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Wednesday, 31 May 1989
Page: 3107

Senator COLLINS —Does the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories intend to congratulate his Queensland counterpart, Mr Geoff Muntz, on at last declaring a truce in the senseless, one-sided, 3 1/2-year war against crocodiles in the Daintree River? However, is it a fact that Mr Muntz's decision to put an end to this program of purging the river of large species of crocodiles owed little to a new-found compassion towards crocodiles or an acknowledgment of conservation, but in fact to despair among supporters and operators of the Queensland tourist industry, whose business was declining in the same ratio as the largely decimated crocodile population of the Daintree River?

Senator Parer —What a dorothy dixer!

Senator COLLINS —No, it is not, as a matter of fact. I have an interest in crocodiles.

Senator RICHARDSON —I think I have to concede at the outset that this is one battle, perhaps the only battle, that Mr Muntz appears to have won, because the purging of crocodiles has apparently been extraordinarily successful. When a local resident was taken by a crocodile about three years ago-I might say that the local resident knew that these things existed in the Daintree River-the Queensland Government first allowed a program of indiscriminate shooting of crocodiles. So hordes of people were charging up the river in boats blasting away at anything that moved. When that ceased, there was then a policy of removing crocodiles which were considered a problem. Unfortunately this got to the stage of removing any crocodile that was not much more than a metre long. This extraordinary series of events, which went on for three years, of course has led to the tourist industry in the area being very badly hit. That is not greatly surprising, given that crocodiles are precisely what people want to see as they go up the Daintree River.

However, I am sorry to report to Senator Collins that Mr Muntz's victory in this area may be short lived. A colleague of his, Mr Martin Tenni, has announced that none of this is for him and the matter is now to be reconsidered. I have the following quote from Mr Tenni-this is what he said only yesterday, so it is hot off the presses:

No crocs classed as man-eaters, vicious or dangerous will be left in any part of my electorate if I have anything to say. I will be fighting this move every step of the way at the next Cabinet meeting.

I suggest that that statement from Mr Tenni was an extraordinary performance-even for him. His electorate, which is called Barron River, covers the Daintree. So we are now faced with the prospect of more ceaseless slaughtering of crocodiles, all to placate the will of one very odd National Party politician. When we got to the stage of beating Geoff Muntz on something, we thought we had a big win. But in Queensland even that is not enough. We still have to cross the Martin Tenni bridge. From what we have seen, it would appear that more crocodiles are endangered in north Queensland, and the tourist industry will once again be worse off.