Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 86 
The Greatest Violence
Photo: Ray Drew
The greatest violence is budgetary. The deep psyche of the nation – or is it just its deep apathy? – speaks through its allocation and non-allocation of funds. The allocation and/or non-allocation it is prepared to let its governments make on its behalf.
Our principal agency for the care of our wildlife and its environment, for example, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which seems to have received hit after hit in recent years, has recently received another, as outlined here by the Public Service Association of New South Wales:
The NSW Government are marking the 50th anniversary of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) with a massive restructure that will cuts jobs and push hundreds and hundreds of years of experience out the door.
The Berijiklian Government is overseeing the scrapping of 13 highly experienced Area Managers – who have a critical role in bushfire management. In recent years NPWS has downsized from 66 areas across the state to what will be just 37 under this latest restructure.
Due to the current restructure, Pest Management Officers and Fire Management Officers have been slashed across the state with the new structure containing just eight PMOs.
These cuts to specialist roles mean fewer conservation programs, reduced maintenance of facilities and fire hazard reduction, less focus on dealing with pests and weeds, and the increasing problem of wild dogs and deer.
Admin support has been downgraded all across the state resulting in loss of crucial regional jobs and in many cases, massive wage reductions. With wage growth at all time lows, the impact of this restructure will be felt hardest in the regions.
These cuts are being made because of the massive reduction in funding from the Berejiklian Government, with 121 million dollars slashed from their budget.
The number of NPWS rangers has been reduced by 20% in the last seven years. There are now only 249 for the whole state of New South Wales. I’m told NPWS staff are having to apply for their own jobs. There are many NPWS initiatives and actions of which I am no ardent supporter – even the NPWS is tending to kill first, think later – but the case is indicative.
At the same time as the care for our wildlife is taking such a whack, the federal government is not only closing a deal for the construction of twelve new submarines to replace the Collins-class fleet, at an estimated 50-80 billion dollars, but is contemplating expanding, at U.S. request, Australia’s military commitment in Afghanistan, an engagement which has already cost the country more than ten billion dollars. (Australia’s total military budget for 2014-15, to offer just a glimpse, was $29.3 billion.) WestConnex, a 33 kilometre motorway scheme, predominantly underground, is currently under construction in Sydney at an estimated eventual cost of 45 billion dollars. The federal government and the government of Queensland have each very recently seriously entertained lending the Indian firm Adani one billion dollars toward the construction of an 189 kilometre railway link between the proposed vast Carmichael coal mine and the port at Abbot Point, the expansion and operation of which seriously threaten the already-stricken Great Barrier Reef (toward the saving of which the federal government has recently committed a meagre 60 million dollars, or one seventeenth the amount they have been thinking of lending Adani).
One could bandy such figures around indefinitely, but the gist is probably clear, and in any case the allocation of government funds is only one of the ways our priorities are reflected. A market economy – a stock-market economy – driven by the need for perpetual growth and perpetual consumption tends to have room for the non-human animal only in as much as it can profit from it. So far it seems the only way anyone has been able to come up with to make a profit from our wildlife is by killing it and selling its body parts. An investment of even one thousandth of our military budget in thinking this through might be able to come up with something far better.
In terms of wildlife policy this derogation of the non-human animal and its environment translates most immediately and devastatingly into ‘conservation killing’ (that oxymoron): slaughter as the default option in the resolution of any apparent wildlife imbalance. Corellas are creating a problem in your orchard? Kill (‘cull’) the corellas. Koalas are overcrowding and eating down the food-gums in your area? Kill (‘cull’) the koalas. Kangaroos are eating down the paddock you have in fact trapped them in? Kill (‘cull’) kangaroos. A shark has taken a swimmer on one of ‘your’ surfing beaches? Kill (‘cull’) sharks – and so for dingoes, crocodiles, camels, sulphur-crested cockatoos, brumbies, etc., etc. Despite the fact that koalas are extinct in much/most of the country, that there are huge areas where kangaroos are near-to-extinct, etc. First and foremost because killing is the cheapest and most immediate option; others – far better, environmentally sounder options – take time, take thought, take money. Australia lies well behind much of the 'developed' world in this. Whereas – a pipe-dream to beat all pipe-dreams – were we to shift wildlife and environmental care from the bottom to even half-way up our list of priorities, allocate the funds to research and pursue non-lethal alternatives and their requisite infrastructures, the situation might be very different.
Imagine. A Wildlife Protection Service that is one of the largest departments in the country. Two thousand rangers where now there are only two hundred. Permanently-employed teams trained in animal rescue and animal relocation. Think-tanks at every level to determine more wildlife-sympathetic infrastructure, modes in which, in this vast country, all of its tribes, human and non-human can get along. A banning of lethal solutions. Legislation to require landholders to create/allow wildlife corridor, create wildlife drought provisions, etc.
Hard to know what photograph to put with a post like this. I seem to have settled on a joey on the move. I’ll leave it for you to decide whether she’s jumping for joy or hopping for her life.