KOALA WAR THREATENS TO SPLIT THE GOVERNMENT OF AUSTRALIA’S LARGEST STATE
New South Wales was rocked this week by a dispute Australian newspapers have dubbed the “koala war” (Sydney Morning Herald). The state’s coalition government threatened to come apart following disagreements over the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), a conservation law passed to help protect koalas and their dwindling habitat this past December following the country’s historic bushfires. The law gained wide support from the public after a cross-government inquiry found that koalas were likely to go extinct by 2050 in the absence of urgent government action (BBC).
The dispute began when the National Party, known for their support of rural interests, announced plans to attempt to repeal the SEPP, declaring that the law unfairly prevents farmers from clearing their own land (Al Jazeera). After their coalition partner, the Liberal party, announced that they would not support such actions, the Nationals retaliated by promising to pull their support for government legislation. Liberal leader, State Premier Gladys Berejiklian, responded in kind, announcing that she would swear in a new government if the dispute was not resolved quickly (Reuters).
“We are not anti-koala,” Nationals leader, Deputy Premier John Barilaro, stated when pressed on the issue (BBC). However, despite the escalating tension, the two parties were able to reach a compromise. On September 11, the parties jointly announced that they would both remain in the coalition and have agreed to place the SEPP on the agenda of a future cabinet meeting (Reuters).