HUNTING IN NATIONAL PARKS
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN
[6.59 p.m.]: I want to set the record straight on the history of negotiations relating to the conservation hunting of feral animals in national parks. I had not intended to do this but a new member in the Legislative Assembly who might not have been aware of what occurred in the term of the former Government unwittingly lit the fire on Tuesday. I refer to the member for Keira, who asked a question of the Government about hunting in national parks. For some reason it appears to be a topic about which members of the former Government are keen to talk. The Shooters and Fishers Party has a policy of utilising licensed volunteer conservation hunters to cull feral animals from our national parks and State reserves. Not even The Greens can deny the damage and losses that are caused by these feral animals. The one true Green in the last Parliament, Ian Cohen, agreed that feral animals needed to be removed; we differed only on who should do the job.
However, I digress. In the term of the last Parliament the Shooters and Fishers Party put this policy to the former Government for negotiation. It was obvious to everyone other than former Government members and The Greens that the first bill was open to negotiation after The Greens almost turned purple and nearly choked with outrage—something that I believe was reflected also in the left wing of the Australian Labor Party. The dust settled and negotiations with the Labor Government began from an opening position of not understanding what we wanted to do. The former Government gradually saw the benefit of having volunteer licensed conservation hunters removing goats, pigs, foxes, feral cats and feral dogs from our national parks.
The then Minister for the Environment—the current Leader of the Opposition—was the first Minister with whom we dealt as part of a senior ministerial negotiating team. As he had carriage of the matter he seemed happy enough to adopt what politicians call a pragmatic attitude to it. From that starting point things progressed, albeit slowly, because the Labor Left was worried about offending The Greens and perhaps not getting preference votes at the election, which at that stage was still a couple of years away. We kept going throughout it all, despite the many roadblocks put up by some people within the Department of Environment in their advice to the Ministers and, lo and behold, we finally reached an agreed position with the then Premier.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher:
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN:
Nathan Rees. This agreement enabled Game Council licensed voluntary conservation hunters to cull feral animals in more than 60 national parks across New South Wales—remote parks as they were labelled by Graeme Wedderburn, the Premier's Chief of Staff. Should there be doubters, I have a map which confirms what I am saying. Despite this agreement—we all know that hand-shake agreements do not hold much water these days—things went no further. As I understand it, when the agreed position was taken to Cabinet there was apparently some gnashing of teeth, and perhaps even the shedding of a few tears. The term borderline hysteria also comes to mind, but I cannot be certain of that now. I will not name those who were apparently so offended by the proposition. It seems that the Premier was told if the Government went ahead with this vile agreement it might as well hand Balmain and Marrickville then and there to The Greens. What happened? The then Premier, Nathan Rees, spectacularly junked that agreement in what turned out to be a valedictory speech on 3 December 2009. The Labor Party still lost one of those two seats to The Greens and only narrowly held on to the second—irony writ large.
The bottom line is that a former Labor Premier negotiated and agreed to hunting in more than 60 national parks across New South Wales. It is now hypocritical for the Labor Opposition to pretend that it did not happen. It wants to think that the sky will fall in if this Coalition Government agrees with us on the benefits of such a brilliant initiative. The Shooters and Fishers Party will continue to promote this now proven, sensible conservation model. Our constituents—true conservationists, I might say—expect us to do so. We are committed to the hugely successful conservation model behind the legislation. Volunteer conservation hunters have successfully hunted in State forests for more than five years. Feral animals do not recognise boundaries on a map.
In conclusion, we have all witnessed a politically difficult issue negotiated to an outcome in the United States of America just this week. Following that example, it is not beyond the wit and will of good people to have this important conservation measure resolved between the Government and the Shooters and Fishers Party. We live in hope.