Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (11:55): Wednesday, 3 May 2023
I am really pleased to rise to show the Nationals’ and the Liberals’ support for this documents motion. Normally documents motions are non-controversial; they are about accessing information that is hidden from public view but is of significant public interest.
I might just say at the outset of my discussion on this topic that Mr Bourman has moved the motion and we are happy to support Mr Bourman, but he was not happy to support the Nationals or the Liberals in the seat of Morwell. Indeed his candidate’s second preference went to the Labor Party.
Here we have a member of the upper house, of the Shooters and Fishers, and they were supporting the government, which has stated on this inquiry – I have heard Mr Galea talk about the upper house inquiry and the minister at the table the Honourable Lizzie Blandthorn has said:
My views on this issue are well known. I do not need convincing and I am certainly not for turning. My view is that I believe native waterbird hunting should be banned …
That is an interesting partnership where we had the Shooters and Fishers directly supporting the Labor Party. They did not get up. The member for Morwell is the Nationals member, Martin Cameron. They were directly supporting them in one context, and then we have got the Labor Party saying this about the shooting and hunting fraternity and that native bird hunting should be banned.
Nevertheless I am very interested to follow this line of conversation in relation to Ministers. There seems to have been a vacuum on Ministers. I was reflecting earlier today on a picture that popped into my head: the Chinese proverb about the three wise monkeys. Three Ministers must sign off for there to be a variation on the duck season and the quail season – the native bird hunting seasons. They are the Minister for Outdoor Recreation, the Minister for Environment and the Minister for Agriculture. In reflecting on the three wise monkeys in no way am I suggesting to this house that the ministers are monkeys, not at all – that is the furthest thing from the truth – but nor am I saying that they are wise in this decision, because clearly there has been compelling information, documentation and scientific evidence delivered unto them and they have turned away from it. They have rejected it.
My vision of that was that they have closed their eyes to a clear recommendation from the Game Management Authority (GMA) about a full duck season. They have closed their ears to compelling evidence from independent scientists, and a great array of them, and they have zipped their mouths shut in relation to this season. We did a bit of a fact check, and nowhere in this new Parliament, in the 60th Parliament, has any of those three made any mention to hunting in outdoor recreation or in any of their portfolios, so here we have this vision of the alternate version of the three wise monkeys.
The GMA has presented a comprehensive paper to the Andrews government, to those Ministers. It has presented a full season for 2023, it has presented a four-bag daily limit in duck season, and it has presented from 15 March to 12 June for the full season – a tad over two months – and that was because of the midweek opening on 8 May. It also recommended the blue-winged shoveler and the hardhead be prohibited from the species that could be hunted during this season.
Post question time I am pleased to continue my contribution. I was speaking before question time about the GMA’s – the Game Management Authority’s – report that it has presented to the Minister for Outdoor Recreation. Indeed it covers off on and it goes to Mr Bourman’s point about the scientific evidence and the scientists who undertake this analysis and that it has multiple layers of assessments. It has an eastern Australian waterbird survey (EAWS) by Professor Richard Kingsford, it has an interim harvest model output report assessed by both Professor Marcel Klaassen and Professor Kingsford, it looks at BOM and it looks at other areas and jurisdictions including New South Wales and South Australia.
It also looks at hunting fraternities; they come and present. Environmental and animal welfare organisations are also able to make submissions. The GMA has stated that it has taken a precautionary approach. Unfortunately what has happened is this government has taken that precautionary approach and then multiplied it to a reduction of season which is out of line and unreasonable based on this high degree of analysis through the GMA.
I know my friends in the hunter conservationists feel that this over precautionary approach from GMA was in itself unacceptable. I appreciate that fact, but the government has gone out on a frolic and taken off even more weeks to diminish the season, and this is unacceptable.
I think what we on this side feel is most unacceptable is that there has been a code of silence on this issue. The government has not justified why it has done this. The GMA offered in writing a full in-person briefing from its staff and board to the Minister for Outdoor Recreation and/or the Minister for Environment and Climate Action and/or the Minister for Agriculture. We also see that Brian Hine, the Chairperson, has resigned – I believe in frustration over this – prior to the expiry of his contract.
We see the BOM, the EAWS, the New South Wales quotas and the interim model all saying that there is high rainfall, that there are favourable climatic conditions for waterbird breeding. Indeed the report goes into great detail on that. What it also highlights, which I think is really disingenuous of the government, is that in September last year the GMA provided a waterfowl wounding reduction action plan that was a collaboration of welfare organisations and hunting organisations. They presented that to the government, and it is still tardily sitting on somebody’s desk not being assessed. We would like to see that information and why that is happening.
We have spoken about the high regulation of this industry and pastime, and we see legislation, regulation, variations on wetlands being opened, compliance and authorised officers and Victoria Police coming during the season.
Just on the point of compliance, we see that the GMA a few days ago put up on its website some details around compliance. It was stated on that website – this has since been removed and has gone into the ether – 795 game license’s checked and 652 hunter bags checked, with one bag which was over the limit.
There were 197 protesters, and they were checking around the 173 wetlands available. Now, 800 checked, one game bird over the limit. We also know that of 197 protesters two were booked for dangerous behaviour, so it is not all one way as they would have us believe. We do expect compliance. All citizens should comply. If there is any recalcitrance, it will not be among the law-abiding hunters that I meet with who work so very diligently to improve the wetlands, improve a whole vast array of wetlands and game reserves, including Heart Morass, including Connewarre and including the Shepparton state game reserves. There is a lot more to be said about this that needs to be explained and expanded for the Victorian community.