November 1, 2012
Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (11:23): I rise to condemn the Labor-Greens alliance in this place that pretends to care about the environment but does absolutely nothing to protect native wildlife and farming stock from the impact of wild dogs in regional Australia.
I do not have much time this morning, Deputy Speaker, so I will keep my message very simple—so simple that perhaps even the minister and his greenie mates will understand what I am talking about. You have blood on your hands. Minister, while you sit in this place and hide behind your department's advice, wild dogs are killing stock and native animals in my electorate every day of the year. For the people on the ground who have to clean up this mess, it is devastating, it is traumatic and it is soul-destroying. The minister and the Greens pretend to care about the environment, they pretend to care about animal welfare issues but they allow wild dogs to kill native species and rip the guts out of livestock in my electorate and right throughout regional Australia every day of the year.
I say to the Greens, those animal rights activists that we often hear about on television, and I say to the minister for the environment: you are hypocrites of the highest order. If any of these people who pretend to care about the environment and pretend to care about animal welfare issues actually gave a damn, they would support all measures to control wild dogs in Australia—including aerial baiting in Victoria.
My local community and the Victorian state government are doing their best to control wild dogs, and the federal government is actually obstructing their efforts. The federal government is obstructing the efforts of the Victorian government to control wild dogs. The Victorian government has sought Commonwealth approval for a trial of aerial baiting to complement its increased funding for other measures like trapping, ground baiting, fencing and the newly introduced bounty on foxes and wild dogs. For its part, the Commonwealth department has demanded additional research, leaving Victorians with a choice. They can fund additional research—waste their money that was going to be used for wild dog control on research—or they can spend that money on actually killing dogs. I am right to say 'waste'—and I am not against research; don't get me wrong there—because the research has actually been done.
I urge the minister to read the New South Wales department of environment fact sheet on wild dogs, which I have here with me. It reports on the research it undertook in relation to aerial baiting of wild dogs and the impact on native species like quolls. Keep in mind that New South Wales has been aerial baiting for more than 30 years, and the research found that aerial baiting had a minimal impact on the quoll populations:
While individual quolls may die from 1080 baits, this research suggests that aerial baiting is unlikely to have an impact on quoll populations as a whole. In fact, aerial baiting which suppresses local fox and dog populations may benefit quolls in an area.
Wild dogs are destroying the native environment and tearing at the fabric of communities in regional Australia, where farmers are being left virtually on their own to battle without significant support from the federal government. I acknowledge that aerial baiting is not the panacea; it is not going to solve this problem. But it will help. The Victorian government should have every tool at its disposal to help it reduce the impact of this menace, and the families in my community are rightfully demanding more assistance.
In closing, I would like to quote from a letter which was sent to me by the daughter of a farmer who had invited the environment minister to actually visit their property, near Omeo. It is a formal invitation. The lady writes:
'I would like you to join my father every day for a week as he goes out every morning to pick up dead and dying sheep that have been mauled, some eaten alive, some still running around with their innards half hanging out. Help him put these sheep down. You can then partake in the task of picking up the bodies and piling them up to burn. Come and join him in this task and see how it affects him. Come back with him to his house and sit down with him to poke your food around on your plate because you cannot eat as you feel so overwhelmed by the feeling of helplessness.'
The letter goes on:
'After this fun-filled week—when you may be able to experience some of the desolation and heartache felt by this man—sit down and explain to him why he has to wait while more studies are carried out before anything more proactive will be done. Explain to him why he has to watch his beloved animals that he has tended for most of his life be murdered. Explain to him why his income has been cut so drastically. Explain to him that all the meetings he has attended over the years, all the letters he has written and all the people that he has lobbied have all been a waste of time. Explain to him why the animals he used to marvel at as he rode through the bush are no longer there. Explain to him why he has to keep going. Explain to him why he does not get stress leave. Explain to us—his family—why we have to watch him slowly shrink from a vibrant, energetic man to a beaten, heartbroken shell.'
I accepted that offer and attended in Omeo last week. I urge the minister to take up the same offer. Walk a mile in the boots of these people, who have to attend to this tragedy every day of the week. I challenge the minister to stop hiding behind his department staff and actually do his job. On behalf of farmers in regional Victoria, I urge the minister to simply intervene in this matter. His department is off on a green-tape frolic of its own that is unsupported by the research and is harming the economy, the environment and the social fabric of regional Victoria. Every day that we stop this aerial baiting in Victoria is another day that wild dogs feast on native wildlife and kill livestock. I seek leave to table the letter from Sonia Lawlor, from Omeo, to the minster for the environment. I also seek leave to table the fact sheet on wild dogs from the New South Wales government.