Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2013: Second reading

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ame and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2013

Second Reading

Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY (Leader of the Opposition) [3.44 p.m.]: I want to make some remarks about the history of shooting in New South Wales State forests to challenge the assertion that is made so often, sometimes but not always by representatives of The Greens, that it was the Carr Labor Government that introduced shooting to New South Wales State forests. That is not the case. Shooting in New South Wales State forests has a long history, and I would like to address some of that history in this debate. In 1978 the Wran Government's Minister for Conservation and Minister for Water Resources, the Hon. Lin Gordon, introduced the Forestry (Amendment) Bill. I knew Lin Gordon as a great old-style Labor man.

Dr John Kaye: So it was not the Carr Labor Government; it was the Wran Labor Government. That is a lot better.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I spoke to Labor Party members in Griffith about Lin Gordon after he passed away. When Lin Gordon introduced the Forestry (Amendment) Bill in 1978 he made it clear that the bill sought to regulate shooters in the New South Wales State forests, amongst other things. Dr John Kaye interjected that it must have been the Wran Government not the Carr Government that introduced shooting in State forests. That is not true. Shooters have been in State forests for many, many, many decades. The Wran Labor Government and the Carr Labor Government regulated the activities of shooters in our State forests. For The Greens to assert that the Carr Labor Government introduced shooters to our State forests, as they so often do, is dead wrong. For them to move today to the position that it was the Wran Labor Government that introduced it is just as wrong. That is not the case. The Wran Government in 1978 and the Carr Government in its time in office regulated what shooters could get up to in the State forests of New South Wales.

The Hon. Catherine Cusack: Are you saying there was shooting in State forests before that deal was done?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: That is exactly what I am saying. I quote what Lin Gordon said on 16 March 1978 in the second reading debate on the Forestry (Amendment) Bill:
… I am pleased that through the legislation of 1970 and 1972 the principle of multiple use of the State forests—involving recreation considerations—was firmly enshrined in the Forestry Act.

The Hon. Catherine Cusack before she opens her mouth again might want to recall that a coalition government was in power in 1970 and 1972. If people want to challenge the very long history of multiple-use activities in our State forests let them do so, but do not pretend that this was introduced by Bob Carr's Government. It was not.

The Hon. Catherine Cusack: Was the Game Council introduced?

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: I will get to the question of the Game Council, but I want to correct some of the history. I quote some of the reasons of the then Minister in the other place when the Forestry (Amendment) Bill was debated and passed in 1978. He said:

The Forestry Act vests the control and management of the State forests in the Forestry Commission. It enables the commission to prosecute persons stealing timber or destroying or damaging trees on those lands and for depasturing animals on or otherwise occupying them without authority.

The Act is singularly deficient in powers for the commission to enforce other types of controls.
Think about that. The fact is what shooters got up to in State forests could not be policed or governed appropriately prior to the 1978 amendments. In 1978 the Parliament introduced changes to the forestry laws of the State to ensure that when people are shooting on a recreational basis in the State forests of New South Wales there were some regulations around what they got up to.

They did not exist prior to the 1978 reforms. The Minister, Lin Gordon, said:
The Act is singularly deficient in powers for the commission to enforce other types of controls. He went on to say:

A major feature of the bill corrects a very serious deficiency: it will overcome the lack of strong powers to deal with the carrying of firearms, indiscriminate shooting and the unauthorized trapping of animals in State forests. As honourable members are aware, State forests are kept open to the greatest degree possible, and the Forestry Commission is actively pursuing a policy, supported by the Government, of encouraging the public to make use of the forests as a recreation wherever this is consistent with the primary purpose for which these lands were dedicated. I assure honourable members that the bill is in no way intended to bring about a change in that policy. Rather it will enable the recreational-use policy to be followed and further developed, with greater protection and safety for the public and for the forest environment.

That is a very important statement from the Minister who introduced the reforms to the Forestry Act in 1978. He referred to "the lack of strong powers to deal with the carrying of firearms, indiscriminate shooting and the unauthorized trapping of animals in State forests"; yet one never hears this from The Greens, who like to pretend that New South Wales parliamentary politics only commenced when they entered this Parliament. There are a few parties that have been around a lot longer than The Greens political party. In the 1970s, coalition governments and Labor governments amended the forestry laws of this State to regulate the activities of recreational users of those State forests, and it was a Labor government in 1978 that dealt with the fact that the forestry laws did not contain strong powers to deal with the carrying of firearms. Let us have some honesty in this debate: It was a Labor government in 1978 that regulated what shooters could get up to in our State forests. In the second reading debate on 16 March 1978 Lin Gordon made a long commentary about the sorts of recreational activities that were considered to be appropriate within our State forests. He said:

The matter of unauthorised shooting, the carrying of firearms and the trapping or capturing of birds and animals is also dealt with in the bill. The current regulation-making powers in relation to shooting and the carrying of weapons in state forests have been found to be inadequate to provide the necessary deterrent to these practices. Quite apart from the danger to human and animal life, from time to time considerable damage is sustained to plant and equipment belonging to the commission and its licensees. He went on to say:

The new provisions, besides providing for substantial penalties of $500 or six months' imprisonment or both, will empower the police or authorized staff of the commission to seize weapons, traps or snares suspected on reasonable grounds of being used in the commission of an offence.
The amendment provides for the issuing of hunting permits to authorise persons to shoot or capture birds and animals when it is desirable to allow this activity. The hunting permit is to replace the outmoded game permit, which is currently provided for in the regulations. The administration of this provision will be subject to any relevant constraints contained in the National Parks and Wildlife Act with respect to protected fauna or endangered fauna under that Act.

