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Wednesday, 15 October 1986
Page: 1292


Senator COLLARD (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(11.40) —The Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Amendment Bill 1986 is a Bill amending legislation which was originally countenanced in the days of the previous Fraser- Anthony Government, and very necessary legislation it was too. It really brings together and helps us to meet our obligations for the protection and conservation of the world's wildlife under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. I indicate at the outset that the Opposition will not be supporting the amendment moved by Senator Sanders. Three members of the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare have taken part in this debate, and that is good, as well as one other speaker, Senator Puplick, from my side of the House.

We will not be supporting the amendment for the reasons basically outlined by Senator Georges. I think that the Senate Select Committee, in its hearings and in the work it has before it, will pick up most of what is envisaged in the amendment moved by Senator Sanders. Indeed, I would be very disappointed if the Committee did not do that. We will not be supporting the amendment. I would not want to see this Bill held up unnecessarily because, as has been indicated by previous speakers, it does tighten up in some areas and strengthen the ability of officials to detect and to prosecute those wildlife traffickers, who we abhor, who make money out of our indigenous wildlife. Anything that can be done to stop that trafficking and to bring those people to justice has to be commended. This Bill does tighten that up, so we would not want to hold it up. That, besides the reason that I think that the Committee has all the power to do the things that Senator Sanders had indicated he wants done, means that we will not be supporting the amendment. We are not against the intent of the amendment; I just think the matter can be handled if things take their course.

The previous speakers outlined the Bill, the various aspects of it and the necessity for it, so I will not detain the Senate too long. But I do want to pick up a few points on the way through. First of all, one of the amendments allows the export of invertebrates. There is a program going on now instigated by the James Cook University at Townsville on the export of clams. This has been found necessary because the clams in the reefs of the South Pacific have been very severely depleted, possibly by the sort of plundering that has gone on on our Great Barrier Reef with overseas fishermen who come in and decimate the clam life on the reefs. One way of helping out our South Pacific neighbours is by breeding our giant clams. I understand that this is being done by the James Cook University on Orpheus Reef. Once the clams have been bred they cannot be exported to help these other nations build up their clam populations without this legislation going through. That is one of the very necessary amendments to this legislation.

The changing of the legislation for the pets of people departing this country has already been acknowledged and I have no objection to that. One other section allows the regular import and export of prescribed specimens, for example, by scientific institutions to develop biological control agents. They will not be required to make individual application for each shipment. They will receive a single authority, subject to the regular reporting of shipments. I think that is very necessary also. Currently the Alan Fletcher Research Station in Queensland does a lot of biological research into the control of weeds in Australia. One project which immediately comes to mind and which Professor Ovington is quite aware of is the biological control of mistflower, which is spreading particularly in south-east Queensland. The only other method of control is the use of herbicide, which is to be avoided if it possibly can. There is a biological control which looks as though it will be available. Unfortunately that has been held up, but I have had discussions with the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and Professor Ovington is chasing that up.

I use that as an example because when one goes down this track, quite often one wants to get in through the year whatever samples one is wanting to test. Once permission has been given to do that, one has a blanket permission to bring in two or three lots instead of having to go back every time to get that permission, whether it be for a bug, a spore or whatever. It is another amendment which I welcome. Provision has also been made for the interchange of material between approved zoological organisations and scientific organisations. That also is to be welcomed. Indeed, Senator Puplick, in his contribution to this debate, mentioned a lot of the great work which has been done by zoos around the world and by individuals around the world and in Australia to build up the numbers of what were very seriously endangered species, to the extent that those species can be once again released in their natural habitats.

For those reasons, along with the reasons suggested by those who have taken part in the debate, we certainly will not be opposing the legislation. I will just pick up a couple of things that have been said, particularly by Senator Sanders. Once again he raised the usual argument about the woodchip industry and the toll on wildlife that happens in that industry. Nobody denies that, whatever happens, when man comes into an environment there is a toll. There would have to be a toll in the woodchip industry. There is a toll when one puts a roadway through an area. There is a toll when one puts a railway line through an area. I spent many years in western Queensland in unfenced country and knocked over the occasional emu or horse and plenty of kangaroos, sheep and cattle. There is a toll and there would have to be a toll in the woodchip industry. That is accepted. It is also accepted that when regrowth occurs, the wildlife comes back in very large numbers.


Senator Sanders —Not the same species.


Senator COLLARD —And of the same species. For that reason, the woodchip industry very deliberately only take sections of trees out in coops so that the animals that are indigenous to that area can survive, and when the regrowth occurs, they breed up quite well.


Senator Georges —They didn't do that in the first place. That is the real problem.


Senator COLLARD —I am the first to admit that. There are many things that we did not do correctly in the first place. Mining is another one. We have all learnt as we have gone along. The rehabilitation of mining areas and the provision of coops to allow indigenous species to go to are things that we have learnt. We would not want it any other way now. If we had not taken notice of that we could rightfully stand condemned by everybody.


Senator Georges —You will acknowledge that we are still learning?


