I am pleased to rise to speak on this bill on behalf of the Liberal Party, and I say at the outset that we will not be supporting the Hon. Mark Parnell’s bill.
I want quickly to touch on my own life experiences with regard to that “evil” subject of duck hunting. I was fortunate enough some 30 years ago to be introduced to the great feast of wild duck by my father-in-law. I was lucky enough to be invited to a number of dinners—maybe when my father-in-law was actually checking me out to see whether I was suitable to become his son-in-law. Fortunately, I managed to pass that rigorous process. After a couple of great dinners I started to develop an appreciation for wild duck—I must say, usually complemented by good wine—and it was not long before my father-in-law suggested that enough was enough and now I could go and assist in procuring the same. I thought, ‘I will be in for anything’—and, again, remembering that I was still trying still to win favour—
An honourable member: The wine, or the duck?
The Hon. T.J. STEPHENS: No, the duck. It was easy enough to buy a bottle of wine from any of the local Whyalla bottle departments.
So, away I went, really not prepared for what is actually quite an arduous task. Anyone who knows anything about duck hunting would know that nobody who participates would call it a sport. It is not a sport: it is actually a hunting activity. For every wild duck that is eaten, because of the amount of time and effort and hours travelled, and the inconvenience of laying in wait before dawn because of the rigorous rules and procedures that are in place, if you could go to a restaurant and sit down and be served wild duck, I would happily do that rather than go through the process of procuring the same.
Whilst it became probably one of my two favourite foods, I quickly learnt the disciplines and expectation with regard to hunting, and the responsibilities that all the people I have come into contact with over the years feel with regard to the conservation aspect and respect for the bird itself. Certainly, with a fair amount of glee, I have seen some of my fellow duck hunters (and I have had to do it myself) waist deep in a dirty, muddy dam chasing a wounded bird, because there is respect for the animal. Whilst it has been reported to the contrary, I have only ever seen people act in a most honourable manner with regard to the way these events are conducted and the disciplines you must obey to participate—apart from safety issues.
I can speak from experience. This is not one of those areas where I have had to weigh up different evidence and submissions from different people because, over the years, I have been duck hunting a number of times. One of the excellent aspects of the experience was the training that senior people would put into us younger people to show that we could prepare a really good meal.
I guess one of the better things I have learnt to do as a husband and father is prepare meals that are a little bit out of the ordinary, and it is very satisfying to have the family sit around at the table and enjoy something that you have worked pretty hard to prepare.
A couple of people who did take the trouble to contact me are obviously quite experienced with regard to this particular issue. I have had an email from a Mr Matthew Godson, who has spent some time trying to make sure that I had a reasonable understanding of where he was coming from. He is tied up with the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia. I will read the email rather than pull it apart into bits and pieces, because I think it gives a pretty fair explanation as to where responsible duck hunters are coming from. It states:
Dear Hon. Terry Stephens
I write this email in response to the Hon. Mark Parnell’s bill to ban duck hunting. I see myself as a law abiding citizen and a valuable community member. I’m not a brutal barbaric murderer that the animal rights groups like to label me and my hunting companions.
I have hunted and fished for many years and I find it alarming that these small minority groups are trying their best to prevent me from spending quality time with family and friends in an activity which results in food for the family dinner table.
These animal rights groups always try to portray duck hunting as a ‘blood sport’ and that hunters ‘kill for fun’. This is definitely not the case. The fact is hunting is a pastime that allows me and thousands of others to spend quality time with other people out in the natural environment. I see this activity no different than fishing. The result of obtaining food is the same.
We are continually being told to buy both free-range and organic foods. Duck hunting provides organic, free-range food. Surely it is not right to prevent someone with a capability to harvest their own healthy food?
Duck hunting has no negative environmental impact. I and many others would prefer a regulated open season based on seasonal conditions where we can take a small percentage of the wild duck surplus that is destined to die off each year. This is much better than managing ducks as pests.
The Hon. Mark Parnell’s bill should not be allowed to pass through. After reading the detail I make these following points:
·The Hon. Mark Parnell’s party is aligned with extreme animal rights groups. All information provided is biased and should be treated as questionable. He ignores the involvement of other stakeholder groups in the consultation process that made recommendations that supported an open season.
·He fails to understand that native ducks are in tune with the environment and adjust to changing environmental conditions, especially Australia’s unpredictable rainfall. Ducks are migratory and, with the recent flooding in large parts of Queensland and New South Wales providing ideal breeding conditions, ducks from South Australia have taken flight to take advantage of these conditions to breed.
·He states that very few ducks are here in South Australia but just the other day in The Advertiser (29 July) it was reported that a Department of Environment and Conservation wetland ecologist had counted 60,000 grey teal in the Coorong area alone. This surely shows that populations have been unaffected by this year’s hunting season.
·Duck hunting groups are committed to conservation through the sustainable use of wildlife. This model of conservation is supported and has been successful worldwide. Wetland restoration work not only provides habitat for the limited number of duck species we choose to hunt but also hundreds of other species of water birds. Those that ideologically oppose duck hunting have no desire to do this or fund such conservation programs. The introduction of this bill has the potential to reverse the conservation gains created by hunters and this will certainly lead to habitat loss and neglect.
·He points out that duck shooting is banned in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. This is totally incorrect. Ducks are still shot in these states as pests under destruction permit arrangements. In New South Wales for example many more ducks are now shot and poisoned under pest permits than were previously harvested by hunters for food during past regulated open seasons. In what I can only term as bizarre he even states that his bill will allow ducks to be destroyed as pests. This makes no sense to me. He wants to stop me and other hunters harvesting ducks as a food resource which provides conservation benefits, but is happy for them to be killed as pests and left to rot. Surely it is better to treat ducks as a valuable natural resource.
