Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for the Environment. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government is protecting and preserving the natural environment and our native species, such as the koala?
Mr Albanese interjecting—
I thank the member for Wentworth for his question and appreciate his interest in the koala, an iconic umbrella species, as we came out of the Black Summer bushfires. Last week the Morrison government announced a new koala package. This was a further $18 million investment in koala conservation, on top of the $26 million we have invested since 2014 and in advance of the release of the draft koala recovery plan, which is going out for public consultation early next year. As well as research and health science, the package announced a key approach in safeguarding the koala, which is a national koala census.
I'm very happy to reassure the member for Macarthur that the Chair of the Independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee, Helene Marsh, called the census a significant move and said that it will put the whole koala strategy at a national level on a completely different footing than it's been in the past. The strategy and package have been welcomed by the Australian Conservation Foundation. They don't always line up in support of the government, but they have welcomed this funding for koala mapping and restoration as a good step at a critical time.
Back to the important package, despite their iconic status there's much to learn about how koala populations are faring. That's why this will fill in the gaps and give us better coordination and reporting, so that we can best protect this extraordinary marsupial. The census will be a standing item at the Meeting Of Environment Ministers, and a range of existing and innovative approaches, such as drones, thermal imaging, acoustic surveys, detector dogs and cameras will be used. Citizen science will be brought to the fore. Communities, schools and conservation volunteers are already doing much of this work, and they will continue. Since we've come to government, we've committed more than $500 million in funding towards our threatened species, including the koala. We've established the Threatened Species Commissioner and Threatened Species Strategy, and 99.9 per cent of the more than 1,900 listed species have either conservation advice or a recovery plan in action.
This koala package, which has been endorsed by scientists and backed by experts, underscores our approach to environmental protection, which is that, when it comes to environmental protection, we listen to the experts, we listen to the science and we take practical action that can make a difference.