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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1168

Mr ROBERT BROWN —Is the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment aware that the Australian-made film Goodbye Joey, which purports to deal with the issue of kangaroos, is to be released shortly in the United Kingdom and in Europe, notably in the Federal Republic of Germany and France? Is the Minister aware of the controversy which surrounds the film, principally about its distortion of the issue? What has the Government done to counter the potentially adverse effects that this film will have on the favourable image which Australia currently enjoys overseas, especially its high reputation for environmental consciousness?

Mr COHEN —I thank the honourable member for his question. I am sorry to say that Goodbye Joey will be shown in Great Britain and Europe, because it shows a very distorted view of the kangaroo situation in Australia. People overseas, particularly in the United States and Europe where some conservation groups-I stress the word 'some'-are particularly active in propagating nonsense about kangaroos, are not as aware of the facts as are Australians. They deliberately muddy the waters by exaggeration, distortion and, in some cases, outright lies. There are some 47 species of kangaroo in Australia, of which only seven are culled. In areas where some species such as the bridled nail tail wallaby are endangered, the Government is involved with the States in programs to conserve those species. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation survey in 1981 showed that there were 19 million kangaroos-reds and greys-in Australia, many more than the number of white tailed deer which exist in the United States, which the Americans allow their shooters to shoot for sport. There has been some depletion in the numbers of kangaroos due to the severe drought in New South Wales and South Australia. However, it should be remembered that the depletion was almost certainly from an all time high in numbers. I do not have to go into detail, but there is overwhelming evidence in Australia that since the depletion of the rabbit-

Honourable members-Ha, ha!

Mr COHEN —If honourable members are silly enough to laugh at that I am sorry for them. Since the control of the rabbit there has been an increase in pastures and more dams in rural Australia. I would not think the Liberal Party's National Party colleagues would be laughing. The major species of kangaroos have increased dramatically in number. Also, now that the drought has broken, there is an anticipated increase of 40 per cent in the next 12 months which is well above the annual culling figure of 12 per cent.

Some assertions have been made in the film about the illegal killing of kangaroos. We know that it goes on but basically Australians are not sports hunters like the Americans. Quotas for culling are established on survey methods developed by State wildlife authorities and constantly refined over many years. They assess the total population and take into account culling, illegal shooting and natural depletion through drought. Recently I toured the western Riverina area with Dr Jack Giles of the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service to see the survey methods and to get an idea of the kangaroo population. I saw many thousands of kangaroos from a flight over that area. As soon as there are signs of any significant depletion the authorities adjust the quotas. I anticipate that the quotas for 1984 will be considerably reduced.

Another assertion which is constantly made is that there are cases of cruelty. I have no doubt that amongst some of the illegal shooters there are some sadists , just as there are fiends who will be cruel to their fellow human beings and domestic animals. There are examples of cruelty to kangaroos. There are laws against it although they are difficult to police. However, to suggest that professional shooters indulge in this, as the Goodbye Joey film suggests, is an absurdity. Anyone who knows anything about professional kangaroo shooters would know that economic self interest alone requires that they kill as quickly and efficiently as possible. Similarly, I resent the accusation that somehow or other all the wildlife authorities, all governments-State and Federal-all the professional shooters, and the kangaroo industry are in a giant conspiracy to wipe out the kangaroo. Each and every one has a strong motive to do exactly the opposite. Wildlife officers in Australia are amongst the most dedicated and educated conservationists that I have seen throughout the world.

I want to make the point that not all conservation groups are taking this view. The Australian Conservation Foundation and the Queensland Conservation Foundation-by no means passive organisations-have recognised the need to cull kangaroos. The only difference of opinion relates to whether or not there should be commercial culling. Unfortunately, some of these organisations-the ones that I mentioned earlier-have campaigned dishonestly on this issue. They are opposed not just to kangaroo culling but to all forms of killing. We will be undertaking a program to inform Australia and the rest of the world of the truth about kangaroos.