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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 590

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - I would like to talk about a matter which I believe is very important to many people in the rural areas of this country who would look to this Government to give some support to them in the position in which they find themselves. I refer to workers engaged in the kangaroo industry. I would like to draw this matter to the attention of supporters of the Government who represent areas where the kangaroo is a problem. I hope that these honourable members will have the honesty and courage of their convictions to support the arguments that I will make in connection with the ban which has been imposed by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy) in another place on the export of kangaroo skins. He said that the ban could have been implemented much sooner, but the fact is that a ban has not been in force. The Minister spoke of this ban as though it had just been adopted and he has fixed the date from which the ban will apply. There has been a meeting of State Ministers on this subject, but I believe that it was almost farcical to hold the meeting because the decision was taken before the meeting was held. I do not think that whatever happened at that meeting would have made any difference to the decision that was made by the Government. I say that with some degree of certainty in my mind. However, the meeting was called and it was decided to oppose the uncontrolled harvesting of kangaroos and related species. Everybody wanted that. There has been no argument about that. The meeting recognised that for conservation purposes selective culling or harvesting of certain species of macropods may be a legitimate management practice. I agree that it is a legitimate management practice.

The meeting agreed that a scientifically acceptable range of data gathering and control measures be drawn up to regulate culling or harvesting throughout Australia in the interests of conservation of the species and the general environment. The House appointed a select committee composed of Government and Opposition members to inquire into that matter under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox). Full opportunity was given for evidence to be taken and a very worthwhile report was tabled. 1 pay tribute to .ill members of that committee for the sincerity of purpose with which they faced up to the task that was entrusted to them.

Now we find that a Minister in another place who certainly knows nothing about kangaroos has stepped in, taken the matter into his own hands and made a decision which is in direct contradiction to the best evidence that was available to him. He prefers to take the advice of some academic who knows as little about the kangaroo problem as the Minister himself does. The Minister had advice from the House of Representatives Select Committee, the membership of which included a number of members of his own Party who put in a great deal of time and made a very thorough examination. The matter was dealt with very effectively by that Committee.

Members of the last Parliament will recall the very conscientious way in which the honourable member for Henty brought forward, day after day, representations from people in his own area calling for a restriction on the export of kangaroos and kangaroo products. As Chairman he travelled with the committee and concurred with its very sensible findings. One finding of the committee stated:

That the imposition of a Commonwealth ban on the export of kangaroo products would not of itself ensure the conservation of kangaroos. Reduction of numbers would still be necessary. If not carried out by the industry this would need to be done by property owners, or by State wildlife authorities at public expense.

Do members of that Committee still subscribe to that finding? 1 feel sure that they do. The Committee further stated:

That although repugnant to some sections of the community, spotlight shooting wilh rifles equipped with telescopic sights is the most effective and humane method of killing kangaroos.

There is no question on that point. The committee further stated:

That areas where overharvesting appears to be occurring should be zoned and spelled until trends in the local kangaroo population can be assessed.

We all agree with that finding; there is no argument about it. Another finding of the committee was:

That much confusion exists about the degree of competition between kangaroos and domestic stock for feed. Wildlife scientists made it clear that in good conditions kangaroos and sheep can co-exist as their diets overlap to the extent of only about 40 per cent. Unfortunately many conservationists have extended this rinding to all conditions. The committee accepts that complaints by pastoralists and graziers of the effect of kangaroos on pastures have some justification. In adverse conditions competition increases for scarce fodder resources. It is most serious when kangaroos eat out pastures being spelled for stock.

Another point 1 wish to make is that between 600,000 and 700,000 kangaroos were harvested in Queensland last year. Yet we are told that this species is in danger of extinction. I hope that the House takes some notice of that. The wildlife conservation authorities in Queensland, who are charged with the responsibility of preserving these species and ensuring that they are not brought to extinction, have claimed that one million kangaroos could be harvested in Queensland alone without necessarily endangering the species. The State government has the responsibility of ensuring that kangaroos are kept to reasonable numbers in that State. A harvest of between 600,000 and 700,000 has enabled the species to survive in large numbers.

I should say also that the people engaged in the industry - in fact the whole industry - might have expected some support from hon ourable members opposite as they are anxious to maintain their industry on a continuing basis. Sufficient kangaroos are available for the industry to continue. St George, which is one of the towns where the kangaroo industry operates, is receiving no less than Sim annually as a result of this industry. This is a tremendous help to an area which has suffered severely from drought and previously low wool prices. A completely absurd restriction has been placed on these people. It is a hasty, ill-considered, unnecessary and unwarranted decision. 1 hope that some reasonable common sense will emanate from the decisions that were made by the committee. I do not blame all people, or al] Ministers, who are involved in this matter. Some have a more sensible approach than that of Senator Murphy, the Minister for Customs and Excise. 1 believe that perhaps some common sense will prevail aDd I hope that the Australian Labor Party will not allow Senator Murphy to take advice from academics only and ride roughshod over the representatives of people engaged in the kangaroo industry.

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