The first report on this Senate Inquiry was posted on 12 May, 2011.
The second hearing of the Green's Senate Inquiry into the state and health of koalas, on May 19, has left koala support group representatives quietly confident about the eventual outcome.
A concerned and very well-informed committee is digging into all the reasons for government's reluctance to list koala as a threatened species, and unearthing the very apparent flaws in the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
Given the federal Scientific Committee's finding of a 30% decline in koala numbers, the Minister has the power, under the precautionary principle clause of the Act, to list the koala without any further discussion. So why the hesitation? Well, of course, we all already know the answer. It's those big players, who drive that mighty stumbling block - The Economy!
Despite all the proven science, the Property Council still claims lack of rigorous scientific understanding of all issues regarding koalas, and developer representatives reiterate the additional costs to themselves if they are forced to work around a nationally protected species. There was even one outright claim of “loss of competitive advantage” if koalas are listed.
On the other side of the coin, through the medium of the Australian Financial Review, Friday 20th May 2011, the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) has indicated an at least $1billion benefit in tourism by protecting and 'growing' koalas. Yet in response to questions by the Senators, the Property Council admit to having no sustainable best practice code within the development industry
Throw-away lines at the Inquiry MkII were rife, and telling. In discussion of the benefits of biobanking offsets, one relatively high ranking government official explained that this is where “...we let a developer give us some money, and we then allow them to knock over a habitat. Then we buy a piece of pineapple growing land, and then we rebuild the koala habitat."
At the next sitting of the Senate Committee in Victoria in July, the development industry and also the government will have the job of defending their past lack of interest in protecting the koala.
Meanwhile AKF's CEO Deborah Tabart OAM, is off to the World Conference in California, to receive the 2011 Excellence in Communication Leadership (EXCEL) Award. There she will pass on a few more of the one-liners from the Inquiry - particularly one from a senator who, when a witness complained that the gallery was distracting him, responded: “Beats chain-saws cutting down trees, doesn’t it?”.
- P Edwards