The Greens sided with the NSW Government to support the Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill that will see the abolition of the Game Council, but will ensure hunting in state forests and national parks will go ahead.
Among his numerous Hansard recorded speeches against hunting, Greens MLC David Shoebridge said, “The first thing that troubles us about this bill is that in practice it will re-establish hunting in state forests.
“We have talked to the National Parks Association, which has had an extraordinary grassroots campaign, getting thousands and thousands of ordinary members of the public to stand up against the Government’s promotion of hunting in national parks.
“We asked the National Parks Association: Is this bill supportable without these kinds of amendments? They tell us unambiguously no.”
He and the four other Greens senators still voted to introduce the Bill ensuring a 22-17 win for the government.
Even the defeat of a series of amendments introduced on the day, including having the 2012 amendment that introduced hunting in national parks repealed, did not deter the Greens from their focus on the abolition of the NSW Game Council.
In a media release after the vote titled “Game Council finally abolished with crucial Greens support”, Mr Shoebridge focussed on that fact alone, making no mention of the fact he had effectively endorsed hunting on public land.
While the abolition of the Game Council was a bitter pill to swallow for the Shooters and Fishers Party, the party’s NSW MLC Robert Brown said it was small price to pay for the continuation of hunting in state forests.
“The vote last night means we lost one battle in the war so we have to make sure we win the remaining battles,” he told Sporting Shooter.
“However, the Government has entrenched hunting as policy within the Department of Primary Industries and we can now ensure that state forest hunting is reinstated as quickly as possible.”
He said he expected that to occur by the end of the year with a risk assessment report still to be completed before hunting can resume.
Mr Brown and fellow SFP MLC Robert Borsak sided with the Opposition in voting against the Bill with its other restrictions, particularly on native waterfowl hunting, and wanting to keep the Game Council intact.
In an address to the Upper House, Mr Brown said the state’s 150,000 hunters were “appalled at what the Premier has done to the Game Council.
“This is the most disgraceful piece of political bastardry I have seen since I have been in this place. From nearly two years of working with Mr O’Farrell we believed that he was an honourable man and a man of his word. We now know, as far as we are concerned, that he is untrustworthy; and that is sad for the people of New South Wales.”
While the Shooters and Fishers Party fundamentally opposed the Bill, it can be argued that the result is a better one for the state’s 35,000 R-licence holders.
Had the Game Council been allowed to continue, it might have had no land to manage hunting on with the government continuing its suspension of hunting on all public land.
However, Mr Brown said the aim now is to have something resembling the abolished Game Council formed within the Department of Primary Industries along the lines of the Game Units in Victoria and Tasmania.
“The risk is that we will lose the expertise we had in the Game Council if it’s dispersed within the department so we are calling on all shooters to write in to their Liberal and National Party members to ensure that doesn’t happen,” he said.
“We ask shooters to make it clear they want solid representation on whatever game unit is set up in the DPI.”