Australia is rapidly losing its world-famous biodiversity. More than 90 species have gone extinct since European colonisation (including three in just the past decade), and more than 1,700 species are now formally recognised as being in danger of extinction.
Despite the pride many Australians feel in our unique natural heritage (and the billions of dollars made from nature-based tourism) the amount of federal funding for biodiversity conservation has dropped by 37% since 2013.
If a local industry or public institution experienced such a drastic funding cut, the people affected would petition their local representatives and the issue would be raised in parliament as a matter of local or national importance.
Threatened species cannot of course lobby government. But all threatened species on the land have at least one elected official who should take responsibility for them.
A member of parliament’s primary job, besides being a party member and parliamentarian, is to speak up for local interests. Data from the Species of National Environmental Significance shows that every federal electorate contains at least one threatened species, so every single federally elected politician has a role to play in abating species extinction.
We’ve used that data to create an interactive map that shows the number of threatened species in each federal electorate, along with details of the local MP and their party. It’s obvious from a glance that a handful electorates contain most of Australia’s threatened species. (You can click on an electorate to view information on the local member, and to download its threatened species lists.)
This is because species are not uniformly spread across the landscape, and also because electorate size varies hugely according to population density. The biggest electorate is the Division of Durack, which at 1.6 million square kilometres is half the size of Germany, while the smallest (the Division of Grayndler in inner Sydney) is 0.002% Durack’s size.
Because extremely large seats are in remote and rural areas, they are dominated by Liberal and National politicians. Melissa Price, the Liberal member for Durack, represents 359 threatened species, or about 20% of Australia’s total.
The box below highlights the 10 seats with the most threatened species. Between them, the members for these 10 electorates represent 609 – or 36% – of all threatened species in Australia. These MPs need to be empowered to protect the natural heritage of their electorates.
Authors: James Watson, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland