Pest animal control – supporting sporting shooters and farmers

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (18:08:53): My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Agriculture. The action I seek from the minister is for her to take action to better promote the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia’s (SSAA) Farmer Assist program through her department and her agencies and to the general public to ensure that there is a win for farmers, a win for the environment and a win for public land management. Feral animals are a blight on Victoria’s landscape for both public and private land tenures. Their eradication is the desire of all private landholders and farmers, and the cost to the economy of their actions is quite significant. Feral pests certainly reduce farm stock capacity, compete with our native fauna and create complex pressures on the environment, such as increased erosion and the spreading of diseases. Foxes, wild dogs, wild pigs, rabbits and feral cats destroy our crops, infect livestock and attack our young stock such as lambs. If anyone has ever seen what a fox or a wild dog can do to a lamb, it is just atrocious, and there are those poor farmers that have to deal with that as a consequence. In Victoria the Farmer Assist program has been going for a little over two years, but the SSAA would like it to gain more traction to benefit the farming community. Standard operating procedures ensure that all of the highly trained members of the SSAA take the highest level of animal welfare into consideration when controlling pests. This free service is, as I have said, highly regulated. The qualified, experienced shooters are licensed, accredited and insured. Landholders have total control over who comes onto their property, and the key thing which I learned today is that the program is very much about the creation of a relationship between the landholder and the SSAA member. The SSAA also has $20 million worth of public liability and personal accident cover. There is an online portal that I have researched and it makes registration very easy. Upon meeting with the SSAA members David Laird and Justin Law today I was made aware that there is a need for greater farmer participation and hence a need for greater engagement within the agricultural sector. I ask the minister to take those actions that she can achieve within her portfolio to better promote this service in her department and through her various agencies.