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Thursday, 14 May 1970

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) - The Opposition welcomes the motion and will facilitate a vote on it as soon as the Government wishes that action. As the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) has stated, this is a positive move, lt is a move which, from the terms of reference, has been well thought out. It is something which can achieve Only good. I hope, however, that in the interim the Government will give consideration to some of the problems which have been put forward on this matter. The select committee may take a number of years before it reaches a decision. For example, included in the terms of reference is provision for a survey of the mammals of the sea. That is going to be a pretty tall order, lt could take a long time. Most of the petitions that the honourable member for Henty and other honourable members have raised in this Parliament have been concerned with the kangaroo. There can be no doubt that a farcical position exists in Australia today. The Government through its export powers could give consideration to this point, because under the present laws the kangaroo is more valuable to Australia than the merino ram. It is against the law of this land to export a live kangaroo, except to an approved zoo, yet this country now allows the export of a merino ram to anyone.

This is a farcical situation. It is not against the law to kill that same kangaroo, put his carcass into a tin and export it. This country of ours attaches such great importance and value to the kangaroo that it cannot be exported .live to friendly nations, yet it can be exported in a tin. So there are strong grounds for supporting this motion. I hope the select committee will put balance into this situation because, speaking as one who is familiar with most of the cattle and sheep country of northern Australia, I am fully aware of the pest proportions of the kangaroo, particularly, and the wallaby in the higher rainfall areas. Those people who are from the semi-arid areas know that, for example, after a spring rain when cattle may have been suffering from drought kangaroos can come in like a plague and devour most of the sweetest grasses. They can cause irreparable damage to perennial pastures, such as in the broken Mitchell grass country. They can do more damage to pastures than sheep, and sheep do more damage than cattle. I raise this point only because there has to be balance in our approach.

It is not just a question of stopping the shooting of the kangaroo. It is not just a question of control in that respect. We have to recognise that there is also a conservation problem. How this is recognised and how it is controlled is a matter for the select committee. It is possible we may have to introduce measures such as West Australia is adopting. That State has zones in which shooting can and cannot occur. The kangaroo cannot be controlled like mickey bulls. No-one can suggest that the kangaroo can be castrated so that it cannot breed, as mickey bulls can be. This is a problem which has to be faced and there are 2 extreme views on it. It is a question of marrying these two views, of being able to define zones or parks or whatever it might be and having humane reasons also brought forward. I am concerned with the serious anomaly that is evident in not allowing live kangaroos to be exported. If it is good enough to shoot them in some of the worst acts of cruelty one can find, particularly by the amateur shooters as opposed to professional shooters, surely it is good enough to allow them to be exported live to friendly areas. I cannot see the propriety of not allowing live kangaroos to be exported to friendly nations when they can be exported in a tin or ruthlessly shot.

It should be borne in mind that the kangaroo should have some rights in this country of ours. It is on our coat of arms; it is something which we should honour. After all, it was here before the white person arrived. I suppose if the kangaroo could speak it could say: 'This is my country', just as the Aboriginal can say: 'This is my country'. As history shows, our treatment of natural fauna has not been too kind. With that thought I would say that the Opposition supports the establishment of the select committee which should keep in mind the balance I have mentioned; conservation on the one hand and the fact that there is a pest problem on the other.

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