Politics Opinion

Labor fails on the environment at national conference

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Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek (image via YouTube)

Is Anthony Albanese an environmental Luddite, asks Sue Arnold.

THE PUBLIC IS entitled to know the true cost of Labor's rejection at the recent national conference of any significant policies to address climate change, biodiversity loss and ending native forest logging.

Albanese's refusal to acknowledge the sheer extent of critical environmental crises facing this ancient land is a national tragedy. And a costly one. 

A UK review in 2008 on Climate Change: Financing Global Forests made the following estimate:

The loss of forest carbon services from deforestation is just one lost ecosystem service among many. Other lost services include water regulation and biodiversity. It has been estimated that the damage cost of all forest ecosystem services lost in just one year currently amounts to €1.35–3.1 trillion (AU$2.02 trillion–4.8 trillion).

At a time when the planet is experiencing the sixth great extinction, with alarming changes in the two poles as sea ice melts, the Prime Minister has shown a frightening lack of environmental awareness.

Several European countries are recording temperatures close to 50 degrees, the U.S. is cooking, Canada is on fire and Maui’s fire incinerated Lahaina, killing humans and animals, leaving horrific scenes of total collapse.


For Australia to be represented by a government which rejects a tsunami of national and international scientific evidence, research, major community concern and an extraordinary level of angst within the ALP itself, ensures this country is in for a grim future.

More than 300 branches of the ALP supported Labor’s Environmental Action Network’s (LEAN) call to end native forest logging and land clearing. The AWU and CMIEU opposed any ban, instead a watered down meaningless motion was passed.

It read:

‘Labor supports the sustainable future of Australia’s forests and forest products industry and recognises the value and role of our forests in storing carbon and protecting biodiversity. Labor will work with states and territories to update the 1992 National Forest Policy Statement to ensure it is contemporary and fit for purpose.’

The Australia Institute’s poll on banning native forest logging was ignored in spite of the fact that key findings demonstrated seven in 10 Australians (69 per cent) support extending native forest logging bans to NSW and Tasmania.

Three in four Labor voters and three in five Coalition voters support an end to logging. 

250 scientists signed an open letter to the ALP conference calling on the Albanese government to end land clearing and native forest logging before the next election.

According to the letter, land clearing data released for Queensland and NSW confirmed more than 15 million hectares of forest and woodland (an area larger than greater Sydney) has been bulldozed in three years across the two states alone.

Professor Hugh Possingham estimates for every 100 hectares bulldozed, as many as 500 native mammals, 2000 birds, and 15,000 reptiles die. 

It’s not as if the Albanese government doesn’t have the information.

An October 2022 press release from Tanya Plibersek, Minister for the Environment states:

Australia is in the midst of an extinction crisis. Recently the Minister launched the Threatened Species Action Plan: Towards Zero Extinctions. The State of the Environment Report identified that we are the mammal extinction capital of the world. We don’t have time to waste if we are going to reverse the decline.

The scientific community has made its concerns loud and clear.

Researchers from the ANU and Griffith University are calling for an end to native forest logging if Australia is to meet its net zero targets: 'Only native forests remove carbon at the rate required'.

Scientists from Charles Darwin University and the ANU didn’t mince words on the ‘shortcomings in resourcing, law, policy and management’ causing biodiversity loss.  

They stated:

Given that the incidence of extensive and severe fires will increase with ongoing climate change, some ecosystems and species are unlikely to recover before the next comparable event.


This could lead to major shifts in vegetation composition and losses of many species, especially among animal and plant groups of ancient lineages that evolved under conditions of much less disturbance.

Like the koala? The only surviving member of the family Phascolarctidae, evolving some 35 million years ago? The one being driven to memory by government policies of extinction?

The recently published Australian Megafires details the devastating biodiversity impacts of the 2019-2020 wildfires.

In an article in the Conversation, co-editor and biodiversity conservation expert at the University of Melbourne, Professor Brendan Wintle, said:

The fires hit natural environments and species already under threat from many factors. Governments continue to focus on emergency response and band-aid solutions that ignore the ongoing decline in biodiversity resulting from a multitude of interacting threats.


We will continue to see ecosystem decline and species extinctions unless we improve the way our environments and species are managed and afforded legal protection.

In a 2022 opinion piece in the Canberra Times, renowned forest ecologist, Professor David Lindenmayer from the ANU wrote that ending forest logging is the only way to meet Australia’s net zero target:

'It is only native forests that can remove carbon from the atmosphere at the scale and time required.'

Two factors destined to ensure the environmental crises will continue to be ignored are mainstream media and the federal Green Party's focus on non-green issues.

IA searched for any in-depth news reports on the ALP conference’s failure to take any steps to end industrial logging and land clearing given the level of national protests. The results? Virtually nothing.

Environmentally concerned people are scratching their heads wondering why the real green issues, ending logging and urgently protecting biodiversity, are not at the forefront of the Greens’ political stand.

Albanese’s refusal condemns the next generation to an alarming future as climate change makes its presence felt in ongoing major global catastrophes.

As Professor Stephen Garnett says in the Charles Darwin University Review:

'These ongoing and escalating losses of our nature will affect us all, and blight the world we leave to our descendants. We have to craft a better world, transform the way we live in this country.'

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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