Field & Game Australia

Duck hunting debate

Shooters Farmers and Fishers Party Member for Northern Victoria Daniel Young has moved a motion condemning the additional regulations imposed on duck hunters as unworkable. The motion, which also called for adequate resourcing of the Game Mangement Authority was supported by the Liberal Party and Nationals Party.

Mr Young's motion asked that the upper house;

  1. acknowledges that duck hunting is an important pastime to many Victorians through which they enjoy time with family and friends, health benefits of an outdoor physical activity and the opportunity to harvest wild sustainable food;
  2. notes that the changes to the 2018 duck season arrangements are ill-conceived and unworkable;
  3. affirms that the Game Management Authority is best placed to administer, regulate and manage game hunting in Victoria as a statutory authority; and
  4. calls on the Minister for Agriculture to
              (a) return the opening time for the 2018 duck season to that of last year;
           (b) suspend regulations 51A and 51B of the Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012 until consultation with stakeholders has occurred; and
           (c) adequately resource the Game Management Authority to enable them to perform their compliance functions throughout the 2018 season.
The following is an edited text of Mr Young's statement to Parliament and comments from Labor MP Jaclyn Symes and the Nationals Luke O'Sullivan. You can read the full transcropt of the debate on Hansard.
Daniel Young
The motion is in regard to a broad range of issues but more specifically the issues that have come to light over the past few months in regard to this 2018 duck season.

It is without pleasure that I have to stand here and speak to this motion, because another year has come and gone, and last year was another year where we enjoyed quite a successful hunting season, and again we are subject to numerous issues around the debate on whether duck hunting should continue in this state and the management of it.

Unfortunately I find myself again defending what is an activity that has been a part of my life for my entire life, part of my father’s life and part of my grandfather’s life. It is a generational thing for my family and for many others.

I stand here today on behalf of all those families — on behalf of those people who partake in duck hunting— because they are absolutely fed up with what is happening to them. They are fed up with every year being questioned and harassed and told that what they do is wrong. It is simply not right to be told what you do is wrong for no fault of your own.

We are constantly attacked and berated for the actions of a minority. This occurs not just with what I am talking about here with duck hunting, but it occurs in so many other parts of our society where laws are put in place that impact everyone as a whole when they are laws that really should be focused on a very few people, and particularly those people who are doing the wrong thing.

It is no different to any other sport in the lead-up to a big event. It is no different to the excitement among the football community when finals start and we get that September fever. We look forward to the grand final, and there is discussion between everyone, not just those who are involved with the two teams that are going to play in the grand final, about how it is going to happen, what is going to happen and what the outcome will be.

People make predictions. They get excited about that feeling, that sensation, that builds to it — and that is what it is like for the duck hunting community in the lead-up to the duck season opening.

All of that gets dragged down every time we have someone stand there and tell us that what we are doing is wrong. For the most part there are people who lead this agenda against duck hunting through simply an ideological belief that we should not be doing it, because for the most part the facts do not stack up.

For the most part there are campaigns run against duck hunting that depict fluffy little animals. It is very feel-good and touchy-feely, and it is designed to pull atthe heartstrings of people, but in reality the facts do not stack up.

So often we are presented with misinformation from those campaigns against duck hunting. We are always trying to defend ourselves, and we should not have to.

I want to have a duck season come around and be able to be involved in the excitement of it. I want people to get excited about it and talk to those people and visit those people and go scouting in the months leading up to the duck hunting season opening with those people, without having to constantly be attacked and without having — and this is very important — the fear that the government is going to take it away from us.

Jaclyn Symes

A substantial proportion of the state’s public land is available for recreational hunting, including large areas of state forest and hundreds of state game reserves.

Sustainable hunting requires sound game conservation and land management, and it must also incorporate the principles of responsible, safe and humane hunting to ensure that environmental, economic and social benefits are maximised.

We have heard through Mr Young’s contribution that he is committed to those outcomes and that responsible hunters that he works with are of the same view.

With our deer, duck, quail, pheasant and partridge populations, we are regarded as having some of the best hunting opportunities in Australia. Ensuring that hunting continues to be a safe and sustainable recreation for future generations is a key focus of this government.

