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Native Swans - Culling Program

Parliamentary Activity - Wednesday, 31 July 2019, Rosalie Woodruff MP


Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for ENVIRONMENT, PARKS AND HERITAGE, Mr GUTWEIN redirected to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES and WATER, Mr BARNETT

The ABC yesterday revealed the shocking number of native swans that have been slaughtered over the past four years - 8000 of them authorised by the Government. Some 460 swans were culled in the past two years just from two farms adjacent to the Tamar Island wetlands area. Tamar residents who heard the shooting reported seeing swans dying slowly, wings flapping. We received photos today of a swan without a wing from that shooting period unable to launch into flight from the water. I seek the leave of the House to table photos of this swan without a wing.

Madam SPEAKER - Unfortunately, due to question time being limited, I have to ask you to table it during other formal business.

Dr WOODRUFF - I will do that, Madam Speaker. My experience in the past is that we have accepted things during question time. If the Government has a problem with doing that, I will seek the leave of the House to do that at a later time.

Madam SPEAKER - I have taken advice from the Clerk.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Minister, your Government collects no information about the localised impacts of these massive so-called 'culls' on Tasmania's swan population and undertakes no investigation about the animal welfare of these authorised slaughters. Native swans are protected birds in their own habitat.

Will you cancel all permits and undertake an investigation into local population dynamics and the welfare issues surrounding the widescale shooting of native swans?

Mr GUTWEIN - That question should have been directed to the minister for Primary Industries.

Ms O'Connor - You are responsible for threatened species and species management. How gutless.

Mr GUTWEIN - Point of order, Madam Speaker. The member should withdraw that.

Madam SPEAKER - Please withdraw it, it was not very parliamentary.

Mr GUTWEIN - It is not a matter for my portfolio. I made that perfectly clear and the appropriate minister is going to answer the question which, to be frank, the member who asked the question should have been aware of. It demonstrates a level of ignorance.

Madam SPEAKER - I have the point, thank you, Mr Gutwein. I will ask the Primary Industries minister.

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Speaker, the question was asked of the Environment minister because he is responsible for species management. I withdraw the allegation that he is gutless, but it is certainly cowardly.

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, as has been noted by the Environment minister, animal welfare is a top priority for our Government. Likewise, regarding crop protection permits and how they operate, the Government will always support landholders to sustainably -

Ms O'Connor - Which is why we asked the Environment minister the question.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, please.

Mr BARNETT - Madam Speaker, I am trying to answer the question. They are interjecting and making it impossible for me to answer the question.

The Government will always stand up for landholders to sustainably manage browsing animal populations that are causing excess damage to their crops and pastures. Where wildlife is causing damage, a crop protection permit may be granted to enable applicants to cull the wildlife if alternative non-lethal strategies are neither effective nor practical.

Dr Woodruff - Rubbish, where is the evidence?

Madam SPEAKER - Order, the minister will be heard in silence.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker, I appreciate that.

Where wildlife is causing damage a crop protection permit may be granted to enable those applicants to cull the wildlife if alternative non-lethal strategies, are neither effective nor practical. In issuing these permits, there is due process of assessment - consideration of alternative measures, overall population monitoring, and requirements to uphold animal welfare standards and guidelines.

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, order.

Mr BARNETT - Annual monitoring of black swans since 1985 confirms the population to be widespread.

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker, Standing Order 45 relevance. I specifically asked about local population dynamics because there is no local assessment done. I specifically asked the minister to undertake an assessment of local population dynamics.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you. As you know, that is not a point of order.

Mr BARNETT - Yes, Madam Speaker, that is correct. We cannot have false or misleading allegations made. We must be making an assessment based on the facts. I am trying to outline the facts for the members of the parliament, and members of the community, to make it very clear that any assessment made is very carefully considered. There is an annual monitoring of black swans since 1985 which confirms the population to be widespread and abundant in Tasmania with no evidence of any long-term decline in numbers that either are statewide or at a regional level.

Applications for a crop protection permit take into account the damage being caused, the abundance of the species of wildlife for which a permit is being sought and the status of that species at a local, at a regional -

Dr Woodruff - You don't care about swans with their wings shot off. They mate for life, you know.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr BARNETT - My point, Madam Speaker, was that it is at a local level, a regional level and a state level. In the case of the black swan -

Dr Woodruff - Who is going to attend to this? Who is actually going to do something about that?

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Dr Woodruff, you are using that as a prop, so please put it down. I am very happy for you to show it to me later, or to table it at the right time. I ask that the minister be heard in silence. He has about 30 seconds left.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am more than happy to provide a more comprehensive response in light of the interjections from the Greens members. Let me make it very clear that regarding crop protection permits they take into account the damage being caused and the abundance of the species of wildlife. In the case of the black swan a physical assessment of each location on an application is also carried out. Discussions with landowners are held during the application process that cover damage, mitigation strategies including non-lethal strategies, their feasibility, potential impacts on neighbouring properties, as well as responsibilities and requirements if a permit is issued. All of this information is used to determine whether a permit is granted. Culling can only be carried out on the property where the permit applies.

Dr Woodruff - You never talked to the wetlands area about the impact on swans in the wetlands.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Dr Woodruff, that is warning number one.

Mr BARNETT - Finally, permits may be granted to multiple landowners in an area. However, total take quotas will be determined to ensure the long-term sustainability of the population in that area is not threatened. Madam Speaker, I could make it very clear and more comprehensive but in light of the time, unfortunately I am unable to.