Hans Lovejoy & Aslan Shand
Is governance, in NSW in particular, about representing your constituents, or is it about following the party line?
Fortunately for the dwindling NSW koala population, predicted to be extinct by 2050, Liberal MLC and Lennox Head resident Catherine Cusack crossed the floor last week to try and ensure that the Liberal/National party bill being put forward could be considered, rather than rushed through parliament.
As expected, locally-based Nationals Northern NSW parliamentary secretary MLC, Ben Franklin, voted in favour of the bill.
As a result of her amendment, which referred the bill to Portfolio Committee No. 7 – Planning and Environment for inquiry and report, and for then crossing the floor to ensure its success, Ms Cusack was sacked as a Parliamentary Secretary by Premier Gladys Berejiklian immediately following the 19 to 18 vote.
During Ms Cusack’s speech to parliament, she cited the devastating historical impacts of slaughtering koalas for the fur trade where ‘at least four million were sent to the USA… In Victoria it is estimated that hunting continued until barely 1,000 koalas were left, and the Australia Koala Foundation estimates that fewer than 500 were left alive in NSW.
‘After that the slaughter moved north to Queensland, where a month-long event known as “Black August” in 1927 saw more than 800,000 koalas killed. We have made so many mistakes,’ she said.
‘One day all of us here in this Chamber will be dead and gone, but the impacts of what we decide today will last forever… I have really tried throughout my time in Parliament to protect koalas.
‘I wrote the environment policy for the 2011 election and prioritised a review of the State’s koala recovery plan, which was hopelessly out of date. I secured funding through those processes, and that was part of our commitment.
‘I tried for the Blackhall Range koala community. I lost faith in federal protections in the process, so I am fully aware that there is no federal backstop if this bill passes today.
‘That issue and its outcome have been really significant in how I have arrived at my position today, because all of the fine words explaining how much Roads and Maritime Services and others care about koalas were for nothing. I no longer have any confidence in fine words. I just have to process what is on the table in front of me. I was not party to the processes that brought this bill to the House. I cannot be held accountable, and nor can I have any faith in that process, which has zero to do with protecting koalas. It is to try to patch-up a political disagreement’.
It’s not often a politician speaks truth like this, especially one from the Liberal Party.
Politics has become even more binary and tribal in recent years.
It results in weak actors who are actively betraying our interests. They practise the dark art of telling the public one thing, while doing the exact opposite. And standing up for what is right is never popular within the heavily fortified political tent.
Meanwhile, lobbyists NSW Farmers said in a press release, ‘In an after-the-buzzer announcement, the Premier and Deputy Premier have scrapped the new SEPP, reverted to the old SEPP, and agreed to sit down with farmers to develop a new policy to protect koalas and the interests of farmers – Something NSW Farmers has been requesting from the start’.
English writer, philosopher G.K. Chesterton (1874– 1936) once said, ‘A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it’.
Thanks Catherine Cusack, for doing the right thing.