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Tuesday, 12 June 1984
Page: 2829

Senator MISSEN(5.03) —There has been some suggestion just now that all Liberal and National Party senators take the same view-

Senator Jack Evans —I apologise. I exclude you.

Senator MISSEN —The honourable senator should not exclude only me. If he reads the statement made by Mr David Connolly, the shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Environment, in the other House on Thursday, he will see the sensible view taken by the Opposition. Mr Connolly was critical of the Minister's statement in many respects as, indeed, am I. I agree entirely with what Senator Georges and Senator Evans have said about this being a very wrong time for a statement of a controversial nature to be put down in view of the fact that the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare is considering this matter. I have placed on notice, and have received answers to, a number of questions on the kangaroo situation. I have not received very satisfactory answers; I think some of the questions remain quite unanswered. I will certainly be taking further steps in this regard .

The ministerial statement seemed to me to be a very sad one to make at this time. As the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment (Mr Cohen) admits, there is no doubt that the number of kangaroos in Australia are not properly known. Their population has not been adequately investigated. The Minister acknowledges that things have to be done. In fact, he has appointed a group to make further investigations in this regard. Serious questions have been raised about whether mistaken views have been given as to the extent to which kangaroos exist in Australia at present and the extent to which the numbers were depleted as a result of the drought. It is all right to say that last year we had a quota of three million and only two million were culled or killed and that this year the quota has been reduced to two million. But while only two million were killed last year, it may well be that the same number will be killed this year after a very severe drought which greatly reduced the population.

I know there are considerable problems in the country and that many farmers hold very strong views, views which are different from those of the environmentalists. I think it unworthy of the Ministers to have abused the environmentalists as he did in his statement. He should at least have waited until the Committee has reported and more facts are known. He should have waited until his investigations were further advanced than they are at present. I do not regard this statement as a helpful one. It will only inflame controversy in this country. Therefore, I join with those other honourable senators who urge that there should be less of this pejorative argument by the Minister, less attempt to defend himself, to hit back, as he says, at people who hit him. Is that the responsibility of a Minister for Home Affairs and Environment? I do not believe it is. It is his job to get what facts he can and to listen to the evidence put before the Committee. I am not aware of the nature of that evidence or what the report will be, but certainly this is not the time for a Minister to make the statement that he made. I put on record my concern about him.