WITH the Morrison government announcing a review of Australia’s threatened species legislation in order to reduce “green tape”, a WA Labor MP has warned the greatest threat to our dwindling wildlife is the government itself.
According to the national environment and energy department, the Perth’s CBD is currently home to 54 listed threatened species, although it’s a complicated picture. Many bird species on the list are only occasional visitors, while the territorial range of other animals has shrunk so much since European occupation that Perth’s no longer considered home.
For example, early settler George Fletcher Moore wrote in letters to his brother about dingoes accompanying the area’s original Whadjuk inhabitants, but it’s been decades since one was spotted anywhere except the zoo – and that doesn’t count.
Mammals that have made it onto the list include the woylie, chuditch, Australian sea lion and western ringtail possum, which is registered as critically endangered.
You’d also be lucky these days to enjoy the bloom of the cinnamon sun orchid, dwarf hammer-orchid or tall donkey orchid, while there’s estimated to be just 550 of the shrub Selena’s synaphea in a handful of fragmented communities.
Fremantle federal Labor MP Josh Wilson pointed out that when recently confronted by a landmark UN report which found 1 million species around the world were at risk of extinction, prime minister Scott Morrison tried to defend his government’s record by citing non-existent legislation.
He’s since been churchmouse-quiet about what he might have really meant.
Other slips under his watch have included an attempt by treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s office, when he was environment minister, to find out if he could override scientific advice and amend the listing of a threatened grassland, which could have benefited a Cabinet colleague involved in a company being investigated for illegal clearing.
In May this year, SBS reported that the worst destruction of threatened species habitat across the country over the last two decades occurred in 12 mostly Coalition seats, with agriculture minister David Littleproud’s Queensland seat heading the list with a 43 per cent decline.
The WA seat of Durack, currently held by former environment minister Melissa Price, was seventh on the list.
Mr Wilson says it’s been tough for threatened species under the Morrison government.
“Australia is considered to have one of the worst extinction rates in the world,” Mr Wilson said.
“We have the highest rate of vertebrate mammal extinction, koala populations are declining, and the Morrison government doesn’t have a plan to protect iconic Australian fauna and flora.”
Current environment minister Sussan Ley says the “green tape” reduction review would deliver greater certainty to business, farmers and environment groups.
Ms Ley says the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act had been a world leader in environmental protection, but needed to be adapted to reflect changes in the environment and the economy.
“This review is not about ideology,” Ms Ley said.
“The one thing all sides of the environmental debate concede is that the complexities of the act are leading to unnecessary delays in reaching decision and to an increased focus on process rather than outcomes.”
Last week a new website was launched for the review, giving the public the opportunity to make “brief comments” at any time during the review, though they wouldn’t be considered formal submissions.
Later this month a discussion paper is due which will invite formal submissions.
Keep up-to-date at https://epbcactreview.environment.gov.au
by STEVE GRANT