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Wednesday, 25 June 2003
Page: 12498

Senator MURPHY (2:36 PM) —My question is to Senator Hill in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. The government has provided some $400,000 to the Tasmanian government for the purpose of eradicating foxes that are supposed to have been illegally introduced into Tasmania. Given that the Tasmanian police have conducted extensive investigations over a long period of time and have not found one single piece of evidence to support the claims of illegal introduction, can you inform the Senate if the federal government will be supplying more taxpayers' money to support such things as the Tasmanian fox task force foxhunting jaunt into New South Wales at who knows what expense or the $36,000 to train two dogs to find dead foxes, which were then declared a failure by the Tasmanian fox task force manager, Chris Emms, and sent back to Victoria to be retrained, I assume for another $36,000?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I remember when it was believed that foxes had been introduced into Tasmania and there were strong demands from the Tasmanian state government to the Commonwealth to assist it in efforts to find and eradicate those foxes. I can remember also that, as evidenced by the Tasmanian press, there seemed to be widespread public support for that. In fact I can remember the Commonwealth being attacked for not providing sufficient support to Tasmania when it was facing what was seen as an emergency situation. In relation to the outcome of that investment, I will seek advice from the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Kemp. In relation to any future funding in efforts to locate and eradicate foxes, I will seek advice on that as well.

Senator MURPHY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I assume then that the government will consider spending more taxpayers' money on the basis of a fox that was shot in Victoria, a fox skin that was received in the mail and an unidentified `Richard the Third'?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I have received some advice that the Tasmanian minister has recently written to the Commonwealth minister with a request for further Commonwealth assistance, attaching a copy of the Kinnear review. Dr Kemp is considering the detailed outcomes of the review and Tasmania's request. The primary role for the Commonwealth in threat abatement is providing long-term solutions. The Natural Heritage Trust has provided $2.2 million since 1996-97 to develop a fox immunocontraceptive virus which will stop foxes reproducing, which would be a good step towards a permanent solution, one might think. It would seem that in those circumstances, both in short-term remedial action and in long-term remedial action, the Commonwealth is investing taxpayers' money wisely.