AWPC President’s Report for 2020: Wildlife must come first
AS I WRITE this, I have just finished a radio interview with John Nicolson, a Scottish journalist, broadcaster and Scottish National Party politician on London Radio. The discussion this time was about what is being done to Australian wildlife in Victoria by the very government that should be protecting it. There is great concern around the world about what is happening to Australia’s wildlife in Victoria, where things under the current Labor Government are terrible, the same concern exists for all other states and territories around the country.
The aggressive actions by all Australian Governments in enabling the large scale killing of wildlife is occurring despite the catastrophic fires of last summer, despite other climate change impacts and despite all we hear about global extinctions. Surrounding these government activities are significant expenditures to market the acceptability of the killing, which also attempts to demean the Australian species being targeted. Kangaroos are of course in the frontline of the mindless propaganda.
ABOVE: Kangaroo slaughter. Credit Craig Thomson. Source AWPC archives.
I am firstly concerned by the extreme acts of cruelty being perpetrated on Australian wildlife; secondly, I am concerned about what is occurring to Australian species and the continual endangerment of these animals, as more and more Australian species edge towards the brink. There is a growing and third concern, which is the matter of human rights. In this regard I am currently producing a series of films ‘Kangaroo testimonies’ which describe the suffering of land owners as their wildlife populations are butchered around them. These stories are heartbreaking, and how governments can inflict this cruelty on their citizens is beyond any understanding, certainly mine.
At the political level, Australian wildlife has few friends. The Liberal and National Parties remain notorious for their conduct in this area. Labor too, in Victoria, when it comes to wildlife, the current Labor Government outguns the Liberal Nationals by a very long way. In the ACT, the Kangaroo-killer-in-chief has long been a Green, that portfolio is now under a Labor. Let us hope the Greens in the ACT begin to change their spots. We will be working on it. What has occurred in South Australia in the last few years is a disgrace and all the others are just as bad.
In Queensland, a Labor government has handed out macropod extermination licenses to graziers and is enabling the cluster fencing disaster that kills all wildlife, erected with taxpayer money over the past five years. In NSW, a Liberal National government since 2019, has had a de-facto open season on Kangaroos to “help the graziers combat drought” the killing has not abated following the fires. In NSW and Victoria, governments are using 1080 poison in state reserves and parks.
Regarding the use of 1080 in Victoria, note the following:
My question on notice via Green’s Ellen Sandell — Victorian Parliament.
In Victoria has any of the funding allocated from the Government’s January 2020 $17.5 million wildlife and biodiversity rescue package been used for lethal control of pest species, including use of aerial drops of 1080?
(Note Kangaroo meat is used extensively in Australia as a substrate for aerial and other baiting — the use of 1080 poison in aerial drops is banned in most countries around the world because of cruelty reasons and its indiscriminate impact on numerous species.)
The substrate for aerially deployed 1080 baits in Victoria does not contain kangaroo. All aerial bait lines and bait drops are mapped with tree canopy cover considered in developing bait lines. Bait drops are deployed accurately using aircraft navigation, specialised equipment and GPS technology based on heights and airspeed according to environmental conditions. Bait lodgement in the canopy of trees is not a concern.
The impact of pest animals in fire-impacted areas can greatly affect the survival of native plants and animals and the recovery of threatened species and their habitat. Intensified and sustained control of pest animals has been funded as a priority immediate action under the Biodiversity Bushfire Relief and Early Recovery (BBRER) program.
A range of integrated control techniques will be used, including aerial and ground shooting, trapping and ground baiting. Baits used as part of the ground baiting will be buried at an appropriate depth to reduce the risk of non-target impact. No aerial baiting will be funded under the BBRER program. The use of alternatives to 1080 baits, such as PAPP (para-aminopropiophenne) based products, will be trialled in BBRER funded projects. PAPP is a humane, fast-acting toxin.
Note: 1080 baits are and have been used extensively in Victoria and other programs continue.
