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Palaszczuk Government continues koala extinction

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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has destroyed her reputation as environmentally friendly (Image by Dan Jensen)

Despite promising to improve in koala conservation, the Queensland Government continues to destroy our iconic animals. Sue Arnold reports.

QUEENSLAND could well be re-christened as “the koala killing state”. The latest analysis by the Wilderness Society of the Queensland Government’s Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) shows almost 93,000 hectares of koala habitat cleared. Almost 83% was for beef production.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has long gotten away with pretending to be an environmentally concerned Premier. Throughout the term of her office, the ongoing deliberate policies of koala slaughter have been a keynote. Yet the level of criticism directed at Palaszczuk and her Government has been low key if not almost non-existent.

No doubt as a result of the Murdoch empire acquiring mainstream papers including The Courier Mail.

No one involved in koala conservation should be surprised by the analysis results. The eradication of koala habitat has continued uninterrupted since 2006. 

In the Nature Conservation (Koala) Conservation Plan and Management Program 2006-2016, Desley Boyle, then Minister for the Environment wrote:

Queensland once had millions of koalas. But scientists estimate that up to 90% have perished since European settlement. This koala plan will ensure that in Queensland, koalas are for keeps.

 

That’s why the Beattie Government has banned broad-scale tree clearing, constrained urban development into only 20% of southeast Queensland and has begun a 25-year project of progressively transferring 800,000 hectares of native forest from logging into National Park.

 

This landmark koala plan will ensure koalas will survive for another century and beyond.

How the wheels have turned. Palaszczuk came into office in 2015, remaining as Premier ever since.  

In October 2018, Professor Frank Carrick, one of Australia’s leading koala experts, met with Palaszczuk together with a representative from Australians for Animals NSW Inc (AFA) to discuss the worsening koala crisis.

Several requests were made by Professor Carrick and AFA as a result of the appalling level of legal and illegal clearing of koala habitat.   The situation in southeast Queensland, habitat of the state’s primary koala metapopulation, was dire with huge tracts cleared for major urbanisation projects. Many koalas died.

In 2018, at an estimates hearing in the Queensland Parliament, Leeanne Enoch, then Minister for the Environment’s Deputy Director-General, was forced to admit a mortality rate of 42% of koalas in Coomera had died as a result of the massive projects.

A 24-hour hotline was requested so that communities could report illegal clearing and obtain immediate assistance. Professor Carrick indicated the need for an urgent koala summit to deal with the extraordinary level of threats facing the species' survival.

The Premier couldn’t have been more charming, giving assurances of her personal consideration.

Needless to say, nothing happened as a result of the meeting. No changes took place, no koala summit was organised, the rape of koala habitat continued unabated. Calls to the Department of the Environment to report illegal clearing could be compared with a segment from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

After one particularly dedicated effort, a bureaucrat advised that any issue relating to illegal clearing at weekends (a favourite pastime of developers), or after hours had to be advised in writing before any action could be taken.

A series of koala round tables was organised in the “tower of power”, the departmental building where the Premier’s office is located.

Attendees invited were told at the start of the meeting that certain issues were not to be discussed. In other words, the meeting was quarantined to ridiculous issues such as dog attacks and vehicle collisions.

More strategic reports and talkfests followed. Palaszczuk had hit on the koala solution.

Generate mountains of paper, create advisory groups, councils, expert panels, more strategies, recommendations so that when questioned, the Queensland Government could point to policies.

In December 2019, Palaszczuk released yet another landmark plan to protect koalas entitled the South-east Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019-24.

Referring to new mapping of core koala habitat, she said:

“We are proposing to implement stronger regulations to limit clearing in these large interconnected areas of high-quality habitat.”

Two million dollars was to be invested in establishing a five-year partnership with the Queensland Trust for Nature to deliver on-ground koala habitat restoration in priority areas through partnerships with landholders and local governments. Exactly what this amount was supposed to fund was not clarified.

 

In September 2020, the Palaszczuk Government handed mining leases to the Olive Downs mining project set to clear 5,500 hectares of koala and glider habitat. 

 

In February 2021, a press release from Queensland Cabinet indicated ‘koala survival a focus for the Palaszczuk Government’:

 

‘Rehabilitated koalas will be fitted with collars, released into the wild and then monitored to understand the potential conservation benefits.

 

 

 

The information will be used to drive behavioural change amongst residents to enhance koala survival.’

Koala conservation organisations would suggest that behavioural changes in politicians and government would reap more benefits.

 

Dr Anita Cosgrove of the Wilderness Society estimates 92,718 hectares have been cleared for beef production:

 

At the moment, none of the big retailers of beef, such as supermarkets and fast-food chains, can guarantee that their beef is deforestation-free, or that they don’t rely on the destruction of koala habitat to grow the meat.

 

 

 

More alarming is the revelation that most of the habitat destruction was not referred for approval under the Commonwealth national environmental laws.

 

 

Governments must take the action needed to effectively address species declines and it’s also well and truly time to take a good, hard look at the industry most responsible for the damage.

 

 

In Queensland, that is the beef industry.

In spite of the fact the Federal Government recently upgraded koalas in Queensland, New South Wales and the A.C.T. to endangered status, the designation will continue to be meaningless in Palaszczuk’s Government.

 

The NSW L-NP Government has copped a massive amount of protest over koala habitat destruction, but it’s clear if there was a “who is worse” competition between that state and Queensland, it would be a tie.

 

Meantime, koalas continue to die.

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

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