Labor will be the one party to blame for the extinction of koalas if it happens, because of their lack of action today, a rally protesting native forest logging has heard.
Speakers at the Bob Brown Foundation rally to end native forest logging nationally accused the Albanese and Minns governments of being “laggards” when it came to protecting Australia’s iconic tree-dwelling marsupial.
Hundreds of Sydneysiders gathered in Marrickville’s Addison Road Community Centre to show support for the campaign on Saturday.
“Sadly, and shamefully, the New South Wales Minns Labor government are complete laggards. Stubborn laggards,” said Greens senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi. “They will be the ones to blame if they don’t take urgent action right now for the extinction of our iconic koalas.
“So, I guess there is only one party to blame for what’s going on at the moment. The Prime Minister is the most powerful person in this country. The Prime Minister can do this today, especially in a progressive parliament and with the support and push from the Greens.”
— Rex Siu (@rexsiu_) August 12, 2023
During the rally, the Greens urged the Labor government and Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to end native forest logging and to make good on their promise to build the Great Koala National Park.
“This current state’s Minns government promised all of NSW a Great Koala National Park… that this Labor government was elected to deliver to the people of NSW [and] to end logging of the Koala National Park of the mid-north coast,” Greens MP and former public interest environmental lawyer Sue Higginson said.
The rally was hosted by comedian Dan Ilic and also heard from Rainforest Information Centre founder John Seed, environmental activist Suzie Russell, Doctors for the Environment representative Kim Loo and high school climate activist Chris Black. Musicians William Crighton and Montaigne also performed to show their support.
Higginson also urged people to question the necessity of logging.
“In the last two years, to log our forests in NSW, it cost you, and me, and everybody else in NSW $28 million,” she said.
“We’re not logging for resource. Most of the timber that we are logging is going to fenceposts, firewood, paper, and pulp. It’s not building our houses… it’s literally being used for low value products that we can replace elsewhere.”
Dr Faruqi described the Labor government’s lack of action as “criminal”.
“It is just criminal, no other way to describe it,” she told the rally. “And we know that it is reckless regional forestry agreements and weak and broken federal environmental laws that have allowed native forest logging to go on indiscriminately, which has pushed our wildlife to the brink of extinction.
“It has endangered our water resources. It has heightened bush fire risks. And of course, it has made the climate crisis worse.”
Dr Faruqi claimed the government had put the wrong emphasis on the problem, choosing to crackdown on protesters instead.
Sydneysiders are giving up their Saturday afternoon to demonstrate solidarity and care for the nature and environment. #RallyforNativeForests
— UTS Journalism (@CentralNewsUTS) August 12, 2023
“Governments across Australia are more interested in cracking down on activists,” she told the rally. “In policing and putting in jail activists, who are putting their life on the line, their bodies on the line, to save this planet while they are completely abdicating their responsibility to keep people and the planet safe, to tackle the climate crisis and the extinction crisis with the urgency and the profoundness that it demands.”
Higginson described native forest logging as a “war on nature” and also “on the Gumbaynggirr elders,” in reference to an arrest last Thursday.
“On Thursday, a traditional Gumbaynggirr man was practicing ceremony … in our forests, and the police crash-tackled him [and] took him to the Coffs Harbour police station. He spent all night in the Coffs Harbour lock-up,” she added.
Dr Faruqi called for urgent action.
“We are here today to tell the Prime Minister that we will not stop doing this,” she said.
“New Zealand did this 23 years ago at the turn of the century. It is high time that Prime Minister Albanese started to put people and the planet above corporate profits and above industry lobbies.”
The Bob Brown Foundation is holding rallies in other cities including Hobart, Melbourne, Ulladulla, Canberra, Albury, Sydney, Lismore and Perth.
They will also stage a protest outside the Australian Labor Party’s national conference on Saturday.
Main image by Lilas-Mae Njoo.