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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 4079


Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (09:47): I would like to take the opportunity today to respond to media reports in Victoria that a proposed wild dog aerial baiting trial has been put on hold because it has not been approved under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

A federal government spokesman is quoted in the media reports as saying the major concern was the potential significant impact on quolls. The report goes on to indicate that the federal environment department has sent a request back to the Victorian government requesting more research and information. In fairness to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, he has not rejected the application but this delaying tactic by the department is effectively a death warrant for native species and valuable livestock. Without immediate Commonwealth approval, the window of opportunity will close to undertake an autumn aerial baiting program in Victoria.

The aerial baiting trial was due to start in May and was timed to hit the young dogs as they are on the prowl and seeking a good feed before the leaner winter months. It is unlikely the Victorian government will be able to meet the autumn baiting season as the federal government's environment department continues to exercise its extraordinary power over activities which many in regional areas find excessive and contrary to the sustainable and practical management of the environment.

The green tape of the EPBC is tying regional Victorians in knots. We have seen it with the ban on the alpine grazing trial. We see it with ridiculous rulings which prevent roadsides being used for the purpose of building roads. We see it with the flying foxes impinging on communities like Bairnsdale and now we are seeing it with the wild dogs aerial baiting trial.

Of greatest concern to me is the simple fact that research work has been done in the past. A report has been presented by the New South Wales government which found:

… that aerial baiting had a minimal impact on the quoll populations …

The report goes on to say:

… 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.

This research work has been done in both Queensland and New South Wales when aerial baiting has been permitted in the past.

On behalf of the famers in Victoria, I urge the minister to intervene in this matter as a matter of urgency. His department is off on a green-tape frolic that is unsupported by the research and will harm the economy and the environment. Every day that we stop this aerial baiting trial in Victoria is another day that wild dogs will feast on native wildlife and kill livestock in my community.

A report into the cost of wild dog attacks put the economic impact at $18 million per year in Victoria alone, but there is no doubt that the true cost is much higher. To its credit, the Victorian coalition government has committed to a more holistic approach to wild dog control measures. After years of inaction by the previous Labor administration, the current government is looking to use every tool at its disposal to reduce the impact of wild dogs. It has introduced a wild dog and fox bounty and has given more resources to trappers and to aerial baiting programs intended to complement these efforts.

Naturally, landholders have an important role to play, to invest in fencing, and we need a genuine partnership approach involving multiple levels of government, paid trappers and our local community. The federal department's intervention is unhelpful and sends a terrible message to my community. The federal environment department should get out of the way and let the Victorian government implement its trial, which will have social, economic and environmental benefits in regional Victoria.