September 2010

Hi to all,

It is now nearly two weeks since Australia went to the polls and we still do not have a Government in place. By and large I am very happy with this outcome and honestly it reflects what I had felt as I travelled around the country for the most part of this year.

To govern, a political party needs 76 seats. Currently the conservatives have 73 and the former Government has 72. Three independants now hold the balance of power that allows them basically to choose which party they will support. If they choose neither, then Australians will go back to the polling booths.

We also elected our first Aboriginal person in the House of Representatives, and there was also a great swing to the Green party which in my view was to be expected. I find it quite amazing when I hear candidates from both sides of politics being shocked by that. Some of that swing is, in my view, due to the “koala factor”. When thousands of koalas die from unsustainable development, why wouldn’t the people tell their leaders “you know, something is wrong here”?

I am so very proud of all of us for having the courage and determination to tell our leaders we are not happy with what we have and we want new.

In Australia it is compulsory to vote and when I am in America I often get told we are undemocratic because we force people to vote. This result shows me that it is fundamental for all citizens to understand their rights, and that sometimes we have to be forced into this. In some countries it is not compulsory and I think that can cause apathy and even potential corruption of the process.

So what does this all mean for the koala?

Last week the Government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee met and presumably discussed koalas. Because the process is so secretive, we really don’t know this, but the former Government’s Minister Garrett has said that the decision will be made by September 30th. The incoming Government, irrespective of which side wins, should also meet that deadline. There are two options – “vulnerable” which is what the AKF wants, and “conservation dependant”, which appeared out of the blue in Government documents earlier this year. If the latter is chosen then nothing will change and koalas will continue to decline because of State Governments and their inability to protect the koala, which is well documented.

What is a ray of hope on the horizon is the fact that the Green party, which polled very well in the Senate, will have the balance of power in the Senate in mid 2011.

Senator Bob Brown, the leader of the Greens, said prior to the election that his party would call for a Senate Inquiry into why the koala is in so much trouble. I cannot wait. Over the coming months, AKF will have a person solely responsible for gathering and creating evidence for such an Inquiry. It will be a large file and a large job. Hopefully it will help to set the tone of the Inquiry so the truth can ultimately be heard.

The carnage we have all witnessed, particularly over the last ten years, was needless. Sustainable development is possible. I know it is but it hasn’t happened. We have just had relentless bulldozers working 24/7. What has happened is that there have been too many jobs for the boys, too many backyard deals and worse still, political spin, the likes of which has been unprecedented our in country. This is why the election result is as it is and, as always, our political leaders are now shocked by the outcome.

Hopefully whoever governs into the future will learn that you need to govern for the people and not for your own best interest. That of course includes the environment, and I am much encouraged by all this change.

AKF will as always look forward to educating new leaders about how sustainable development could be achieved. I will keep you posted when we finally get a Government!

Regards, Deborah