Margaret Gleeson

 

The ubiquitous Commonwealth Games mascot Borobi the blue koala belies the fate of the “Aussie icon” it represents. It is ironic that Borobis flourish in the very region where koala numbers have declined drastically in recent years.

Koalas are an endangered species in Queensland, NSW and the ACT and land clearing has long been recognised as the culprit. As well as the animals killed during the actual process of land clearing, the destruction of habitat results in increasing population losses.

Within hours of the NSW Land and Environment Court decision on March 9 quashing new land clearing laws, the NSW government produced a new Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code.

The code was created to exempt land clearing from the usual development assessment processes. It was introduced after the government overhauled the state’s conservation laws in 2016, making land clearing easier for farmers.

During the Greens/Labor battle for the Batman byelection, the mainstream media has characterised opposition to the Adani mine as an inner city/trendy/lefty issue.

However, recent polls have shown this is not the case. Support for the project is just as likely to lose votes for the Liberal and Labor parties as it is to win votes for the Greens.

A new ReachTel survey commissioned by the Australia Institute found the Adani mine is unpopular in inner city electorates around the country.

In the lead up to the South Australian election, Premier Jay Weatherill announced on March 5 that an incoming Labor government would introduce portable long service leave for community services workers.

Australian Services Union (ASU) members in all states have been campaigning for long service leave portability for many years. So far only Victoria and the ACT have been successful. Portability of entitlements will bring stability to the sector. Community Services is a growing industry in which recruitment and retention of qualified staff is an issue.

Less than three weeks out from the Batman byelection, Labor has yet to announce a definitive policy on Adani’s Carmichael coalmine.

Climate activists have focused their campaign on calling for Labor to announce that in government it would reverse existing approvals for new coalmines in the Galilee Basin. Labor leader Bill Shorten has responded with statements that have been interpreted as being “tougher on Adani”, but that have fallen far short of the demands of the movement which regards Labor as still straddling the fence.

The Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) traditional owners of the land on which Adani has approval to build its Carmichael coalmine are concerned that the Queensland government will act to extinguish their native title rights prior to a Federal Court hearing scheduled for March 12–15.

This follows the decision by the Federal Court to not extend an interim injunction, which had been in place since December 18, restraining the Queensland government from extinguishing native title under the terms of the purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA).

Members of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance (OCAA) gathered in Acland on February 14 for the Queensland environment department’s decision on the environmental authority for New Hope Coal’s proposed Acland Stage 3 project. 

Expecting the worst — that the department would reject the recommendation of the Land Court — local farmers and community members were overjoyed at the decision by Queensland’s Environment and Science Department to reject New Acland’s environmental authority amendment for the Stage 3 coalmine expansion. 

The announcement on February 9 that Aurizon will withdraw its application to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to construct a rail link between the Abbot Point coal terminal and the Galilee Basin was welcomed by opponents of the Adani Carmichael coal project.

Coordinator of Farmers for Climate Action Queensland Michael Kane was heartened by the setback to the rail line. He said graziers across central Queensland had been put through the wringer over this mega coal mine project.

Stop Adani activists from around Australia gathered in Canberra on February 5, calling on Labor and Coalition MPs to prioritise cancelling the Adani mine project in this session of parliament.

About 100 protesters set up at the front and rear entrances of Parliament House from 7am to “welcome” politicians arriving for the first day of parliament.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told the National Press Club in Canberra on January 30 that he had become increasingly sceptical of Adani”s Carmichael coalmine in recent months: “We’re certainly looking at the Adani matter very closely,” he said. “If it doesn’t stack up commercially or if it doesn’t stack up environmentally it will absolutely not receive our support.”

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