To be frank, what I have been fed by governments, as they try to make excuses about their behaviour, is a feeble set of excuses and more generally a pack of nonsense. Given the vast loss of wildlife during 2020 from climate change events, the government-enabled killing continues unabated. I have very large problems with what I am seeing regarding standards of governance from some of these governments, the extreme and prejudicial conduct and standards of honesty, and even so under FOI (Freedom of Information). The question is why is this occurring and why do politicians see a benefit to themselves in promoting the mass killing of Australian wildlife? So we are left with the AJP (Animal Justice Party), who now have leverage in the NSW and Victorian Parliaments. We need to give them every assistance. The Greens need to look carefully at what they are doing when it comes to the protection of Australian species.
I am very pleased that my colleague Chris Lehmann is now responsible, on behalf of the AWPC, for managing our Kangaroo response in Australia and internationally.
As in many exploitative industries, unsustainable ‘harvesting’ has led to ‘prey switching’ to new species which is now occurring along with the expansion of ‘operational areas’, where the industry is now shooting kangaroos, South Australia and Victoria are among recent examples. This is occurring as a number of kangaroo shooting zones are closed in other states because of the dramatic decline in kangaroo populations. While we were all in lockdown, the South Australian Government informed me that kangaroo killing would be allowed to continue because it was an essential service. This is the level of stupidity we now live under.
A matter of contempt
I will use Victoria as an example here because something very bad happened on Christmas Eve, which showed contempt for wildlife carers and other regional Victorians living peacefully with their wildlife, in often, once government encouraged, conservation and Land for Wildlife Properties.
On Christmas Eve 2020 I started to receive messages that the Victorian Government had emailed kangaroo shooters and those engaged in the commercial trade in wildlife informing them of the following changes in their ability to trade commercially in Australian wildlife (prior to any public announcement of the changes and prior to the release of kangaroo survey data, nor did they inform any wildlife protection organisations or carers):
- The commercial quota of Kangaroos in Victoria would be lifted from 57,000 animals to 90,000 animals in 2021 (it looks like they managed to find 40,000 Kangaroos for commercial trade in 2019);
- That Kangaroo meat in Victoria would now be approved for human consumption and including international export (this in the middle of a zoonotic caused global pandemic); and
- Interstate sales from Victoria of commercially killed Kangaroos would be approved from 2021.
Needless to say this sent a wave of fear and anxiety — emotions already high — across many residents in regional Victoria who care for their wildlife, run wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centres and have wildlife properties etc. And that translated into a nightmare for us because of the level of concern being direct at us, so our Christmas period was turned on its head in the awful and terrible nature of what was going on. The timing of this, even if it was predictable given the prejudicial standards I describe, was immensely cruel.
Since that time the Victorian Government has not responded to any questions on the matter, this suggests there was some ‘freelancing of information to mates’ prior to any formal government announcements. The standards of governance and duty-of-care relating to this matter are among the most egregious I have seen and full of contempt for those who care about wildlife, particularly so, those individuals living in regional areas who will find themselves in the frontline of the slaughter.
Australian mammal and bird species are in the frontline of commercial hunting activities, recreational hunting and damage mitigation permits. Like all other classes of life, and perhaps particularly so in Australia, they are also in the frontline of climate change. So duck shooting seasons are now being announced, South Australia is (as usual) in the frontline of these announcements, this year removing two duck species from the slaughter of birdlife, these are the Australasian Blue-winged Shoveler and Pink-eared Duck. Neither should we forget the fate of Quail and all the other birdlife caught up in the slaughter.
Submissions to inquiries
We have made a series of submissions to governments and their inquiries and their funded agencies, these include the new code for kangaroo killing — which was not acknowledged, our recommendations completely ignored, nor were we informed of its publication. So days of work wasted. So rude and prejudicial behaviour once again by people whose salaries we are paying for. I will follow this up directly with the individuals involved.
We have made a joint submission with the Animal Protectors Alliance to the Commonwealth Government’s EPBC Review. I quote,
“the complete failure of the EPBC Act, as the only Commonwealth environmental legislation to protect Australia’s environment and to conserve its biodiversity, has resulted in the deaths of billions of individual animals (including invertebrates) and the destruction of thousands of ecosystems. If Australia’s ongoing war against its natural environment is not checked by some form of strong national regulation, the devastation will ultimately extend from natural systems and species to both humans and all the other animals that are (theoretically) in human care.”
While the EPBC report itself was sensible, the subsequent conduct from the Commonwealth Government and its Environment Minister is likely to have the opposite outcome.
Victoria has had two inquiries of direct interest to the AWPC during the year, these were the Loss of biodiversity inquiry and the Review of the animal cruelty POCTA Act. Submission were made to both inquiries and I am awaiting a response. Previous to the submissions I prepared a briefing document covering the issues relating to biodiversity loss for the Greens in Melbourne.
A top-line recommendation in relation to the POCTA Act review was:
“There can only be one recommendation in relation to the matters expressed in this document, that is to halt the persecution of and the extreme cruelty exacted on Kangaroo species (and Wallaby species) in Victoria with a proper and independent investigation of what has occurred and why it has occurred.”
Working with the AJP, in late 2019, we managed to save the remaining Red Kangaroo population in Victoria from the petfood trade. We were persistent in this matter and eventually succeeded. Contempt is such, however, that the Victorian Government will continue to issue ATCW (Authority to Control Wildlife) permits until the species is all but gone. Nothing however can be taken as fixed in this current environment, so we must stay vigilant.
The situation regarding action to slow climate change in Australia continues to be a poor one. The situation looks something like this: Australia’s target of a 26 percent reduction of 2005 GHG (Green House Gas) emission levels by 2030 is currently on track for only a genuine 7 percent reduction (that is, without previous target carry-over “credits” being considered) in 2030. Poor policies mean that there continues to be limited action in transport, existing buildings, industrial processes, wastes and agriculture National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI) sectors. The Climate Change Performance Index, used by Climate Change Tracker, found that the best performing countries are Sweden, Denmark and Morocco, and the worst performing are Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and the United States. New Zealand was ranked 34 and Australia 53 of the 58 countries assessed. If Australian fossil fuel exports are embedded into emissions it is likely that Australia’s global share of emissions is somewhere in the region of 3.3 percent.
Among the serious problems impacting biodiversity:
“Changes to the Eastern Australian Current appear to have contributed to a stronger than usual upwelling and more dramatic changes in temperature. The East Australia Current now runs further south than it used to, and is more intense. The current has been affected by climate change, and projections show that the oceans in south-eastern Australia will have the greatest increases in sea temperature in our region. This may cause further changes to the current, resulting in more frequent and intense upwellings in the future”. — CES
The biggest of bungles
Among the most egregious outcomes for wildlife, the most bungled wildlife rescue of all, was the Victorian Government’s response to wildlife rescue in the state. The numbers I would like you to think about are these:
Total estimated funding for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in Australia following catastrophic fires, local international and all government sources $500,000,000.
3,000,000,000 animals lost and 270 rescued in Victoria from public lands, that is a shocker in anyone’s language.
I would like to thank the AWPC committee for all its hard work in 2020 and to our young volunteers. A special thank you to all volunteers including Carmen for her work on administrative matters; Sue and Maria, respectively for their design and editorial management of the AWPC website and social media platforms. Also to acknowledge all the work of the committee team, the front office and the communications work that was pivotal in 2020 — all were focused on wildlife work in practice and execution, and that as a team effort they complimented the on-ground and personal outreach work that Chris and I had completed.
All of it very time consuming work, particularly given the circumstances I describe here. This has meant that Chris and I could concentrate on matters directly relating to wildlife and its protection.
The tasks that lie ahead of us for 2021 include:
- A new ‘business’ plan — I would probably describe this as a strategic plan as we properly document the most effective things that the AWPC can do to assist wildlife in the next five-year period (this work is being supervised by Ian Higgins from the University of Technology Sydney as part of their mentor program);
- A new website for better communications, continued social media development, including increasing international engagement;
- An online archive of AWPC resources — which document a valuable history of wildlife and the efforts to protect it; and
- To develop and publish information about wildlife and what is happening to it, including a new book authored by Maria Taylor, Injustice: hidden in plain sight, the war on Australian nature, and film from Peter Hylands, capturing some of the events I discuss here.
— Peter Hylands, AWPC President
18 January 2021