Senator COLLARD —Sure. We can learn something new every day. One of the other things that Senator Sanders mentioned was the Administrative Appeals Tribunal inquiry into the management program of kangaroos, particularly in Queensland. I think that the ANPWS stands condemned for its handling of this particular situation in that the inquiry, interestingly, was all about the 1985 management program but, for some reason best known to itself or because of some mistakes in its procedures, the documents that were brought before the AAT went to great pains to point out in paragraph 15 on page 14:

Three documents, each entitled Kangaroo Conservation and Management in Queensland, one dated March, 1975 (the 1975 document), one dated June, 1977 (the 1977 document) and one dated March 1984 (Exhibit 1), were put before the Tribunal at that earlier hearing. Each of those documents had been in existence at the date of publication of the gazettal declaration, and there was no indication as to which one was intended to be referred to in that declaration. It ultimately transpired that both the applicant and the respondent were proceeding on the assumption that what had been intended to be approved by the Minister was the document dated March, 1984, but which the quotas therein set out for the culling of several species of kangaroos replaced by different quotas which had been approved by the Minister on 14 February 1985 in respect of the year 1985.

So there is the Administrative Appeals Tribunal telling the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service that it had not got its act together properly. Indeed, the 1985 management program was a very different program from the 1984 program. Senator Sanders also quoted some figures which have been bandied around at other times. On page 1205 of the Senate Hansard of 10 October 1986 he is recorded as saying:

In 1985, 1,343,167 Queensland kangaroo skins entered the trade in New South Wales.

He went on to cite quite a few other very specific figures; but never have those figures been substantiated. The citing of unsubstantiated figures to indicate that something might be wrongfully going on does the conservation cause no good at all; it just calls its credibility into question. Once the carcass has been tagged, irrespective of in which State the kangaroo has been shot, the skin can enter the trade and go anywhere in Australia. It might go to Queensland to be tanned and then to New South Wales to be made into shoes or to Victoria to be made into handbags. I have even heard that kangaroo skin is used in South Australia to make whips. The figures given by Senator Sanders, and even the figures in the Sydney Morning Herald, which also have never been substantiated--


Senator Georges —The real problem is that nothing can be substantiated. That is how bad the system is; it is a real mess.


Senator COLLARD —It gets back to some of Senator Georges's remarks earlier. We have a program. The problem gets back to the tagging. That is where the substantiation can be done. Once the matter gets beyond the freezer boxes with the carcass and the tags, the product is very hard to control, as is any other product. If Senator Georges's Committee points up a problem-deficiencies, corruption or whatever-we will be able to address ourselves to the matter. But the problem comes back to a management program and tagging. If that is where the problem is and procedures need to be tightened up, let us do it. In Queensland, and in every other State, there are people who try to flout the system. Once found out they are prosecuted with the full weight of the law.


Senator Sanders —That is not so.


Senator COLLARD —It is so. If the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare comes up with instances of people deliberately flouting the law and not being prosecuted, it is in the hands of the Committee members to bring that matter to this chamber and to the people of Australia. I know of people who have been prosecuted. As well as being fined, the carcasses in their possession were impounded. That is the only point at which effective control can be exercised. I repeat that if the Committee can point to methods of abuse and how they can be better controlled, all power to it. It has the opportunity to bring the matter to this chamber.

At the current stage there is a conflict between the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment, Mr Cohen, on the quota for Queensland. The quota requested by Queensland for the 1985 management program was in the vicinity of 1.86 million to 1.84 million. The quota agreed to by Minister Barry Cohen was 1.3 million. After that quota was agreed to, a scientific committee was set up to look into it. It has become known as the Sharman committee. Everybody agreed to the establishment and the personnel of the committee. Interestingly, that committee agreed to a quota for Queensland for the 1985 management program of 1.84 million, but the Minister, for reasons best known to him, did not agree to that. People may think that will mean those extra 500,000 kangaroos will not be shot. I point out that-the same as with birds-since the development of the rural areas of this country macropods have bred up in large numbers because we have provided them with water which they would not otherwise have had. We have provided them with crops and improved pastures. Indeed, I recall telling a previous United States Ambassador when the kangaroo meat substitution scandal was on that he should not knock eating good roo meat because it is acknowledged to be high protein and the roos have been fed on the best crops and the most improved pastures that we have available. The cattle and the sheep have only what is left to eat. This is what has happened. Because of the crops, the improved pasture and the water the--


Senator Sanders —It was their land to begin with and they were kicked off it.


Senator COLLARD —If we had not provided those conditions, the roos and the birds would have died in any drought year. Indeed, they still do in their thousands. Since the development of our rural areas we have allowed their numbers to breed up so there has to be a managed culling program.


Senator Georges —So you shoot the lot of them.


Senator COLLARD —Nobody shoots the lot. As Senator Georges should know, the relevant authorities can give permission for pests to be culled. Unfortunately, that type of culling does not provide secondary industry with hides and carcasses. The extra culling recommended by the scientific committee set up by the Minister would have provided extra carcasses, hides and jobs in Queensland and the kangaroo population would not have been in any danger. It is acknowledged by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation that currently there are about 20 million to 30 million kangaroos in Queensland. It is also acknowledged that the large numbers of roos cause a severe cost detriment to the rural area of Australia. I raise this matter under this Bill because this Bill controls the export of the specimen products.


Senator Haines —Speaking of substantiated numbers--


Senator COLLARD —They are substantiated numbers. If Senator Haines is going to tell the CSIRO that it plucks figures out of the air as she does, so be it.


Senator Haines —You are plucking things out of the air.


Senator COLLARD —I am not; I am just citing CSIRO figures. They are there for all to see. We support the legislation. The amendments which are proposed are necessary. We will not support the amendment as moved by the Australian Democrats.