So with that in mind, it is extremely important to have some restrictions. I am just a little bit confused by Mr Young’s motion in relation to his view of the GMA, because in one sense he is seeking to affirm that the GMA is best placed but then he has said that the advice they gave was ill-conceived and unworkable. So I was just a little bit confused about how that support goes — you support someone but then you kind of give them a backhander at the same time. I think the GMA plays an important role, and I think some restrictions are certainly required.

I note that I went back through some of Mr Young’s comments from the past, and I am not sure there has necessarily been a duck season that you have been 100 per cent happy with. There always seems to be some issue. I think it comes down to perhaps a little bit of a threshold issue.

I was very fortunate to participate in the pollie shoot sometime last year — It does not involve shooting pollies. It was the first time that I had held a gun, and I happened to connect with two clay targets. Many of Minister Pulford’s staff proved to be quite good at that activity. It was a fun day, and there were lots of people in attendance from all parties. It is a great economic attraction for gun clubs, and there is a great centre just out of Kilmore.

My  threshold stops at the clay targets. Some people have one through the thresholds, and Mr Young has a very, very high threshold compared to what I thinka lot of Australians have. I guess the point I am trying to make is: will Mr Young ever be happy with any restrictions in relation to the Game Management Authority? I take on board his absolute commitment to conservation and ethical standards within the hunting sector. I have heard him talk in the chamber before about making sure thatyou are responsible, that you take your rubbish away and all those kinds of thing, so I am certainly not alleging that he is an advocate for a free-for-all.

I am just putting on the record that depending on the perspective you come from you might have a different view of what are appropriate restrictions and what are not. Given the motion today is reasonably critical of our efforts and that it asks the minister to do things that I think she has already put on the record that she will not be agreeing to, I will not be supporting the motion today.

Luke O'Sullivan

It gives me much pleasure to speak this afternoon on Mr Young’s motion in relation to duck shooting, the Game Management Authority and a number of other items. I can say that the Liberals and The Nationals on this side of the house will be supporting this motion.

It is a motion that looks at a whole range of different aspects of hunting, which is very much a legal activity here in Victoria. As Mr Young has pointed out very well, there are a lot of regulations around all forms of hunting. For just about every recreational pursuit that you can dream of there is a set of regulations about an inch thick covering the conduct of that recreational activity. We are very much over-governed when it comes to the number of regulations we have on these things. It seems that there are a lot of people who sit around from one year to another who justify their positions in the particular organisations they find themselves in by dreaming up new regulations that can be brought in to cover some of these activities.

Mr Young’s motion talks about the 2018 duck season and the new regulations that have been introduced, and I will mention those as well. It talks about the Game Management Authority — that it is the best organisation to administer, regulate and manage game hunting in Victoria. That is certainly something that this side of the chamber subscribes to.

Mr Young is an active hunter himself and particularly in the duck shooting space. He understands what it means from a practical point of view because he regularly undertakes that sport and has been doing it for many years — indeed for longer than any of us would care to remember — so he knows what he is talking about when it comes to the practicalities.

He went through each of the regulations, particularly regulation 51A which covers the retrieval of the birds, and articulated why that it is quite unworkable in terms of this season. It has hunters scratching their heads in bewilderment as they wonder why these types of regulations have been brought in. I suspect that the group of bureaucrats who suggested them probably do not have a full understanding of the implications. When you are sitting around in a workshop somewhere it is probably a great idea, but when you put it to the practicalities test it fails dismally.

What I find somewhat annoying about the operation of the Game Management Authority is that while it was set up with the best intentions and the current government make the right sort of noises in relation to the Game Management Authority, I do not think the government has given it its full support. I do not think the government has shown leadership throughout the bureaucracy to ensure that the Game Management Authority is given every chance to succeed. I actually suspect that this government would prefer to see the Game Management Authority fall over so that they can point and say that this was set up incorrectly by a coalition government.

As Mr Young indicated in his motion, the Game Management Authority is not properly resourced to the level that it certainly should be so that it can undertake the role that it is meant to undertake.

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