[Download PDF] I congratulate the more than 17,000 signatories to the petition to protect Ballina's koalas from the environmental vandalism of this Government.
I live a long way from Ballina but, because I represent an area that has been let down by this Government's bungling, waste and environmental vandalism, the environmental activists of the North Coast and Tweed regions have my absolute support.
The proposal to build a highway upgrade through the habitat of endangered koalas in the Blackwall Range is an affront to common sense.
The proposed upgrade not only deviates from the established route of the Pacific Highway but also bisects what local conservation experts have described as the habitat of a regionally significant koala population.
In a September 2011 inquiry the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee led by Senator Doug Cameron—there is no greater friend of the koala in Federal Parliament than Doug Cameron—found that the primary cause of koala population decline is habitat degradation.
Indeed, the committee found that the long-term viability of the koala is under threat due to habitat degradation.
The koala is an Australian icon that may one day go the way of the Tasmanian tiger for no other reason than our consistent unwillingness to make sound decisions with the welfare of our native flora and fauna in mind.
The Pacific Highway is an important road that runs the length of the New South Wales coast.
The sections between Coffs Harbour and the Tweed River are notorious blackspots and I agree those roads must be upgraded.
But when expert testimony provided to Senate inquiries about the decline of the koala population states unequivocally that "the major reason for the decline in coastal populations is habitat loss and fragmentation" we must pause and consider which route this highway upgrade will take and we must do everything we can to minimise its impact on the koala population.
Therefore, the major threat to these koalas is the intransigence of the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight and his steadfast refusal to reconsider the route his highway upgrade will take to Ballina.
I congratulate the signatories to this petition as they are on the right side of this argument.
I implore the Baird Government to reconsider its reckless decision to destroy the habitat of these endangered koalas.
I acknowledge the hard work of the Friends of the Koala who have been pushing this issue and I thank them for taking the time to advocate for this local koala population.
I assure them that Labor is on their side.