Prime Minister Scott Morrison, clutching a Koala on TV, was a prime minister.
It’s hard to know who is more off-putting: Morrison or his Environment Minister, Sussan Ley. Morrison posed with a koala, claiming the Government’s commitment of an extra $50 million for the next four years to recovering koala populations “would enhance the protection of koalas”.
According to Morrison, the new money would be used for:
“… habitat protection, community-led restoration projects and population monitoring among other initiatives.”
Our $50 million investment in Koala protection will increase their protection by restoring koala habitats, improving our understanding about koala populations and supporting training in koala management and care. We also intend to strengthen research into koala’s health outcomes.
Koalas are one of Australia’s most loved and best recognised icons, both here at home and across the world, and we are committed to protecting them for generations to come.
As if this outrageous hypocrisy isn’t bad enough, Morrison also indicated the money would go towards furthering education about koalas for the public and veterinarians.
Any conservation, community organisations reading Morrison’s comments have probably choked over their cornflakes. The same goes for scientists and veterinarians who are experts in koala ecology.
$50 million is equivalent to $12.5 million each year. Peanuts. The Government allocated $74 million in 2019 for koalas. The efficacy of this funding is unknown as no auditing It has been completed.
This is the same Government that has failed to produce a koala recovery plan (although a draft is in the system). One that doesn’t bother pretending to protect koalas, but fills the pages with the same old garbage. Climate change impacts, which can be severe, are often ignored or not mentioned.
Morrison’s environmental credentials are zero. On climate change, in April 2021 He announced that:
“We will not achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities.”
Net zero will not be achieved anytime soon, if ever, in the dark dens that are the Coalition Government.
As a result of climate changes, no effort has been made in order to identify, map or designate refuges that koalas can use. This is a key threatening process under The 1999 Act on Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC), the issue is ignored.
The ‘EPBC Act Referral Guidelines for Vulnerable Koalas‘, which are non-binding, basically give developers open slather allowing them to make their own decision as to whether a project will be harmful to koala habitat.
Then there is the Regional forest agreementsThese agreements were approved for a period of 20 years in 2018. Those agreements remove the section of the EPBC Act relating to the protection of wildlife. These agreements are based on outdated research that fails to account for the 2019-2020 bushfires and are a recipe of extinction. Not just for koalas, but also for other forest fauna.
Koalas can be considered a umbrella species for coastal forest ecosystems. Their extinction results in a significant loss of biodiversity.
As a result of a complete refusal by the federal and state governments of NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, there’s no reliable population estimate for koalas in any state.
It’s difficult to understand why governments have refused to undertake population estimates given the catastrophic loss of 75 per cent of koalasDue to the drought and bushfires.
Ley famously announced after the landmark Sharma court verdictAccording to this statement, the Environment Minister is responsible for the care of the younger generations.
“… didn’t have a responsibility to protect future generations from climate change impacts.”
The Brandy Hill Quarry was approved by the same Minister. Who approved the destruction of the southwest Sydney Koala population to allow massive urban development.
The EPBC Amendment billIf it is ever passed by the Senate, it will give the states the right to approve major project approvals.
“… accrediting states against our strong national standards in order, from my perspective, to improve environmental protection and of course improve the economic efficiency of our business, our industry and by extension the wealth of our communities.”
Except there are no “strong national standards.”
Veterinarians and the public don’t need to be educated about koalas. Morrison and his government, along with Coalition and Labor state governments, are those who need education. They have allowed the continuing extermination of this iconic, defenseless species.
Koalas are being driven to extinction by political policies which amount to “death by a thousand cuts”.
NSW conservation groups, supported by large swathes of the public, have called to create the Great Koala National ParkThe coast of the mid-north. It is the best option for koalas to live in the state.
The Coalition Government has studiously ignored the tsunami requests, creating small areas as reserve areas or adding bits and pieces of existing parks with few koalas.
“… current funding is already supporting eight strategic habitat restoration projects that target thousands of hectares in significant koala areas in eastern Australia.”
Where are the Minister’s projects? What about the projects you mentioned in your address? the National Press Club?
After the bushfires, my request to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee was to concentrate on the koalas.
We have already announced $24 Million in direct Koala funding. This includes a vital koala census, and a program to research the genome.
We will be supporting the creation of a national koala-disease risk assessment and a program that increases the level of specialist information among veterinary networks to treat koalas.
Where’s the census? Is it true that koalas contract diseases from habitat loss?
Another infamous quote from Ley’s address:
I mention the Koala Census because I told the threatened species scientific commissioner-chair and scientists that people would talk about koalas or bushfires. I was concerned like everyone else. So, what numbers are there and where are they? Well, we don’t know. We don’t have that data. We don’t know.
Our koala package includes the following: build a national census of koalas, engage communities so we can know the quality, strength, and distribution. So all of this work builds towards that final improved standard that I’d like to see.
In 2022, we’re no closer to any of that information.
What about your January 2020 press release announcing $50 Million for habitat and emergency wildlife recovery? Josh Frydenberg:
“This initial investment of 450 million into the protection and restoration of our wildlife and habitat is a critical step in creating a viable future for the animals that have survived.”
Could you please provide a list of wildlife protection and restoration?
It’s abundantly clear that Morrison must believe that “marketing” the Great Barrier Reef and koalas is going to convince the public of his “green” credentials.
Hopefully, the public will realize that this is yet another exercise in lies and duplicity that characterize this anti-environment Government.
Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. Follow Sue on twitter @koalacrisis.
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