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EXTINCTION STATEMENT: Time for Prime Ministers to take personal responsibility for the ultimate policy failure

22 April 2022

On Earth Day 2022, Independent Senator Rex Patrick has announced his plans to introduce legislation into the next Parliament that will require the Prime Minister to be personally accountable for Australia’s irrevocable environmental failures, specifically the extinction of our unique flora and fauna. 

“While politicians often talk about protecting the environment, it’s rarely their first priority and it’s even more rare that they’re called to account for failures to ensure the survival of endangered species,” Senator Patrick said. 

“Prime Ministers and their Governments will only give our natural environment the priority it deserves when the consequences of failure are sheeted home to them politically and personally.”

“Accordingly I propose to introduce into the Parliament a Private Senators Bill that will amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.”

"This reform of the EPBC Act will require the Prime Minister to personally make an annual Extinction and Endangered Species Statement to Parliament, listing Australian species that have gone extinct and those that are critically endangered and providing detailed explanations for their status." 

“That annual Prime Ministerial Extinction Statement would be informed by authoritative and published advice from an independent panel, established under the legislation, of eminent ecologists and other scientific experts.”

“No Prime Minister is going to be very keen to stand up in the Parliament and sound the death knell for unique Australian species, but that is what’s likely to be required to focus the minds of governments to take action before the irrevocable point of extinction is reached.” 

“There is most certainly the need for conservation efforts to be greatly intensified.” 

“Climate change is already causing rapid change and damage across Australia’s ecosystems with the extinction of increasing numbers of unique Australian species being a likely, and in some cases already inevitable, consequence.” 

“This is likely to continue for decades to come even if international efforts to stabilise and reduce greenhouse gas emissions are eventually successful. Regrettably the horse has already bolted as far as many ecological impacts of climate change are concerned.” 

“Destruction of endangered species habitat also continues at an unprecedented rate due to destructive resource extraction and land management practices, and the loopholes and weaknesses of Australia’s national environmental protection and conservation framework.”

Last year the Australian government officially acknowledged the extinction of another 13 endemic species, including 12 mammals and the first reptile known to have been lost since European colonisation.

The updated list of Australian extinctions means more than 10% of the 320 land mammals known to have lived in Australia in 1788 are now extinct.

Australian species facing grave threats to their survival include the Numbat, the Gouldian Finch, Mountain Pygmy-possum, Regent Honeyeater, Orange-bellied parrot, Northern Quoll, Wolylie, Eastern Curlew, Black-flanked Rock-wallaby and the Purple-crowned Fairy Wren."   

Senator Patrick said: “The recent listing of Australia’s iconic Koala as endangered is another warning sign of environmental disaster unless Australia’s political leaders face up the looming threat of extinction and give far greater priority to the preservation of the natural environment – locally, nationally and globally.”

“Through the amendments to the EPBC Act I will propose, the Prime Minister will be required to stand up each year and be directly accountable for his or her Government’s stewardship of Australia’s most threatened species."

“In the case of newly extinct species the Prime Minister will be required to present a detailed account of the reasons why extinction took place including why conservation efforts failed and what lessons can be learned.”