Today I have announced that as Chair of the Senate's Environment Committee I will move for the Faunal Extinction Inquiry to examine the impact of the catastrophic fires across the country on endangered wildlife and flora.
The already-established Inquiry gives the Parliament an opportunity to immediately get on with what needs to be done to protect our native fauna and flora in the wake of the fires.
Before the fires started, Australia already had one of the worst extinction rates in the world. Now more than a billion animals have been killed by fires across the country and thousands of hectares of habitat destroyed and we are only half way through summer - we don’t have time to waste.
The Faunal Extinction Inquiry can hit the ground running. The Committee can get out into the fire-ravaged areas so senators can see the extent of the devastation first hand, and bring together stakeholders and experts so recommendations can be made to the Parliament about what needs to be done to prevent further species’ extinction.
Species like the Kangaroo Island dunnart and black glossy cockatoo, koalas, and even mainland quokkas in WA, have been killed, injured and suffered huge losses to their critical habitat.
The Senate needs to do what it can to aid fire recovery and ensure adequate funding and plans are in place to protect our native species and the environment they live in.
"We cannot rely on the government to get this right, they haven’t committed anywhere near enough money for fire recovery, announcing this week just $50million to wildlife affected by the bushfire crisis. This is is nowhere near enough and should be at least ten times as much.
With more than a billion native animals reportedly impacted and killed in the catastrophic fires across the country and millions of hectares of habitat burnt, $50million won’t go far.
When Celeste Barber can raise as much money as the Federal Government has committed to this tragedy, it shows their heart’s not in it.
This is an environmental catastrophe and saving, restoring and protecting our wildlife and their habitats must be a fundamental part of the recovery from these bushfires.
I saw first-hand on Kangaroo Island last week, what wildlife carers and conservationists are going through, they deserve and need far more support.
This can’t just be a fluffy PR exercise from the Environment Minister because the whole world is talking about Australia’s koalas being burnt and killed.
Our beautiful environment and wildlife is what makes Australia the place people want to come and visit, it deserves more than this token announcement.
The Greens called for a Fighting Fund for the Environment and this is not it - this is petty cash. We need significantly more money and a proper commitment from the Government to the restoration of the environment and ecosystems, or we may just lose some of our precious wildlife and flora for good.
We’ve also seen this week reports of another mass fish kill in NSW caused by ash and sediment from bushfires running into the Macleay River, which is the disaster experts had been warning about and needs an urgent response from water ministers.
I wrote to state and federal Water and Environment Ministers on Wednesday, before news of the fish kill, urging them to meet as a matter of urgency to coordinate a joint effort across fire-affected states to ensure safe, clean water supply.
A 70km long mass fish kill on the NSW mid north coast didn’t just happen overnight and the catastrophe isn’t over yet. The Federal Government needs to tell us what they did to mitigate such a disaster and what they are doing to prevent future fish kill events.
No government can say they weren’t warned. More fish kills, like that seen at Menindee last summer, had already been forecast for this summer due to drought.
Experts have predicted waterway and catchment contamination because of ash, debris and carcass run off, posing a risk to drinking water and leading to the starvation of oxygen in our rivers and lakes.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority reported this week that bushfires burning across the southern Basin will impact water quality in some catchments when the rain finally comes.
The Federal Government must lead an urgent Water Pollution Action Plan to deal with the immediate water crisis and looming consequences for Australia’s water security.
Right now we are seeing one ecological disaster after another because of the fires. This is what the Climate Emergency looks like. The Federal Government was warned and failed to adequately prepare. They must not continue to be so complacent when public health and the future of native species is at risk.