The history of Labor's approach to shooting in State forests is to regulate it, to police it, to put it on a proper footing and to distinguish between legitimate, responsible recreational shooters and those who are irresponsible or environmental vandals or cruel and to throw the book at them. A Labor government in 1978 introduced tough laws that did not exist prior to those reforms to regulate the activities of recreational shooters in our State forests. Let us not proceed in this debate under a mistaken notion that amateur shooters were only let into our State forests by Bob Carr's government when the Game Council was established. That is dead wrong. I have quoted at length from Lin Gordon's contributions in the other place in 1978 to set the record straight.

As has been said many times in this debate, the Labor Party established the Game Council when Bob Carr was Premier. We stand by that decision and we will vote against the abolition of the Game Council today. We stand by our establishment of the Game Council. Having said that, the review that has occurred under this Government—whatever the motivations of the Premier for initiating that review—gives us all reason for concern. We in the Labor Party are concerned by some of the findings in that report. We think that the issues raised ought to be dealt with by reform of the Game Council, not its abolition. We think that reform ought to separate the regulatory activities from the advocacy and representative role that the Game Council has also played.

I believe the report of Mr Dunn puts forward a reasonable argument that the regulatory and the representative functions ought to be in different hands. The Labor Party can accept that. But we on this side of the House support representative bodies; we support collective bodies. We are a labour movement; we believe that by our common endeavour we are stronger than as individuals simply acting as individuals. We are a party based on a collective labour movement. Whether it is environmental groups, groups of sporting shooters, groups of workers, we support collective organisation and representation. That is why the notion of a Game Council as a representative body, as an advocacy body for recreational shooters is a concept that we are entirely comfortable with and we will continue to support its existence. We will oppose this bill's attempt to abolish a representative body for this State's recreational shooters. We think reform is in order but we think abolition is a bridge too far. The Government made a fine mess for itself when it announced that recreational shooters would be allowed into national parks and we all had a ding-dong debate in June last year in this place over that. I will not canvass all of the matters raised then; suffice to say that the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Labor Party disagree on this.

The Hon. Duncan Gay: You are still against it.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: We are still against it.

The Hon. Duncan Gay: You are not protecting the parks or the pastoralists.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: The Deputy Leader of the Government asks me whether we are still against it. We were against amateur hunting in national parks when we were in government and we are against it in opposition. We stood against it in government, to our political cost in this place. We took a decision based on principle, based on our view of the importance of the national park estate. We opposed amateur hunting in national parks and that came at a political cost to the then Labor Government. We have continued that principled opposition in our move to this side of the House. We have opposed amateur hunting in national parks in government and in opposition. The Liberal and Nationals parties have managed to both support and oppose amateur hunting in national parks in this term of this Parliament.

DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones): Order! I call the Hon. Steve Whan to order for the first time.

The Hon. LUKE FOLEY: In the short time remaining I want to make some remarks about the challenging policy question of how we deal with introduced species, how we deal with feral animals. I made some remarks last year about my father-in-law's experiences as a farmer with foxes playing havoc with his farm animals, and of the sight of lambs and sheep being devoured by foxes. I am somewhat familiar with the challenge faced by farmers from predatory feral animals. I also note that Australian native animals in our national park estate are at serious threat from feral animal populations. On the past two Sunday nights I watched the ABC documentary about Kakadu. That contained disturbing evidence of extinctions in Kakadu of native animals due to introduced cane toads, which continue to spread south and west from north-eastern Australia. In thinking about how to respond to the problem of feral animals, I am forced to consider both my concern for conservation of the natural world and my concern for the welfare of animals, because each animal's life is of value I believe. Whether it be a cow on a farm, a goat in western New South Wales, a native bird, a native marsupial or a whale off the coast of this State, each animal is the subject of a life. But at times our concern for the natural environment and our concern for the welfare of animals rub up against each other. I want to quote from the 2013 Voiceless Anthology, from the essay of Liana Joy Christensen, a writer and a member of the Australian Animal Studies Group. She wrote:

Bilbies, like so many native Australian species, are close to extinction. Part of the cause is introduced animals. Methods of controlling introduced species are often extremely cruel. Such stark facts can generate fixed positions—if you care for the science of ecology, you must close your eyes to the suffering of some animals; if your heart cannot abide the suffering of animals, you must shut your ears to the evidence of science. It doesn't help. There can be no simple answers to complex issues.

I agree with what she wrote there. These are complex and challenging issues. Despite my concern for the welfare of animals and my association with groups like Voiceless, I cannot support a position that says you can never kill an animal. My concern for the natural environment, my concern for the plight of farmers, does bring me to a position where I think feral animal populations have to be controlled. Labor established a Game Council. We will maintain that position today. We think the Government has overreached. I hope in the past 20 minutes I have at least cleared up one great falsehood in this debate: Labor did not introduce amateur hunters to our State forests; our history is to regulate what they can get up to.