March 2010

There has been an overwhelming response to my last diary and I want to thank you all for sending me your thoughts. I have read every one and there were so many great ideas. I want you to know that I am thinking about them all. It seems to me that what I am saying is resonating  with  all  of  you and I  am  very

glad that is the case. One email from a retired Board member told me that I should never say no to a Government official if they want to meet with me and the AKF. I have taken that advice very seriously and I have left a message for the Director General that I mentioned last time and now, two weeks later, he has not returned my call. He has however written to all the developers here in South East Queensland - click here to read the letter. From what I hear in the press, the developers are pretty happy with this response. In essence it means 'business as usual' at a time when the koala, by the Premier’s own admission, may go to extinction in 2010 in the Koala Coast region - one of the fastest growing areas of Australia.

On Tuesday next week the Premier of Queensland Anna Bligh, in conjunction with the Federal Government, is holding a Growth Summit, the results of which will not only be the death knell for the koalas here in South East Queensland, particularly in the Koala Coast, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, but perhaps change the face of Australia forever. Our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and our Treasurer Wayne Swan are now wanting 35 million people in Australia (a significant number of which will be here in Queensland), and there seems to be an incredible rush to get that approved. The Growth Summit and previous events over the last few weeks have been led by infrastructure companies, developers, road builders and railway builders - all those who will gain from huge infrastructure building.

There have been a few lone voices in the wilderness like Dick Smith – one of our famous Australians who said that our country cannot sustain such a population because of our inability to grow that amount of food, but he is not being heard. He suggested that it is time for Australia to re-evaluate our future – to consider how many people we should have on this precious continent. By and large his thoughts were rejected, and one Minister said “Mr. Smith should keep out of Australian’s bedrooms”. Clever comment, but very childish when we live on a planet with 7 billion people rising to 9 billion over the coming years.

Given my previous diary was about the threat to food production on the Liverpool Plains in New South Wales, I am very inclined to agree, and believe that water and food production is going to be a key issue for the future. For those of you who live overseas – I know it is hard to imagine but our country has very little arable land. So much of our continent is the red desert where very little food is grown, and of course the koalas live in the fertile areas of Australia which is why there is so much conflict.

I am of the opinion that the rush to approve and over-ride public opinion on this issue is due to a Federal election coming up later in the year, and many of the companies involved in these Growth Summits and talk fests about development will, and have been, major donors to our political parties. I am also convinced that the listing of the Koala is a real problem for our Governments. When I went to a media lunch the other day where the Federal Minister for Infrastructure was speaking, many in the room rolled their eyes when I approached with my card to introduce myself, and one senior woman made it clear she was not interested in meeting with me. She made it clear that “koalas were just in the way”. A very prominent Lord Mayor was standing right next to her at the time.

I am more and more convinced that the AKF’s desire to find sustainable ways of doing business is falling on deaf ears. It is like there is a juggernaut out there, and for those who have seen the movie Avatar – one could be forgiven for putting all these large companies into the archetypal role of the company seeking to destroy Pandora to get the 'unobtanium' – the precious resource on that planet.

I would really appreciate you writing to our Prime Minister about your concerns for the koala and, as always, insisting that he and Minister Garrett list the koala as a vulnerable species under the EPBC Act, which will at least force all these companies to do better. Currently it is a free for all. Click here to send the letter now - it's easy and only takes a minute.