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Urgency Motion - Wildlife Culling

5 September 2019

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens - motion) - Madam Speaker, I move -

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent debate on the following motion: that the House condemns the Hodgman Liberal Government for its reckless mismanagement of wildlife in Tasmania that is driving species towards extinction.

Let the Hansard show that as I read out that motion there were groans from both sides of the House.

The reason we bring this on today is because there is a wholesale slaughter of wildlife and native animals in Tasmania. The latest details of that have been released in a right to information request that was obtained by the Greens and was splashed across the Mercury newspaper on Tuesday. This is an issue that is of deep concern to the vast majority of Tasmanians. It does not matter how they vote, people care about the welfare of animals and the level of community shock about the numbers is worth noting.

The number of permits that are issued to farmers to kill animals is staggering. In total 12 005 permits were granted, including 21 for galahs, 22 for green rosellas, 151 for wombats and six for platypus. The quota or maximum number of the species able to be taken using the permit shows as many as 21 726 beautiful black swans have been killed, 675 galahs, 681 rosellas and 5087 wombats. The wombat is more vulnerable because of the fact that it is suffering from sarcoptic mange.

Members interjecting.

Ms O'CONNOR - We hear the heckling from the Liberals, but right now we are in an extinction crisis, confirmed by scientists the world over. We are driving species towards extinction.

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I cannot hear Ms O'Connor speaking there is so much noise in the Chamber. It is disrespectful.

Madam SPEAKER - No, neither can I, so that is a very good point of order, I agree.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I thank Dr Woodruff also for her passionate advocacy for native animals in Tasmania. It tells us everything we need to know about the contempt with which the major parties hold wildlife protection in Tasmania.

Let us just go through some of these numbers and look at the maximum number of animals that could have been culled since 2014. In the five years the Liberals have been in government there have been millions of animals killed. The problem the Government has here is that it has starved the Nature Conservation Branch and there is no effective monitoring or assessment of populations of these animals in Tasmania. If there is, as the minister for threatening species stated this morning, he should table the data about the monitoring.

So 21 726 beautiful black swans were killed - and by the way, it is worth pointing out to the House that black swans mate for life, so every time we kill a black swan we are breaking the heart of another black swan. Cape Barren geese, 5486; 24 000 ducks in a time of extinction crisis; and the Forester kangaroo, 51 000 since 2014. The latest data that we could find was a 2001 report on the management of Forester kangaroos in Tasmania, which estimated the population to be 26 000. That was the estimated population of Forester kangaroos 18 years ago and in the past five years permits to kill double that number have been issued by this Government. The Forester kangaroo is a species which was once widespread across this island and was a staple food source for Aboriginal people and, in fact, for the first settlers when they came. Their population has largely been driven into the north-east corner. We do not know exactly what the population of Forester kangaroos is. This is an urgent matter.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order, could the member please address the question as to why this is an urgent motion?

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, and I believe I have done that, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is an urgent motion because, as we speak, there are crop protection permits being issued for species which are being driven towards extinction. There are whole colonies of little penguins being wiped by dogs because of the carelessness of government in penguin management. Only last week an entire colony at Doctors Rocks was slaughtered by dogs. This is urgent because our wildlife is being killed at a rate which I believe is unprecedented at a time of extinction crisis. If we do not bring this on as an urgency motion this matter will not be dealt with by the parliament. Both major parties in here are complicit in this wholesale slaughter.

This is an urgent matter and the majority of Tasmanians, we argue, believe it is an urgent matter too. The level of community revulsion about the numbers that were exposed in the RTI request is extremely high. We have a responsibility to protect our wildlife, our iconic species, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. These numbers are disgusting and they should be a challenge to this Government.

It is ironic that the minister for the Environment has no responsibility for the protection of wildlife in Tasmania. Under section 4 of the Nature Conservation Act that falls to the new minister for threatening species, Mr Barnett. Mr Barnett also has responsibility for logging, mining, primary industries and rampant fish farm expansion. He is utterly conflicted and this Government is driving our wildlife to extinction.

Time expired.

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, there is no question in Tasmanians' minds that this Government is on a mission to wipe out native animals in Tasmania. Everything they have done since they have been in office for five and a half years is to gut the Threatened Species Unit. There are effectively no staff there anymore. It was an amazing place, a source of great expertise and advice for Tasmanians and indeed for Australians. Our Threatened Species Unit staff were valued by universities at the ANU and other parts of Australia because of their expertise in native animals. It no longer exists.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order, I remind the member that she needs to talk about the urgency of this motion, not the substantive debate. We need to know why this is so urgent today this very minute.

