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Tuesday, 9 November 1976

Mr FRY (Fraser) -This Bill is concerned with the provision of funds to assist in the establishment of national parks as well as the conducting of research into the preservation and conservation of our flora and fauna. I would like to take the opportunity of saying a few words in defence of a much maligned member of the Australian fauna, namely, the Australian dingo. For many years the dingo has been the victim of a whole range of myths about its way of life, its killing habits, how it travels, how ferocious it is, and how many hundreds of head of cattle and sheep it is supposed to have destroyed. It is supposed to have imposed a huge cost upon the pastoral industry. Fortunately in recent years these myths have tended to be broken down. In more recent years some very sound research has been done which, while it is still in its infancy, has tended to result in a less emotional and more rational attitude being taken towards the dingo. It was very good to see a very fine example set recently by the newly-elected Premier of New South Wales when he suspended the dropping of 1080 baits in the Kanangra Valley on the basis that not sufficient was known about the habits of the dingo to justify having this sort of control measure. I shall certainly produce other information later which supports this contention.

I was fortunate recently to visit east Africa, where I enjoyed looking at the magnificent animal parks and seeing thousands of animals just grazing around in their natural habitat quite oblivious to onlookers. People drive around in their cars looking at these animals and as long as the people stay in their cars the animals do not take any notice of them. I hope that we will get to the stage in Australia- particularly in Canberra, where we are about to set aside an area for the Gudgenby National Park- where we will be able to drive into certain areas and see such beautiful animals as the Australian dingo in their natural habitat in company with the other animals with which they would normally be in company. It is a magnificent sight and something that one really cannot appreciate until one has actually experienced it. So I support in general those people who are working towards a less emotive and more rational attitude being adopted towards the Australian dingo.

One of the great problems with the dingo is differentiating between the pure dingo and the cross-bred dingo. Here again there are a lot of myths abroad. Recent research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has shown that in the Gippsland area, for instance, only 20 per cent of the dingoes are not pure. In fact research into a sample of all bush dogs has shown that 75 per cent are domestic dogs gone wild so it is not correct to say that stock-killing dogs are cross-bred dingoes. A lot of them are pure domestic dogs which have gone wild. In Canberra it is quite amusing sometimes to see the great expense to which the Government is put following reports of dingoes killing stock in the Gudgenby area. Trappers and rangers are sent to that area and all sorts of resources are used to try to catch one dingo which is reported to have killed four of five sheep. There is no proof that the animal has killed the sheep, only supposition. At the same time we find here in Canberra that a domestic dog will get into sombody's paddock out near the abattoir and kill 50 to 100 sheep, yet the emotive effect is not the same. People go out and try to shoot the dog but it is an emotive approach, not a rational approach, to the problem.

The dingo has bestowed great benefits on the Australian pastoral industry. It was used extensively in the development of the blue heeler which has been of tremendous benefit to the cattle industry. The ability of the blue heeler to nip the heels of a beast, to lay its head flat on the ground and miss its kicks has been inherited from the dingo. The blue heeler's great endurance and strong jaws also have been inherited from the Australian dingo. That is why I say that the dingo has made a great contribution to the Australian pastoral industry.

There is little evidence of large-scale killing of stock by dingoes. Recent research was done in Armidale by a scientist named Robert Harden. He examined 800 samples of excreta from dingoes and found no evidence of stock remains. The CSIRO had similar results when it examined samples. Mr Harden said he found no evidence of domestic stock in any of these specimens. The examination showed that 60 per cent of the diet of the dingoes he investigated was wallaby, 15 per cent was possum and glider and the remainder was made up of other native mammals. The CSIRO found only a small proportion of domestic animals in an examination of the guts of 1000 dingoes. There is no hard evidence to support claims that dingoes kill a lot of stock in Australia.

Another myth destroyed by research is that dingoes travel large distances. The justification for bait dropping in the Kanangra-Boyd Park of New South Wales was that dingoes went from that area to Oberon and Bathurst and attacked stock. Research has shown that they do not travel large distances. Radio transmitters were put on them and monitored and it was found that they generally stayed in an area of 2000 to 3000 hectares. This makes nonsense of dropping thousands of baits in this uninhabited country on the off-chance they will kill an odd dingo. They may kill the odd dingo but so what. We do not know how many dingoes are killed by 1080 baits, nor do we know how many birds and other animals are killed. Thousands of baits are littered indiscriminately in these national park areas.

I hope that with this sort of research a much more rational approach will be adopted to controlling dingoes or protecting them, or whatever the case may be. I think the dingo is a noble animal that should be protected. Dingoes should be controlled in certain cases when there is firm evidence that they kill stock in any quantity but I think that quite often the dingo is used as an excuse for mismanagement. If people cannot round up the number of stock that they think they have, if they find so many sheep are missing, they blame the dingo. It is very convenient to have something to blame but evidence is not available to prove that dingoes take stock. Even in the early days of Australia we heard of convicts being flogged because they let dingoes take lambs. There was no real evidence that they were taken by dingoes, foxes, native cats, domestic dogs or anything else.

It is good to see these mythical beliefs about the dingo being broken down gradually and a more rational approach being taken. I hope that the establishment of the national parks will see a continuation of that trend. I hope we get to the stage where these animals are not destroyed wholesale on a false premise and that we get the opportunity at some future time of being able to go into these parks and see dingoes in their natural habitat. I am sure people will come to appreciate the quality of the dingo as well as any disadvantages that may arise from their existance. I was in Mauritius recently and noted with interest that its national emblem is the dodo. One can buy cloth dodos, metal dodos or wooden dodos but cannot see a live dodo because they have been extinct for about 200 years. We often hear the expression 'as dead as a dodo'. I hope we never get to the stage that instead of saying that democracy in Australia is as dead as a dodo we say that democracy in Australia is as dead as a dingo. I hope dingoes never become extinct.

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