible times, and better still look at the incredible health professionals who work tirelessly advising our political leaders to help us get through this unprecedented crisis. To date, the good scientists of the world have not had their message heard on the environment and I am sure we, the people, will insist they will be heard in the future. We are now seeing what good leadership looks like which is fantastic. That is my hope right now.    

As we have seen with the images around the world, people are seeing mountains they have never seen before from polluted cities. The skies are bluer, animals wander through empty cities, and we are all reconnecting with our families. More importantly too, we can see the cracks in a system that has become careless with our lives. Work seems less important and our love for humanity more profound. We are all in this together.

What I do know is that today truly was the last time I will ask our Government to help the Koala except for them to enact the Koala Protection Act immediately. I will be relentless. I do not believe that they are going to change and that unless we, the people, truly speak out, it will all revert to business as usual. Patience is still required but we will have our day.

I am truly dedicated to not allowing the obstacles that stand in our way in Canberra to stop the habitats of Australia being protected, not just for the Koala, but for so many other less charismatic animals.

I do hope you are all safe and I constantly watch the news about countries around the world that have always supported this organization and our mission. I want you to know that we pray that you will be safe and that we are thinking of you.

A gorgeous Koala photo to make you smile. “Chin up”, as my grandmother used to say.

As always,

Deborah