Dr WOODRUFF - The reason that Ms. O'Connor and I are standing here today, bringing urgency, is because I asked the Environment minister yesterday where is the base line information that justifies the hundreds and thousands of native animals that have been killed by the 'minister for threatening species' over the last five and a half years?

Mr FERGUSON - Point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, this is entirely unacceptable. First of all, I ask that the member withdrew the false and insulting title she uttered. And I ask you to remind her to refer to ministers and any other members of the House by their appropriate titles. He is the Minister for Primary Industries and Water, and Environment. However, in this case he is the minister responsible for administering the act that is to do with threatened species. To say otherwise is insulting and it is unparliamentary.

Ms. O'CONNOR - On the point of order, there is precedence in this House for the use of the term 'minister for threatening species'. The former 'minster threatening for species' Mr Llewelyn accepted that title any number of times that we used it. We regard Mr Barnett as the minister for threatening species.

Mr Ferguson - It is still not appropriate.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - All ministers are to be addressed by their proper titles. In this case, I uphold the point of order.

Mr BARNETT - I want to make it clear that I find it offensive. I would like the words that were used by both Dr Woodruff and Ms O'Connor to be withdrawn. I find them offensive. My title is minister for Primary Industries. I am responsible for wildlife regulations. They know that and I would like be referred to in the appropriate way. I would like the words withdrawn.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - I ask the member to withdraw the comment.

Dr WOODRUFF - Madam Deputy Speaker, I have heard the comments that have been made and the minister obviously has a glass jaw on this matter. I will withdraw those words.

The minister who is threatening all the species of native wildlife in Tasmania, that same minister and the minister for the Environment should have responded to the question about the Forester kangaroos. We are standing here today because no response has come back from the minister for the Environment. There is no information.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - I draw the member's attention to the urgency of this debate today.

Dr WOODRUFF - I am trying to answer that question, Madam Deputy Speaker. That is exactly what I am saying.

I stood here yesterday and asked a question of the minister for the Environment about where is the baseline information for Forester kangaroos. He promised to come back and provide it. He is not here; he has not done it today. The reason he has not is that is shows there is nothing that has been updated since 2000 when the last and only research that has been done showed there was a population of 26 000. Yet, under this Government, we know that the slaughter of more than 50 000 Forester kangaroos has been authorised in Tasmania over the last five and a half years. Where do we have any information that we do not have a population on the verge of extinction?

Mrs Rylah - Look outside your backdoor.

Dr WOODRUFF - The member who made that comment has just revealed her absolute ignorance. If she had any intelligence or interest she would read the report. It makes it very clear that what you see in front of your face is not evidence. It is evidence of animals that are being driven into spaces because of deforestation in this state.

Mr FERGUSON - Point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I ask that you draw the leader of the Greens to order and ask her to stop making insulting comments across the Chamber.

Dr WOODRUFF - Madam Deputy Speaker, that is a frivolous point of order based on no standing order. He is just trying to interrupt my time about the urgency of the situation. We have the news that 170 little penguins were lost in the last year. Birdlife Tasmania makes it very clear they are on the verge of extinction. They are tenuous. Every Tasmanian, with the possible exception of the member sitting over here, would be devastated to hear this situation. What we know is that a faux penguin task force has been established that has essentially no money and no authority.

Mr BARNETT - Point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The reference to the Tasmanian Penguin Advisory Group as a 'faux' group is entirely false and misleading. It should be withdrawn. It is a very important group and the Government takes it very seriously.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - The member is asked to withdraw the comment.

Dr WOODRUFF - Madam Deputy Speaker, if the minister wants to make a contribution, he can. I will not withdraw the fact that it is a 'faux' task force.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - Are you going to withdraw the comment?

Dr WOODRUFF - On what basis is that an offensive comment? It is not acting as a task force that is functioning to do something. I cannot withdraw something which is patently obvious. That task force has met once, I understand.

Mr BARNETT - Point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Dr Woodruff has made a misleading statement saying that the advisory group has met once. That is entirely incorrect.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - That is not a point of order. The minister will have time to make his comments later.

Dr WOODRUFF - I draw your attention to the frivolous points of order that are wasting time. It is a disgrace.

Time expired.