August 2010

The AKF has now written to approximately 400 new candidates for the Federal election asking for their commitment to protect the koalas in their electorate should they win in two weeks time. We have received letters from both the Labor Party and the Coalition with their comments.

By and large it seems to me neither side are prepared to say "I will list the koala as vulnerable under the EPBC Act if my party is elected to govern Australia". Pretty much we have given both sides 2/5 for their responses.

The Shadow Minister Mr Greg Hunt has said the Coalition will review the listing process in six months if they are elected and, as we know, Minister Garrett has said he will make the decision by September 30th once his TSSC (Threatened Species Scientific Committee – which meets on 25th August) advises him of their opinion on the plight of the koala.

All Green candidates have said they support all five questions we asked them.

Senator Bob Brown has also said that should they gain the balance of power in the Senate, they will call for, and probably achieve, a Senate Inquiry into why the koala has not been protected. Honestly, this is the only thing I think will change things and I long for such an Inquiry. I am so tired of having to listen to endless stories of koala habitats that have been illegally or negligently knocked down by local and state governments. I hear this in every part of the country. You have been reading about this for years now and I believe it is time for you, the world public who love the koala, to really hear how bad things are in the developments around our country.

I long for the opportunity where I and my colleagues can sit in a room and tell these stories.

I personally believe Minister Garrett and his Government have actually made up their mind about the koala – and that is to list the koala as “conservation dependant”. This basically means the future of the koala lies in the hands of the State Governments. The rules that govern the EPBC Act are so rigid that it makes it difficult to protect the koala, so it will be easy for the Gillard Government, should they win, to say that it does not meet the criteria.

I have seen a letter like this from the Howard Government in 2006. Governments of all persuasions have never protected the koala federally since we settled over 200 years ago. Except for the Franklin Dam, by and large Federal Governments do not want to step on States rights about such matters. The koala in my opinion should not fall into that category, and given the disastrous report by Parsons Brinckerhoff last year which made it clear the koala had not been protected by State Governments, how can the Federal Government ignore this fact?

Politics of course always come into this, and with an election two weeks away I know that every vote counts.

I think we are all bored with the day to day humdrum comments from both leaders and honestly, I think the election could go either way.

What is sadly missing from my point of view is any sort of understanding about the plight of the environment. When I hear our leaders talking about economics and future budgets which pretty much come from developing the coal industry, I wonder how they can reconcile that this coal contributes to global warming, which has almost disappeared off the political agenda.

Recently I met again with farmers whose land is going to be destroyed by coal mining, and I get to see firsthand how these communities are being torn apart by economics for big companies who leave a trail of destruction wherever they go. Last week at a dinner I listened to people talking about the economy and I tried to tell them that when I go bush, I see empty shops, I see people out of work, I see a pub lunch costs $5.00 (corned beef, mashed potatoes and vegetables), and that it is a far cry from what I see in the cities where everyone seems to be OK, in a job, and seemingly happy.

After all these years as the Koala Woman, I am very concerned about the future of our country. I do not think either leader or, worse still, the people behind them, have any clue about where and how our country needs to go. The great thing about Australians however, is that we will probably get it right, and that we know our votes are important. This week one of our famous entrepreneurs, Mr Dick Smith, is airing a documentary on a sustainable future for Australia. This seems to be a voice of reason in a noise of “pick me, pick me”.

It is a pity the koala cannot vote for its future, but it seems our little Urban koala has taken the matter into his own hands and made a YouTube video... we hope you enjoy it!

Think of the koalas on election day.
Regards, Deborah