PROTECTION OF CROPS FROM DUCKS
Mr THOMPSON: What action is the Minister for the Environment taking to help farmers to protect crops from ducks?
Ms ALLAN: I thank the honourable member for Rockdale for his question, because I know that a number of his constituents are interested in the issue of duck shooting. He has ably represented their points of view in discussions that have taken place. I have recently met with representatives of the field and game association with respect to duck shooting in this State. The association put forward a proposal to the Government to form a game advisory council, and I believe that that proposition has great merit. Such a council would provide an excellent link between farmers, shooters, conservationists, scientists and the Government in relation to duck shooting. I have taken the opportunity the discuss this matter with my colleagues the Minister for Sport and Recreation and the Minister for Agriculture. They have both indicated their support for it, and they are presently consulting shooters and farmers.
The Government has moved to establish the game advisory council, which is an indication that the Government is prepared to act to address the concerns of farmers and shooters on the contentious matter of duck shooting. The game advisory council would discuss a range of issues, including game species numbers, crop damage and mitigation numbers, review the effectiveness of the waterfowl identification test, and assist in identifying research requirements. These issues have been raised as matters of concern in recent times in this Parliament. The game advisory council would be best placed to review the impact of the recently passed legislation to reduce duck shooting in this State. I would expect the council to provide me with up-to-date advice and information in this regard. The Government adopted an amendment proposed by the Shooters Party member in the other place, the Hon. J. S. Tingle, which enables recreational shooters to shoot ducks for damage mitigation purposes on farms. This was a commonsense amendment as it preserved the rights of recreational shooters.
The game advisory council would also work closely with the Pest Animal Advisory Council, another council of great interest to the Opposition. The recent changes to the system of licensing shooters to assist land-holders in the management of ducks on rice fields has proven to be an excellent example of the possible impact of the recent National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Game Birds Protection) Act. The shooting of ducks on rice fields, for example, has always been permitted for damage mitigation. The Government is well aware of that. It is the aim of the new system for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to put shooters who have successfully passed the service waterfowl identification test in contact with rice farmers whose crops are being damaged by ducks.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Chair is having difficulty hearing the Minister because of the level of interjection.
Ms ALLAN: I recognise that this is a matter of some amusement for the Opposition, but it is serious for farmers and recreational shooters. The process of bringing together recreational duck shooters and farmers will be aided by the establishment of the game advisory council. Contrary to the views that have been expressed by many, including some members opposite, the new system has proved to be quite successful and I have received not one complaint about its effectiveness.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Leader of the National Party to order.
Ms ALLAN: I do not think Opposition members are aware of this, but already this year the National Parks and Wildlife Service has given 360 rice farmers licences to cull ducks on their properties. Nearly 3,000 licences have been issued to shooters to shoot ducks on rice farms in south-western New South Wales. I believe that the game advisory council will be a very useful adjunct for the Government in its campaign to ensure that there is responsible shooting in this State. It is interesting that, despite plaintive cries from Opposition members, in the seven years that they were in government they never once responded to the expressions of interest by shooters associations for the establishment of this kind of advisory council.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Burrinjuck to order.
Ms ALLAN: I know that the shooters will welcome this decision, and they will wonder why current Opposition members did not take this step when they were in government.