If the next Australian government is serious about reversing the decline in Australia’s wildlife, it must invest in their recovery, enact strong new environment laws and establish an independent national regulator to oversee them.
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison attacks environmental protection as ‘green tape’, new analysis shows the vast majority (93 per cent) of threatened species habitat destruction in Australia over the last two decades has been concentrated in just 12 federal electorates, nine of which are held by Liberal and National MPs.
The research by the University of Queensland’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), found the worst performing electorate was Maranoa, held by Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, where two million hectares of threatened species habitat has been destroyed since 2000.
This represents a 43 per cent decline in threatened species habitat availability in that single electorate since Australia’s current national environment laws came into effect. This has hurt at least 85 threatened species, including the Koala, Greater Bilby, Black-throated Finch and Long-nosed Potoroo.
Durack which is Australia’s largest electorate and held by Environment Minister Melissa Price, was rated sixth worst for habitat destruction. More than 310,000 hectares of threatened species habitat has been destroyed in Durack, harming animals like the Northern Quoll, Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo and the elusive Night Parrot.
The analysis was drawn together by cross-referencing threatened species habitat data (2000–2017) with federal electorates to provide an insight into the nexus of real-world environmental problems and political representation.
Michelle Ward from the University of Queensland, who led the analysis, said it was important to remember that this analysis does not account for pre-2000 deforestation.
“In just 17 years, some plants and animals have lost almost 25 per cent of their habitat,” she said.
“If we’re to prevent yet more extinctions in Australia, we need to halt the decline of threatened species habitat, otherwise, we may lose them forever.”
Professor James Watson, Director of the University of Queensland’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, said the analysis shows just how bad the destruction of habitat for Australia’s precious threatened species has become.
“Australians need to realise we are sleepwalking through an ever-worsening extinction crisis,” Professor Watson said.
“These results show the laws we have to protect our wonderful natural heritage are not working and that is a significant failure of government.”
“Australia is in the grip of an extinction crisis,” said ACF’s Nature Policy Analyst, James Trezise.
“Habitat loss across Australia seriously threatens our unique wildlife and this analysis shows most threatened species habitat destruction has happened in just a dozen electorates.
“Minister Littleproud has railed against stronger laws to curb deforestation, yet his electorate is the worst performer for threatened species habitat destruction under existing laws.
“If the next Australian government is serious about reversing the decline in Australia’s wildlife, it must invest in their recovery, enact strong new environment laws and establish an independent national regulator to oversee them.
“Australians have witnessed too much politicised decision-making, such as the decisions relating to proposals to destroy 2000 hectares of native forest in a critical Great Barrier Reef catchment at Kingvale Station, and the Toondah Harbour apartment and marina.”