July 2010

Firstly, as a woman, I want to congratulate Ms Julia Gillard on being the first female Prime Minister of Australia. It has been a long time coming and from all accounts the Australian people are delighted to have her. Let us hope she will bring a fresh new look to the problems facing the koala.   I have  sent  a  letter congratulating her on behalf

of our membership, our team, and of course the koalas who are also her constituents.

One of her first speeches was to talk about the “big Australia” policy where the former Prime Minister had talked about 35 million people, and how she believes we need to re-evaluate this, particularly with regard to the environment. She has re-named the Minister for Population as the Minister for Sustainable Population. I think this is a good beginning and I will write to that Minister, Mr Tony Burke, encouraging him to understand that our maps of koala habitat would help him and others to make good decisions.

I have however, been around long enough to know that sometimes things look like they are going to change, but they do not. There are a lot of vested interests in this world and coal mining, logging, development and coal seam gas do not go away just because we have a women at the helm.

Minister Peter Garrett retained his Ministerial portfolio so he is still in charge of making a decision about whether the koala is listed as vulnerable under Federal laws, and he says he will make that decision by 30th September 2010. His Scientific Committee will meet around 25th August and we have sent in our scientific assessment on why we think the koala should be protected. You can read this document and my letter to Minister Garrett here.

As some of you may know, I fear the Minister and his Committee are not going to protect the koala federally. It seems to me they may choose a loophole where they can list the koala as “conservation dependant” rather than vulnerable. If the Minister does this, then it will be some 5-10 years before the koala will get another assessment, and I do not believe that their current policies, particularly at the State level, will be sufficient to stop the decline towards extinction in many parts of Australia.

I am going to ask all the scientists of Australia for permission to put their submissions on our website. The Australian Government is refusing to make the submissions public and I suspect there are many companies in Australia who do not want the koala listed.

I note with great interest that the Leader of the Greens, Mr Bob Brown, recently asked for a Senate Enquiry into why the koala has not been protected. He made this statement in the Australian Parliament on 23 June 2010 and the transcript of his speech is here. I am delighted this is a possibility because I am taking the view that if the koala does not get listed by the Federal Government then the only way to understand why, is for a full Senate enquiry. Only our members of Parliament will be able to ask questions about whether there should have been a precautionary approach taken for this unique and wonderful creature. It might also shock you to know that the Victorian Government and their scientists also regard the koala as a “pest species” and would prefer it was not protected.

I am confident the AKF has provided everything we could to give the koala protection. I encourage you to continue to write to the Minister and of course the Prime Minister. Every letter counts. I am starting to think we also need to be writing good old fashioned snail mail letters. There is nothing more real than getting letters in the mail, and I think emails may be being ignored by our politicians. I noted that the previous Prime Minister had started to make it more difficult to get emails to his door. The address details for posting a letter are on our campaign page.

There is also exciting news - we are just about to take possession of a 100 acre property north of Brisbane which has been donated to us. If you would like to see it, check out this video made by Jon-Michael, our cameraman. It is showing 'Quinlans' as we shall call it, in all its glory, and over the coming months we intend to work with Conservation Volunteers Australia to tidy it up and have it as a research station and lots lots more.

By and large it needs a lot of work – painting, cleaning, beds, dormitories, toilets, showers - and I am hoping that some of you might consider making a donation (LINK) to help get this property in order - no amount is too small or too large. We even have T-towels on our wish list. When I was up there last week washing and cleaning everything in the kitchen, I used lots!

We want to protect the koalas in and around the property. We have mapped the area and the habitat is there.

In 2011 we will be opening Quinlans up to research and field conservation projects, and many of you might like to visit us at that time. The couple who donated the property, Julanne and Peter Quinlan, died together in December 2008, and they wanted their land to go to the koalas. I found myself very humbled as Bill Fritz and I worked together cleaning and tidying up the garden.

Thanks for everything as always.
Deborah