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Wednesday, 2 November 1983
Page: 2198

Mr SNOW —Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the potential damage by feral pigs on farms and in national parks? Does he agree that the recent Darwin scare of foot and mouth disease in feral pigs could become a reality and devastate the rural economy, perhaps stopping many rural exports? Keeping in mind the huge and increasing numbers of feral pigs, with their rapid movements through properties and national parks, will the Government consider introducing a program leading to feral pig eradication?

Mr KERIN —First of all, I congratulate the honourable member for Eden-Monaro on the close interest he is paying to the feral pig problem. As he well knows, in his electorate the feral pigs are destroying fences and sheep and ruining national parks and in a recent incident many sheep were killed by a herd of feral pigs. The brief answer to the honourable member's question is yes, but it is not a simple matter. The Government, through its dollar for dollar matching arrangements with industry, has supported a number of research programs funded through the Australian Meat Research Committee. The Leader of the National Party , of course, also has a close interest in pigs. I inform him that the programs that have been developed by the Research Committee have developed our understanding of the ecology and the biology of feral pigs, and we have evaluated a range of control techniques. Nevertheless, there is still no simple, inexpensive method known to eradicate feral pigs. The New South Wales Government and the Queensland Government are trialling various--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order. I realise that most of the noise is good humoured but honourable members are using up Question Time.

Mr KERIN —I thank you for your protection, Mr Speaker. Pigs are very important. As I was saying, there is still no simple, inexpensive method known to eradicate feral pigs. The New South Wales and Queensland Governments have been trialling various methods. In the event of an outbreak of exotic disease in an area containing feral pigs their destruction would depend on a knowledge of their movement patterns and methods including trapping, poisoning and shooting.

The honourable member raised the hypothetical question of what would happen if we had a major disease outbreak and pointed to the recent Darwin incident. I say here that the Darwin feral pigs did not have foot and mouth disease and the scare headlines at the time did no service to the industry. Three or four other diseases resemble foot and mouth disease in pigs and the feeding of green papaws to pigs can also provoke some of these symptoms. It has to be recognised that the control over the keeping and movement of feral pigs by man is an important element in limiting the potential for exotic disease outbreaks and the potential spread of any such outbreaks. The matters the honourable member raised are serious matters and I will certainly take them up on his behalf.