·He makes the point that the RSPCA oppose duck hunting on the grounds of cruelty. This view is emotive because cruelty is fundamentally avoidable when a person takes the effort to reduce ‘unnecessary pain and suffering’. Hunters do take the welfare of animals into account. Hunters work hard to provide habitat to enable ducks to live as wild animals free from constant human‑animal interactions that has the potential for pain and suffering. I like many other hunters put much effort into sharpening our skills by practising clay target shooting to ensure a quick and clean shot is delivered.
·The wounding rates that he relies heavily upon in this bill have been scrutinised and dismissed by scientists in 1998. They were found to not accurately predict wounding rates and it was stated that they should be ignored in discussions regarding real wounding rates. If on the rare occasion a duck falls wounded I would always quickly collect and dispatch it. The retrieval usually takes only a matter of seconds. I believe that to view this situation in perspective, one should compare this brief moment to the life of a livestock animal. These animals are bred, caged, transported and held in yards before being slaughtered. Livestock are constantly subjected to human-animal interactions which result in some degree of pain and suffering across their whole life. I believe that livestock animals have a much worse fate than a wild duck. Even Peter Singer who is credited as the philosophical founder of the modern animal rights lobby asks…’Why for instance is the hunter who shoots a deer for venison subject to more criticism than the person who buys a ham at the supermarket? Overall it is probably the intensively reared pig who has suffered more.’
In summary I would like to say that duck hunting in South Australia should remain and continue to be managed under the principles of adaptive management and sustainable use where there will never be an impact on overall duck populations.
Duck hunting provides a free-range organic food source for the family. Hunting fees and restoration activities provide conservation benefit far beyond the duck species we choose to hunt. Hunters inject much needed funds into our country economies when they travel and purchase items within those communities.
Allowing ducks to be devalued and treated as pests is unacceptable. The Hon. Mark Parnell’s rationale behind this bill is clearly not what he has stated. It’s solely about animal rights over human rights, not conservation and animal welfare. The bill is intended to prevent people from having a ‘right to choose’ to harvest a sustainable food resource. Understandably, duck hunting like fishing, is not for everybody but that’s not a good enough reason to ban it.
Even if no duck was wounded in the process, the animal rights groups behind the bill would still want duck hunting banned. I believe that this fact alone reveals the truth behind this bill that doesn’t fit well in mainstream society. These groups want to prevent people from all walks of life from hunting, fishing, farming, consuming and utilising any animal for food or product. It should not be allowed to be pushed onto our community.
There are many aspects and points that Mr Matthew Godson has made with which I concur. I do not necessarily subscribe to the fact that the Hon. Mark Parnell is beholden to any particular group, but I certainly agree with the points that are made with respect to hunting for food.
I have received a briefing note from the Conservation and Hunting Alliance of South Australia (CHASA), and I would like to read some points that it made. The document states that CHASA is an alliance of conservation and hunting associations in South Australia, comprised of the South Australian Field and Game Association, Wetlands and Wildlife, Hellenic Shooting Sports Association of South Australia, Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, South Australian Ferret Association and Working Gun Dogs Association of Australia. CHASA is supported by the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting. It further states:
The National Parks and Wildlife (Ban on Hunting Protected Animals) Amendment Bill introduced on June 3, 2009 by the Hon. Mark Parnell MLC, Australian Greens (SA):
CHASA strongly oppose the bill.
·Does not contribute to wildlife conservation
·Will eliminate the Environmental, Social and Economic benefits of hunting to the State and its regional communities
·Ignores efforts undertaken by the South Australian Government and South Australian hunters to implement sustainable hunting in the state.
It goes on to talk about conservation benefits of hunting and states:
Hunting provides incentive for ongoing involvement in environmental restoration and rehabilitation projects, research monitoring and survey programs…Hunters play a vital role in South Australia’s conservation effort providing essential support for our natural resources.
·Protection and conservation of Bool Lagoon (Ramsar-listed wetland of international importance)
·Creation of the Water Valley Wetlands complex
·Restoration of Woolenook and Loveday wetlands and the Noora Evaporation Basin
·Restoration of Banrock Station wetland (Ramsar-listed)
·Operation Bounceback [participates in] (feral animal control in the Gammon, Gawler and Flinders Ranges, and in the Riverland Biosphere Reserve)
In South Australia, politicians investigated the costs and benefits of duck hunting. Duck hunters were clearly identified as the most significant community group in the state contributing positively as perceived by all key stakeholders to ‘wetland and waterbird conservation’.
It talks about the social benefits of hunting and states:
Hunting is highly valued by a large cross-section of the community.
·Promotes a healthy active lifestyle.
·Improves understanding of the natural environment.
·Builds social diversity.
·Participation is not limited by age or gender.
Hunting has significant traditional and cultural meaning which is an intrinsic part of the complex overlay of views and values held by individuals within our society.
It talks about the economic benefits of hunting and states:
Hunting generates significant financial benefits to many regional communities in South Australia. Hunters contribute substantial amounts of time and resources to pest animal control efforts and save local and state government agencies and agricultural industry millions of dollars every year. 2000 open season endorsed permits are purchased by hunters in years when duck hunting is declared. A policy which under values the benefits of hunting would be detrimental to South Australia…Partnerships such as this ensure that we get it right.
It goes on to talk about how the hunting community works with the Department for Environment and Heritage. The view that hunters are cowboys and have no conscience or do not make any effort is totally unsupported. With respect to the time and effort that you have to go through to procure a hunting licence, these days you have to sit for a water fowl identification test. People constantly have to purchase a licence and make sure that they have the landowner’s written permission to participate. It is not something that is taken lightly at any stage, and I think that the rights of the hunters should be protected. So, with those few words, I indicate that the Liberal Party will not be supporting the Hon. Mark Parnell’s bill.