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'Taking stock of taking control': a review of the impact of the 2005 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Report 'Taking Control: a national approach to pest animals'



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‘Taking Stock of Taking Control’ A Review of the impact of the 2005 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Report ‘Taking Control: a national approach to pest animals’

Penelope Marshall

2013 Inaugural Parliamentary Library Summer Scholar

Taking Stock of Taking Control

1

Executive Summary

Keys words: wild dogs, agriculture, Parliament, Australia

In November 2005, the ‘Taking Control: a national approach to pest animals’ Report was tabled in

the 41st Australian Parliament by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture,

Fisheries and Forestry. The Recommendations of the Report sought to draw national attention to the

impacts pests were having on the agricultural industry and to expedite and ameliorate these impacts

through improved Commonwealth State arrangements. To date, successive Parliaments have not

responded formally to this Report. This research paper revisits this Report as it relates specifically

and only to wild dog management and control in Australia and, asks, ‘What has been the impact of

this Report?’ To answer this question twelve semi structured qualitative interviews were conducted

with a purposive sample of Members and Senators of the 43rd Parliament and with a group of

ministerial advisers. The findings of these interviews were then compared with a sample of Reports

that have been published since 2005. Based on these interviews, four main findings emerged. It

appears that the majority of participants believe: that the impact of the Report while well

intentioned has been minimal; that there is not a national approach to wild dog management and

control in Australia; that the effect of wild dog predation on agricultural stock has been

underestimated and poses a threat to the future of agricultural industries; and, that there is a

significant urban rural divide in the understanding and communication of the issue.

Taking Stock of Taking Control

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Acronyms and Abbreviations

APVMA Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority

AWI Australian Wool Innovation Ltd

DAFF Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

GIS geographic information system

IACRC Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre

NSW NPWS New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service

PACRC Cooperative Research Centre for Biological Control of Pest

Animals

PAPP para-aminopropiophenone

SEWPC Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water,

Population and Communities

Taking Control The House of Representatives Standing Committee on

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Report ‘Taking Control: a national approach to pest animals’

TSCA Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995

wdmc wild dog management and control

1080 sodium fluoroacetate

Taking Stock of Taking Control

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Contents

Executive Summary 1

Acronyms and Abbreviations 3

Introduction 4

Background 5

Method 11

Results 12

Reports Since 2005 18

Findings 19

References 20

Taking Stock of Taking Control

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Introduction

In 2005, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

tabled its Report: ‘Taking Control: a national approach to pest animals.’ It found:

The committee considers that feral dogs are the most serious pest animal currently facing

Australian sheep and cattle farmers. They are also one of the most significant pest animal

problems for Australian agriculture generally (Commonwealth of Australia 2005: 17).

This finding focused a national spotlight onto the issue of wild dog management and control (wdmc)

in Australia. At the time, the ‘Taking Control’ Report was the broadest ranging Inquiry into the

impacts of pests on agriculture in Australia. While the Terms of Reference technically precluded

examination of the social and environmental impacts of wild dogs the Committee noted that a large

amount of information submitted to it pertained to the devastating impact that wild dog predation

on agricultural stock was having on the lives of farm families as well as on the environment. The

Committee concluded that wild dogs posed not only a real threat to the livelihoods of Australian

farmers but also to an ‘iconic Australian way of life ’ (Commonwealth of Australia 2005: 14).

This paper revisits the Report specifically and only as it relates to the management and control of

wild dogs in Australia. It asks the question: ‘What has been the impact of the Report?’ It provides an

overview of the issue of wdmc. It then presents the findings of twelve semi- structured qualitative

interviews conducted as part of the Inaugural Parliamentary Library Summer Scholarship. It then

compares the findings of these interviews with published Reports that have emerged since the

tabling of the ‘Taking Control’ Report.

Background

From the time of white settlement of Australia, wdmc occurred with the full imprimatur of the State

(Clendinnen 2003; Rolls 1969, 1981). Individual State Governments worked in tandem with State

Agricultural Departments, Dingo Destruction Boards, Wild Dog Associations and farm families to

eradicate wild dogs and dingoes. This is evidenced by a wealth of correspondence and literatures

preserved since the 1820s (Anon 1824 - 1848, 1837 1 December, 1913 8 October; Anon. 1927 8

March; Armidale Pastures Protection Board 1937 - 1941; Barnard River Wild Dog Association 1956-1968; Franklin 2001 March; Lower North Coast & Tablelands Dingo Destruction Board 1947-1983).

These substantial literatures bear collective witness to a common task: the management of the ‘risk’

of wild dog predation on agricultural stock through the proactive and reactive eradication of wild

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dogs cum dingoes. Any threats to the nascent State’s ‘golden fleece’ were dealt with punitively and

harshly, and, legislation was enacted progressively to control any perceived threat (Colony of New

South Wales 1832 31 August; The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser 1864 23

February).

Intrinsic to the prevailing ethos of land management was a robust and well developed belief: To be a

‘good’ farmer and a ‘good neighbour’ meant fulfilling the obligation of active wild dog control. This

was fully sanctioned by the State. Dingoes were declared a ‘noxious’ species. Though the

hybridisation of dingoes was acknowledged across Australia during this time, the distinction

between ‘dingo,’ ‘feral,’ ‘hybrid,’ ‘native’ and ‘mongrel’ was immaterial. The terms were used largely

interchangeably in common parlance until the second half of the Twentieth Century.

This cultural understanding gained increasing currency in Australian literary contributions and the

‘Merino’ emerged as part of the nation’s iconography (Bean 1945; Brett 2011; Grattan 2004),

immortalised in songs such as ‘Click goes the Shears’ and in the painting of Tom Roberts, ‘The

Shearing of the Ram.’ In this sense, wild dogs and dingoes posed a threat to the nascent Australian

identity. The eradication and exclusion of the dingo as ‘Canis lupus dingo’ was not material when

compared to the greater calls of nation building. The survival and future prosperity of the nation

literally depended on the success of the agricultural industry. This pervasive representation entered

into the wider Australian cultural psyche. Famous Australian bush storytellers and poets, Henry

Lawson and ‘Banjo’ Patterson immortalised ‘the dingo,’ the ‘drover’s dog,’ the ‘mongrel’ or the

‘native’ dog in short stories such as ‘Joe Wilson and his Mates at Dead Dingo’ and poems like ‘The

Dying Stockman’ and ‘High Explosive.’ Henry Kendall’s poetry in the 1850s and 1860s mirrors the

contradictions inherent in the binary of dingo/wild dog in the Australian imaginary in poems such as

‘The Warrigal’ (1839) - his ode to the concept of ‘The Noble Savage.’ In contrast, in his poem ‘The

Hut by the Black Swamp’ Kendall describes the wild dog’s behaviour as outcast avoiding both

Aboriginal and Settler:

No sign of grace - no hope of green,

Cool-blossomed seasons marks the spot;

But chained to iron doom, I ween,

‘Tis left, like skeleton, to rot

Where ruth is not (Kendall 2006).

Kendall’s lament, albeit about the ‘native dog,’ serves as an allegory to civilisation. The ‘wild dog,’

because of its innate wildness, is anathema to civilised ‘Man’ - and ipso facto the emerging

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Australian nation - and must be conquered. This representation however did not allay any fears that

wild dogs posed to the physical safety of early settlers (Mileham 1824). By the late Nineteenth

Century, the notion of the settler state was firmly entrenched. Australia, as most Australian school

children learn by rote, was a pastoral nation which ‘rode on the sheep’s back.’ The wool and sheep

industry formed the backdrop of a national identity and the fledgling nation’s national accounts in

which graziers and farmers were mythologised for their stoicism, conservatism and fierce

independence in the face of adversity and hardship and were attributed with providing Australians

with one of the highest living standards in the world.

However, it is also apparent throughout these diverse literatures that from the time of Australian

Federation that a national policy on wild dog management and control did not exist. This was

perhaps more a function of the difficulties States faced in achieving uniformity on many issues.

Conversely, and speculatively, it could also reflect the acculturation of the discourse so completely

into the national consciousness that it did not warrant attention: wdmc was being effectively

handled by the States and its agents: farmers and graziers and their respective organisations.

The acceptance of the dingo’s status as ‘noxious’ and the creation of the iconic ‘dingo fence’ - which

was first established in 1914 and ran originally for 8,650 kilometres - as a tool of exclusion, not only

entered the Australian lexicon, but also became a representation of farmers’ and settlers’ lived

experiences in the Australian ‘Bush.’

From time to time the Commonwealth intervened. From 1929 until 1974, the Grazier’s Association

of the Australia fearful of the effect of the hybridisation of ‘large’ dogs with dingoes successfully

lobbied the Commonwealth Government to ban the importation of ‘German wolfhounds,’

commonly known as Alsatians; forcing the sterilisation of those remaining while enacting punitive

measures for any owner(s) found to have intact animals in contravention of the law (Armidale

Pastures Protection Board 1937).

Throughout this period, farm families and the State worked collaboratively. In 1929, in South East

NSW, the newly formed Brindabella Dingo Association held a Conference in Canberra. The then,

NSW Minister for Lands presided over the meeting and the then Federal Minister of Home Affairs

was one of the delegates attending. Discussions revolved around the means of instituting ‘…a united

and vigorous campaign of dingo destruction in the Monaro and Southern Tableland’ region

prompted by increased wild dog predation on sheep (Green 2006: 3).

Wild Dog Destruction Boards, Native Dog Destruction Boards and Wild Dog Associations and Wild

Dog Groups existed across Australia and pivotal to many of these community-based organisations

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were ‘doggers.’ In South East NSW, ‘doggers,’ ‘trappers’ and ‘dogmen’ were and are considered

valuable assets to local rural communities and highly valued for their ‘Bush’ skills and cunning and

because they ‘knew’ the dog innately.

However, from the 1950s onwards, across Australian society fewer and fewer Australians swore

allegiance to ‘Queen, Country and the Merino.’ It appears that several intervening variables

contributed to this: The world wide rise of ‘new’ environmentalism; the decline of the ‘power’ of the

wool discourse to the Australian economy; the global rise of ‘synthetics; the minerals’ ‘boom;’

Australia’s growing acceptance of the policy of multiculturalism and the consequential decline in the

explanatory purchase of an Anglo Saxon discourse in defining Australian culture (Bolton G. 1999: 159

- 170; Carson 2012). In 1989, the collapse of the Australian Reserve Price Scheme (RPS) for wool

furthered challenged the social and economic dominance of the ‘wool’ discourse in Australian

society (Massey 1990, 2011).

Together, these factors hollowed out a space for the entry of four powerful and competing

discourses to take hold, most notably, ‘new’ environmentalism; science and technology; animal

welfare; and, biosecurity. The cumulative effect of these intrusions was that an increased emphasis

was placed on the scientific distinction between wild dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and dingoes (Canis

lupus dingo), and, animal welfare. By virtue of the distinction, significant changes occurred in wdmc

policy across Australia.

For example, in 2001, pressure from an increasingly politicised ecological actors re the extensive, if

not irreversible, hybridisation of the ‘native dog’ (Australian Native Dog Conservation Society 1993:

1; Colong Foundation nd) fuelled attempts to ‘list’ dingoes as ‘endangered populations’ under the

NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (TSCA) 1995. Under this Act, the NSW Scientific

Committee subsequently ‘listed’ the predation and hybridisation by feral dogs as a ‘key threatening

process’ but the attempts to ‘list’ the dingo as ‘endangered populations’ failed (Colong Foundation

nd; Department of Environment and Climate Change 2008 29 August; Dickman and Lunney 2001). At

the same time, this period was marked by an increase in the gazettal of National Parks, wilderness

areas and public reserves. In the period from 1995 until 2010, successive NSW Labor Governments

added 472 reserves, totalling 2.7 million hectares to the NSW National Parks and Reserve system

(Park 2010 July).

Successive Commonwealth and State Governments were now presented with an administrative

conundrum: the management and control of wild dogs, and, at the same time, the conservation of

the dingo. As part of the solution to this conundrum, increased interpretative powers were given to

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public land managers at the local level. This was most evident in the disparity between the sizes of

‘buffer’ zones around National Parks. To many farm families this period marked the point at which

‘everything went to hell in a hand basket’ because the question of ‘dingo or hybrid?’ was in large

part immaterial: ‘dingo or wild dog? They are killing our stock and in large numbers’ (Franklin 2007).

To farm families, the discursive shift represented much more than an administrative sleight of hand,

academic conjecture or a reliance on a Cartesian classification system. There was a material reality

to wild dog predation on agricultural stock and the effect of farming families which was being

ignored by the State.

Many farming families believed they had not been given a ‘fair go’ (Brett 2011 citing Hirst, J.: 6) -

that the State had not kept to the rules; had not treated farming families equally with their urban

counterparts in putting the case forward for wdmc; and, they had not been given a ‘fair go’ to earn

their living free of wild dogs. This Australian notion of ‘fair go’ was further linked to the notion of

‘fair play.’ Farming families felt alienated by the State which from the beginning of white

colonisation of Australia had venerated agriculture and agriculturalists. Farming families felt that

there was a selective reliance on ecological studies: For example, studies regarding the extensive

hybridisation of the dingo with the wild dog; the origin of the dingo (Low 2003; Savolainen 2004;

Savolainen 2002), the biosecurity threats that wild dogs posed to industry (AgForce Queensland

2004) and, the effects of increasing wild dog predation on farming families, their communities and

the environment (Parliament of New South Wales 2002) were being sublimated.

Cumulatively, specific meanings of ‘wild dog’ and ‘dingo’ were promoted from both within

government departments and agencies and from scientific organisations closely allied to

government. Hence wild dogs became known as ‘wild,’ ‘feral,’ ‘pest,’ ‘commensal,’ ‘alien,’ ‘hybrid’

and, more recently, ‘free-ranging’ (Fleming et al. 2001; The Conversation Media Trust 2013 18

February: 12).

From the 1970s, the public policy of wdmc increasingly relied on ‘science’ and ‘experts.’ The

personal experiences and in many cases, generational knowledges that farm families had acquired of

wild dogs and dingoes through their ‘shoe leather’ were relegated to ‘anecdote’ and subject to

scientific validation and ecological research.

From the 1990s, there was a palpable shift in wdmc towards ‘new’ technological innovations. This

‘turn’ was accelerated by the pervasive intertwining of the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research

Centre (IACRC) - a cooperative research centre established in 2002, whose predecessor, established

Taking Stock of Taking Control

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in July 1991, was the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Biological Control of Pest Animals,

known more familiarly as the Pest Animals CRC (PACRC) - with that of government agencies both

State and Federal (Peacock 2006 August). The strategic aims of the Invasive Animals Cooperative

Research Centre were:

to counteract the impact of invasive animals through the application of new technologies

and by integrating approaches across agencies and jurisdictions’ (Invasive Animals

Cooperative Research Centre 2005/2011: 1).

Inherent within these ‘new technologies’ and ‘approaches across agencies and jurisdictions’ is the

privileging of ‘scientific expertise,’ measurement and quantification in wdmc (Ballard 2012; Braysher

1993; Fleming et al. 2001). The ‘coupling’ of some parts of industry and government through

commercial partnerships fostered an exponential rise in and commitment to technological

‘innovations’ in wdmc. In 2003, Australian Wool Innovation Ltd (AWI) signed a commercial

agreement with:

the ‘Pest Animal Control Cooperative Research Centre (now Invasive Animals CRC)…to

evaluate and develop a new toxic agent for control of wild dogs and foxes (canids) (Lapidge

et al. 2006: 259).

It would appear that this was in response to the 2005 APVMA inquiry into the chemical toxin ‘1080’

(Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority 2007) amidst wide concerns that it may be

withdrawn from use in wdmc (Lapidge et al. 2006: 259).

This further consolidated the privileging of a ‘science and technology’ discourse in wdmc which the

IACRC itself promoted as a ‘growth industry’(Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre 2010).

To date, these ‘tools’ have included: synthetic lures (Hunt et al. 2007), Geographic Information

System (GIS) mapping (Robley et al. 2010), ‘sand plot’ monitoring (NSW National Parks and Wildlife

Service 2006a, b, c, 2010), the ‘satellite tracking of wild dogs (Claridge and Hunt 2008 August;

Claridge et al. 2009; Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre 2007), the development and trial

of ‘M-44’ injectors (Hooke et al. 2006), the development of the as yet unregistered, chemical toxin,

para-aminopropiophenone as Dogabate, commonly known as ‘PAPP’ and its antidote, Methylene

Blue ‘Blue-Heeler’ (Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre 2012; Lapidge et al. 2006) and the

promotion of the dingo as ‘trophic regulators’ (Glen and Dickman 2005; Glen et al. 2007).

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From 2000, this approach focused on a ‘technical rationality’ (Fischer 2003: 13) which was

promoted by research scientists mostly emanating from within Government, particularly NSW

NPWS, the Vertebrate Pest Research Unit of NSW DPI, the IACRC and from within the ecological

science disciplines of a number of Australian universities (Dickman et al. 2009; Purcell 2010).

However, despite this focus, in 2002, the NSW Parliament General Purpose Standing Committee No.

5 found:

Feral animals cause extensive damage to Australia’s natural resources and agricultural

production and cost the nation hundreds of millions of dollars in lost agricultural production

and conservation expenses. The major environmental impacts of feral animals involve

predation of and competition with native animals and the destruction of native plants. Feral

animals also cause land degradation, and are a potential threat for the spread and

distribution of exotic diseases…As well as the financial impact, feral animals can have a

debilitating social impact on farming families and communities that have to deal with the

consequences of feral animal attacks on farming stock (General Purpose Standing

Committee No. 5 2002: xii).

By 2005, the anguish of farm families was almost palpable. Submissions to the ‘Taking Control’

Report occurred amidst increasing and vocal concerns by farm families and farm organisations about

the increase in wild dog predation on agricultural stock and the direct effects this was having on the

lives and material wellbeing of Australian farm families, rural communities and the environment

(AgForce Queensland 2004; General Purpose Standing Committee No. 5 2002; Parliament of New

South Wales 2002; Tallangatta Branch Victorian Farmers Federation 2001).

A number of national wild dog meetings were held at the instigation of farm families and farm

organisations demanding that the increase in wild dogs be addressed The motions of these

meetings in part reflected the often strained and frequently vitriolic relationship that existed

between farm families and public land managers over what was perceived to be the lack of wdmc on

public lands and the increasing restrictions on the methods of wdmc, particularly the chemical toxin

known as 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) (National Wild Dog Summit 2002 22nd February; Tallangatta

Branch Victorian Farmers Federation 2001).

In 2000, for example, a National Wild Dog Summit occurred in Albury/Wodonga where over four

hundred representatives of farm families and farm organisations attended. For all intents and

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purposes, this represented a desperate attempt by from farm families and farm organisations to

arrest the increase in wild dog numbers across Australia by enlisting the support of State and

Commonwealth Governments. By 2005, the Cooperative Brindabella Wee Jasper Wild Dog and Fox

Cooperative Control Plan and the so-called ‘strategic approach’ had been promulgated by the

Commonwealth and the State throughout Australia as the models of ‘best practice’ in wdmc.

However, their uptake has been, at best, partial.

Method

Members and Senators of the 43rd Parliament were selected as potential participants for interview

based on information on the Australian Parliamentary website about their electorates. The original

search items used as the initial ‘unit of analyses’ were the words: ‘rural,’ ‘agriculture,’ ‘sheep,’

‘cattle,’ and, ‘farming.’ Thirty four potential participants were then disaggregated by State and by

political affiliation to achieve the best representative sample of Members and Senators possible. The

initial purposive sample of participants also included all currently serving Members and Senators of

the 43rd Parliament who were former members of the House of Representatives Standing

Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry during the 42nd Parliament which tabled the

original Report. Invitations were also sent to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

(DAFF), the Parliamentary Secretary for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; and

the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPC).

In total, eighteen invitations were sent by the Parliamentary Librarian. One participant self-nominated after hearing from a colleague about the research. Of those invited to participate, sixteen

Members or Senators agreed to participate and three apologized due to prior engagements or

reasons of insufficient knowledge. Two participants agreed to participate and then were unable due

to sudden commitments. Due to the limited availability of Members and Senators during the sitting

period and the limited time available in which to complete the interviews, the final purposive sample

comprised eleven Members and Senators and one group interview with a number of ministerial

advisers.

The final purposive sample represented each State of Australia and the Australian Capital Territory

(ACT). The political affiliations of the participants were as follows:

 Australian Labor Party: (3)

 Liberal Party of Australia: (4)

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 The Nationals: (4) and,

 The Greens: (1).

Due to the small sample size the results are not generalisable and further research is required to

establish any trend. All interviews were conducted ‘In Confidence’ and any identifying material

deleted. An observer from the Parliamentary Library also attended most interviews. Most interviews

lasted approximately between thirty and forty minutes.

The interviews were semi structured. Question One was intended as a conversation starter and to

ascertain the participant’s knowledge of the Report and of wdmc in Australia generally. Questions

Two to Seven were intended to broadly overlap the Recommendations of the original Report.

Question Eight was intended to give participants the opportunity to add any further detail.

Each participant was sent the proposed questions in writing prior to the interview. Each participant

while covering all of the questions approached the interviews very differently. For example, some

participants initially dispensed with any set questions, provided a great deal of information about

wild dog management and control and referred to maps of their electorates. Some participants

wanted the opportunity to talk about the issue in their respective electorate or State. In this sense

the interviews were self-directed by the participant, free flowing and many of the answers to

questions overlapped.

Results

Question (1)

How would you describe your involvement with wdmc to date?

Nine participants indicated that they had a ‘personal’ involvement in wdmc. One participant

indicated that they had minimal to nil involvement; one indicated they had no personal involvement

but a long term administrative involvement; and, one participant indicated they had no involvement

at all.

Question (2)

How would you describe the current state of wdmc in your State or electorate?

Eight participants believed there was a lack of wdmc in their State. Of these, two participants

believed that there had been some turn around in their respective States in the previous two years;

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and, one believed that the sheep industry would never recover and that the infrastructure was

permanently gone. One participant believed that there was not a wild dog problem in his State; one

participant indicated that the issue had never been raised and hence the participant had ‘no idea;’

one participant viewed the issue only as it intersected with the EPBCA 1995; and, one participant

indicated they had not had any concerns raised recently through their Parliamentary or electorate

office.

Question (3)

What are the current obstacles that face wdmc in your electorate/State?

All participants saw the implementation of wdmc as a responsibility of the individual State or

Territory. Most participants (9) believed that the issue of wdmc was not a priority for the

Commonwealth Government. All but two participants saw the issue as the result of an urban/rural

divide mainly because the magnitude of the issue was not understood by urban residents because

they simply had no experience of it. Three participants indicated they could not answer this

question. Most participants (8) focused on the lack of wdmc in their respective State or electorate,

and, offered reasons for these obstacles.

Overall, the current obstacles to wdmc fell in to three broad categories: diverse community

attitudes; the administrative response to wdmc; and, the ‘tools’ of wdmc.

Obstacle 1: Diverse community attitudes

These were cited as: a change in the public perception of wdmc; the emotive response to wdmc; the

lack of positive differentiation between the ‘problem’ of wild dog predation and the conservation of

the dingo; the belief that wdmc was part of an ‘old’ psyche; that ‘big’ dogs were allowed into

Australia; the rise of the ‘anti-gun’ lobby; the rise of the ‘pro dog’ and the ‘anti stock’ lobby; the

belief that academic science was right and pastoralists were wrong; and, the ‘erroneous’ belief that

the wild dog was ‘native.’ Two participants felt that a more sophisticated approach was needed in

wdmc; that 1080, the ‘dog fence’ and ‘cut up and bait’ days were not the answer to wdmc.

Obstacle 2: The administrative obstacles

These were cited as: the lack of political will; the lack of Commonwealth leadership on the issue; the

failure of the Commonwealth to assist the States to actually control the problem of wild dogs; the

lack of Commonwealth education about the issue; the lack of continuity, agreement and coverage

across individual States; farmers’ hatred of the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability,

Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPC) and its State counterparts; the change in

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the Australian demographic; the failure to recognize the animal welfare of agricultural stock in wdmc

codes of practice; the cost of wdmc; the demise of local agricultural boards; the expansion and lack

of management of public lands; the extensive hybridization of the dingo across Australia; the

promotion of ad hoc programs; the lack of funding; the lack of flexibility and funding available to

public land managers; the pursuit of scientific research without end; the large increase in the

numbers of domestic dogs; an unwillingness to prosecute owners of domestic dogs that roam; and

the allocation of funding to the IACRC research rather than to ground programs and trapping.

Obstacle 3: The ‘tools’ of wdmc

These were cited as: the restrictions placed on 1080; the promotion of PAPP as the answer to wdmc;

the lack of doggers; the implications of animal welfare legislation on wdmc; the absurdity of some

animal welfare rules; the collapse of the kangaroo industry; the lack of bounties as a signal to the

general public of the issue; the restrictions on the use of strychnine; the unwillingness to look at

alternatives to the ‘dog fence;’ the cost of fencing; the failure of the IACRC to deliver PAPP; and, the

investment in and promotion of PAPP was considered a backwards step.

Question (4)

To what extent do you believe community involvement and empowerment has occurred in wdmc

since 2000?

Six participants (6) indicated that many farm families had already ‘gone out’ of sheep so that there

was no ‘community’ left to empower or involve. One participant stated that consultation ‘was a

joke;’ another saw no evidence of either. One participant commented that the Federal Department

thinks that the term ‘community’ means the Minister and the Department.

Two participants indicated that ‘community’ had always existed and was ‘good’ in rural areas and

around the borders of National Parks because these communities needed to be ever vigilant.

However, the broader community had no understanding of the problem and was not involved.

Three participants indicated they had received representations from delegations of incensed farmers

over the involvement of the IACRC and the amount of money spent on the development of PAPP

arguing that this funding would have been more effectively directed to on ground programs and

trapping. One participant indicated they were ‘disappointed with the IACRC’ and it ‘would not get a

ringing endorsement.’

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15

One participant commented that wdmc was delivered ‘top down’ and that the role of Government

was to help communities make decisions but not control the decision. One participant stated that

unless community involvement was supported through State laws and COAG it was pointless.

However, one participant indicated that proactive and prolonged community involvement working

as a bloc through public meetings, lobbying and letter writing had forced the issue on to political

agenda but that this community found it had to work around Commonwealth intervention. One

participant felt that that the issue of wdmc needed to be seen as a joint issue between

environmental groups and farmers.

In contrast to all participants, one participant felt satisfied that there had been widespread

community involvement under natural resource management programs under the auspices of the

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and that there was a role for the community and

engagement in wdmc.

One participant did not know.

Question (5)

What role does research play in wdmc?

All participants believed research was required.

However, four participants were not aware of where this had occurred. One participant commented

that when scientific research emerged in the public arena many stakeholders disputed the findings

and that this did not assist stakeholders in achieving consensus. Three participants expressed the

concern that scientific research was highly politicised; that research funding must be tied to the

actual purpose of the eradication of wild dogs; that ‘there was a limit with what you can do with

science;’ that the appropriate bodies charged with wdmc were ‘hamstrung’ by dubious scientific

research and the length of time involved; and that any method of control should be available, cost

effective, efficacious and safe.

One participant felt that research was required to affect attitudinal changes in National Parks staff;

to affect a change in irresponsible domestic dog ownership behavior; and, to inform bureaucrats of

problems in the community.

Two participants felt that the AVPMA had a large role to play especially in any scientific trial of bait

timing and availability but understood that this could be a lengthy process. Two participants

expressed their disappointment with the IACRC. Three participants expressed their frustration with

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16

the time involved in the development of PAPP; that it was not the answer in wdmc; and that 1080

was the appropriate tool.

Two participants believed research was required to prioritise activities; when wdmc intersected with

EPBC Act; over different methods of control, where a census of animals was needed; where scientific

assessments are necessary; where measurement of the problem is required, and, for the

development of effective, appropriate and humane control methods.

Question (6)

To what extent is there a national approach to wdmc in Australia?

Three participants indicated that they did not know if there was a national approach.

Nine participants stated that there was not a national approach to wdmc in Australia.

Of this group, one participant indicated that other than the development of PAPP there was not a

national approach. Four participants believed the Commonwealth has role to play in education but

this has not happened; that because COAG is not ‘talking about’ the issue it was not going to

happen; and that because the service delivery of wdmc is a State issue the Commonwealth is not

going to hear about the problem. One participant indicated that the problem of wdmc reflected the

tensions apparent in the Federalist model and that there is a need to develop protocols to overcome

the ‘turf’ wars between various jurisdictions.

Question (7)

What has been the impact of the 2005 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture,

Fisheries and Forestry Taking Control Report?

Four participants were not aware of the Report.

One participant felt that most of the Recommendations of the Report had been mostly implemented

through legislation.

Seven believed that while the Report was well-intentioned there had been no national impact other

than that in the intervening period farmers had ‘voted with their feet’ and left the industry. One

participant believed that the Report had raised expectations but nothing was done and that the

Report ‘sits on the shelf and gathers dust.’ One believed that the actual numbers of people charged

with wdmc in State Departments had actually declined.

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Question (8)

Do you have any further comments that you would like to add?

All participants commented that wild dogs have a significant impact on biodiversity.

Nine participants commented that wdmc was a management issue that a required a whole of

government approach but that this had not happened; and, that Government Departments were not

on the same trajectory. Of this group, one participant believed that there is a need to develop

protocols to overcome the ‘turf’ wars between various jurisdictions.

Eight participants stated that the whole of Government needs to understand that wild dogs were

affecting the viability of the industry. One participant indicated that it was too late; that the sheep

industry would never recover. One participant commented that Government has an enormous

power over farmers and that there were already too many burdens on individual farmers. This had

serious flow-on effects on rural communities and individual farmers which manifested itself in the

loss of infrastructure, mental health issues, school closures, and the closure of local businesses.

One participant saw the solution in the introduction of ‘game management’ through a Game Council

model as a way of bringing all of the players together through a ‘three legs of a stool’ approach to

encompass all of the interests in wdmc.

Two participants saw the unchecked rise of domestic dogs as a significant issue. One participant

believed that niche alternatives such as alpacas were not a solution and were hardly humane

solutions. One participant believed that new technologies may be a solution.

Four participants commented that fewer resources are now available to do a much bigger job.

One participant felt that regions must be dealt with individually and proactively; one participant felt

that the Caring For our Country had addressed some of the concerns.

Two participants commented that while the Committee had asked Government to respond to the

Recommendations of the Report this had not happened. One participant believed the Government

will not respond because it refuses to establish key performance indicators in wdmc.

Reports Since 2005

Successive State and Federal Governments cite the figures provided in what has become known as

the ‘McLeod Report’ (McLeod 2004) as representative of the indicative costs of wdmc. Overall,

McLeod guesstimated conservatively in a ‘desk top’ review, using a ‘triple bottom line’ approach,

Taking Stock of Taking Control

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that wild dogs in Australia cause financial losses of $66 million nationally to agricultural production

per annum (McLeod 2004). This guesstimate has been repeatedly challenged by other studies

(Kenny 2008) - that the real cost of wild dogs on the agricultural industry is far higher and wider.

For example, Kenny (2008) found:

The sheep industry in Queensland appears to be on the verge of collapse with the impacts

not confined solely to wool producers… The decline in the Queensland sheep flock is

measureable and cannot be solely attributed to the decline in wool prices and drought.

Many wool producers who attended the public meetings stated they were leaving the

industry as a direct result of wild dog attacks. Despite diversifying, by producing both wool

and meat, they were still unable to mitigate the financial impact of wild dogs on their

enterprise. Although current wool prices are low, an economic analysis of the sheep

industry by agribusiness consultant ‘Grazing Best Prac’ has shown that at current market

prices sheep production (particularly fat lamb) is still highly profitable, provided that wild

dog impacts are significantly reduced (Kenny 2008np)

In 2009, AgForce, against one indicator, estimated the major economic costs associated with wild

dogs in the Queensland grazing industry at $67,016,575. Agforce found that:

The social costs, opportunity losses associated with lost or damaged stock and in-kind

contributions of producers toward wild dog management were not encapsulated by the

study, and it is expected that these factors would have a substantial upwards impact on the

total economic cost of wild dogs (Agforce Queensland 2009: ii).

These more recent Reports suggest that the effects of wild dog predation on particularly the sheep

and cattle industries were significantly underestimated (Agforce Queensland 2009). However, in

contrast, Purcell (2010) controversially contradicted the findings of many industry and Government

Reports. He wrote:

The considerable resources devoted to dingo control, the number of dingoes controlled, and

the assertion that controlling predators is necessary to maintain the viability of the

Australian livestock industry appears to be a façade (Purcell 2010: 127).

However, noticeably absent from this analysis was any substantive evidence.

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Equally concerning however, in 2011, Fulton and Vanclay (2011) reported that across Australia

reported levels of trust in agricultural extension has waned significantly (Fulton and Vanclay 2011).

Vanclay argues that the emphasis on models of traditional top-down agricultural extension, the

positioning of farmers as ‘passive recipients,’ of ‘education,’ the ‘push’ for the ‘uptake’ of ‘new’

products through commercial partnerships and the implicit assumption of trust in ‘Science’ by

farming families has proved to be misplaced. Vanclay (2011) writes: ‘It is inappropriate to believe

that only ‘Science’ (as a social institution) can create knowledge that is then transferred to the public

via extension’ (Vanclay 2011: 57).

Notably, in 2012, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that the national flock has declined

further to just over 73 million (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012); even below that reported in

2009 wherein it was described as ‘…the lowest it has been since 1916’ (Curtis 2009: 15).

Findings:

The Recommendations of the ‘Taking Control’ Report fell under six broad headings: national

coordination; methods for controlling pest animals; control across tenures; pests as resources;

research and development; and, community education and awareness about pest animals.

Based on this small purposive sample, it appears that among the majority of those interviewed there

is a strong belief that these areas of concern have not been addressed nationally. No attempt has

been made to cross tabulate these findings by party political affiliation. This would require further

research and a much larger cohort of participants. It is salutary nevertheless, that the majority of

participants spoke of the decline of agriculture, and particularly, the sheep and wool industry in their

respective States and that the majority of participants believe there is a lack of political will to

address the issue nationally.

Overall, the majority of those interviewed believed: that the impact of the Report while well

intentioned has been minimal; that there is not a national approach to wild dog management and

control in Australia; that the effect of wild dog predation on agricultural stock has been

underestimated and the ramifications of these effects on farm families pose significant challenges

for a profitable and viable agricultural sector in Australia into the future; and, that there is a

significant urban rural divide in the understanding and communication of the issue.

A brief comparison to more recent Reports regarding the extent of the problem is of particular

concern. Overall, if these findings are substantiated by further research, this augurs poorly for the

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management and control of wild dogs and for the future of the viability of Australian agriculture,

and, in particular, the sheep and wool industry in Australia.

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This research paper has been produced by a student participating in the Parliamentary Library’s Summer Scholarship Program. The views expressed do not reflect an official position of the Parliamentary Library.