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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7546

Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (20:21): I thank the member for Gippsland for bringing the motion to the attention of the House as it, again, underlines the findings of a report from an inquiry undertaken by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, in 2005. Members may remember the report entitled Taking control: a national approach to pest animals. The inquiry was chaired so well at the time by the member for Hume, Alby Schultz, with me as deputy. We endeavoured to identify national significant pest animals issues and considered how existing Australian and state government processes could be better linked for more coordinated management of those issues across state boundaries. The member for Gippsland identified some of those issues, including the need to coordinate and work better in those areas. Many of the recommendations have already been taken up and, as time passed, other measures have been put into place that have now superseded much of what is contained in that report. We can look at the broader picture of a number of feral animals and their impact on agriculture, but I note this motion is concentrating on wild dogs and their impact on regional Australians, which is still an important issue.

The pest animals question has been a significant one for farmers over the years and the government has taken it very seriously. The impact of wild dogs on livestock production and our environment is significant. It has been estimated that wild dogs cause a production loss of $48.5 million per annum. But the management of wild dogs is primarily a state and territory responsibility. Most states and territories have legislation in place to manage wild dogs and pest animals more generally, mainly because pest animals vary from state to state and usually need specific action for effective eradication. The federal government has enacted legislation to support its responsibilities for managing pest animals, such as wild dogs, through the protection of areas of national environmental significance in accordance with the guiding principles of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the EPBC Act. While state and territory governments and individual landowners have primary responsibility for the management of wild dogs, the Australian government coordinates and supports nationally significant activities to reduce the impacts of pest animals. Under the Caring for our Country initiative the Australian government funds projects to mitigate the impact of wild dogs. Wild dogs are a target for investment in the 2011-12 business plan. Open calls, through the priority investment, are made for protecting our biodiversity and natural icons. The budget for Caring for our Country in 2011-12 is $456 million. Grants are being sought for $183 million through the business plan. An amount of $178 million and community action grants of $5 million are open until August.

In addition, the Gillard government supports a national wild dog facilitator, through the Invasive Animal Cooperative Research Centre and the Australian Pest Animal Research Program, to promote and build capacity in developing and implementing strategic management approaches to control wild dogs. The Australian government provides other strategic investment in nationally significant research and best practice activities through the Australian Pest Animal Research Program and the Invasive Animal Cooperative Research Centre. Some of the projects funded through the Australian Pest Animal Research Program include best practice guidelines in the use of guard dogs. In the report we talked about the need for more research into guard animals such as alpacas, llamas and maremma dogs, which act as guards for livestock in many parts of the world and are very successful. We received evidence at the inquiry that a dog will not get off the back of a ute if there is an alpaca in the yard. Also, alpacas are very successful, evidently, against foxes, so they are useful around hen houses. There is also discussion of best practice baiting, dispersal, the seasonal movement of wild dogs and the evaluation and development of best practice for wild dog management.

The government has also presented through representation on committees such as the non-government National Wild Dog Management Advisory Group and the Vertebrate Pests Committee, which is a sectional committee reporting to the National Biosecurity Committee. So there is a considerable amount of material to work from. Each state has particular problems with pest animals as some feral animals have penetrated wider than others in this country.

I would also like to add to the debate by suggesting that there is some room for humane pest eradication, which could include our recreational shooters. I believe that recreational hunting in Australia is a legitimate pastime involving people of all ages on both private property and on government land, as permitted by each state's legislation. Hunting has been controversial in the past, but I believe the sporting shooters of Australia are working to spread a more educated and balanced message about the value of hunting as a conservation tool as well as a fast and humane way of despatching pest species. Therefore, they should be included in any pest management scheme, with the appropriate checks and balances required for pest removal. They present a very economically sound way of approaching feral pest eradication, because it is funded by the shooter themselves working in harmony with the farmers or the property managers.

The other part of this issue is education. Many of the subspecies of wild dogs are pests as a result of human carelessness. Dogs should not be allowed to interact with dingos and dingo numbers should be controlled so that they remain part of the wildlife food chain but are kept in their natural areas. A lot of our feral dogs and cats were not feral generations ago. They have been let loose for a number of reasons or they have been allowed to breed and their numbers have become so prolific that it becomes harder and harder to control them. It is not good to keep a pet without being responsible for its breeding habits. Much of the legislation in the cities of Australia is brought about because of the irresponsible breeding and unintended release of animals. Community education is needed to make sure that people understand that link between feral animals and pets. I would also add that we have had problems, in some instances, with pet shops and horrific puppy farms. I believe these add to the feral animal problem and do not encourage responsible ownership.

So there are many avenues, especially education about the link between feral animals and animals that have been neglected and have got away from the urban fringes of cities and that cause so many problems. As the member for Gippsland said, wild dogs not only attack domestic animals but also attack much wildlife and are a major problem in the protection of the wildlife of Australia. There is a great need to do that. In Tasmania we had a property based game management program, which was probably one of the best in Australia. It certainly worked at eradicating pests and also kept a balance in the wildlife on many of those properties that bounced up against Crown land.

This has certainly been a useful exercise and an opportunity to bring the federal government's program to the attention of the House. I believe this federal government is working hard and that on many aspects of the coordination mentioned in this motion we are heading in the right direction. The more connection we can have between the states and the federal government, the better off we will be. (Time expired)