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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Assessment of koala populations for possible protection under the national environment law

E&OE Transcript
Interview with Charlie Pickering, Carrie Bickmore, Dave Hughes & Denise Scott, 7pm Project, Network 10
18 November 2009

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PICKERING: To answer some questions on this issue were joined by Environment Minister, Peter Garrett.

Peter, as weve just heard the latest figures show koala populations in very steep decline, as Minister for the Environment how concerned are you about koala numbers?

GARRETT: Very concerned and thats why when we came in, in 2007, I got the expert committee that decides whether animals like the koala do go on the endangered species list, to look at them again. They had done it in 2006 and said they didnt need to go on. I was really concerned about the fate of koalas, particularly in the areas of south-east Queensland that we have just seen there, so weve now got that Threatened Species Committee of scientists looking closely at whether it should go on that endangered list or not.

HUGHES: Now the Australian Koala Foundation say that they could be extinct within 30 years. Surely we have got to put them on that list now?

GARRETT: Well look it is up to the scientists to provide proper advice to us I think thats you Hughesy? But let them do that job well.

One of the things that is really critical about this is that weve got real pressures on them, particularly in south-east Queensland. In some other parts of Australia, around the Otways for example, theyre doing very well.

But I do know that we need a number of things in place. Some of the things that we are doing are really important like habitat, you know, making sure that we have got really big investment of our taxpayers money in what we call the National Reserve System, we have quadrupled that since 2007. I think that is important for habitat. Being really careful and understanding that state planning and local government planning is going to be critical. They need to think about providing connecting passages between bits of bushland and making sure that theres opportunities for koalas. I dont know if you have ever driven up the mid-north coast, youll see those bits of wire that go across the highway there so that koalas can actually get out of harms way when there are dogs and cats on the ground.

But I am committed to making sure that we get the best advice. If the advice says to me that it should be listed under the national environment legislation, then I will definitely do it.

BICKMORE: Peter, the Tasmanian Tiger was only listed as endangered three months before it became extinct. Shouldnt we fast track this so that the koala doesnt suffer the same fate?

GARRETT: Well we have got an extensive series of meetings that are going on. There has been a workshop happen I think on the 10th of this month. I expect that there will be other workshops that will happen over the coming months. And my advice to the scientific committee is look at it thoroughly but look at it quickly and that is why we have actually said we ought to look at it for listing again.

Usually, if a species has been determined as not going on the list, as koalas were in 2006, then it goes to the bottom of the queue. We havent done that this time and I am absolutely certain that the scientists will get on with the job and they will bring me through the advice that I need to make a decision.

SCOTT: Mr Garrett, please, if for no other reason, save the koala because our Prime Minister looks like one.

GARRETT: [Laughs]

SCOTT: Wouldnt you say? Please! Please, Peter.

PICKERING: Can we at least get you to agree on that, Peter?

GARRETT: [Laughs] [INAUDIBLE] compelling reasons, there is no doubt. Additional compelling reasons. I couldnt argue with that.

PICKERING: Environment Minister Peter Garrett, thank you very much for joining us.

Wed love to speak to you again hopefully with good news on this subject in the future.

GARRETT: Thanks guys.

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia