Labor members want duck hunting banned

Under a Labor Government, duck hunting in Victoria could be a thing of the past.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews faces internal dissent over his Labor Government’s decision to allow another duck hunting season despite Labor’s own environmental policy committee calling for a permanent ban.

According to an article in The Age, rank-and-file Labor members are furious by the move, which they claim could blunt Labor’s message against animal cruelty and leave the party at even greater risk to the Greens.

The Government has announced the start of a full-length 12-week season, but has imposed fresh restrictions on the daily bag limit amid concerns about low bird numbers and dry conditions.

As part of the restrictions, hunters will be given a bag limit of eight birds on the first day of the season, which begins on March 19, followed by a bag limit of four ducks per day until the season ends on June 13.

However, many Labor¬†members have repeatedly called for a rethink on duck hunting by passing a series of motions through the ALP’s Conservation, Resources and Environment policy committee.

The first motion was passed in the lead up to the 2014 state election, urging Labor to “prohibit the recreational destruction of native wildlife on public or private land”.

The second, passed last May, went even further, asking the Government to cancel the scheduled duck season that year and noting that the committee would “support permanently banning the recreational shooting of native water birds.”

“People need to be aware that most people in the Labor Party want duck shooting banned, yet they’ve ignored their own policy committee, they’ve ignored their branches and they’ve ignored their members,” said one well-placed source.

News of the angst within ALP ranks came as the authority set up to regulate the hunting industry was accused by the Greens of  trying to promote hunting, which is not meant to be part of its role.

Minutes of meetings by the Game Management Authority suggest the body had spent considerable time discussing the potential expansion of hunting in areas where it is currently not permitted, meeting key hunting groups, and attempting to have a more active role in water management.

Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber said the documents, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, “exposed” the GMA as a bureaucracy for the hunting lobby, rather than an independent regulator.

“What the hunting lobby want is open season on pretty much any wildlife that’s on private land,” Mr Barber said. “They’ve now been given their own bureaucracy, with taxpayer resources, that is supposed to enforce hunting laws but is in fact constantly lobbying for expanded hunting opportunities.”

However, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford disagreed, saying that the GMA¬†‚Äì whose role among other things is to make recommendations to the government about game hunting management, the control of pest animals, and declaring public land open and closed to hunting ‚Äì “has been carrying out its functions appropriately.”

Asked why the government decided to open another duck season despite the pleas of its own members and data suggesting that water bird numbers are at significantly low levels, Ms Pulford said: “Labor’s 2014 Platform stated that we would promote a range of sustainable uses of Victoria’s wetlands, including tourism and recreation, where they are compatible with environmental values.”

“While we understand duck hunting may not be everyone’s cup of tea and some say we should not go ahead with it – this is an important recreational activity for thousands of people.”

“Hunting is an important contributor to many small rural communities. Victoria’s 48,000 licensed game hunters, including about 26,000 duck hunters, contribute more than $430 million to local economies each year and help support over 3,000 jobs.”

Hunters have also expressed disappointment at the restrictions announced this year. Shooters and Fishers MP Daniel Young said he was not aware of any scientific evidence to prove that the Victorian duck season had any significant impact on duck populations or their recovery in later years.

“Premier Andrews has stated before that duck shooting is a legitimate activity. The announcement of a modified season flies in the face of this while there is no evidence to suggest the need for changes,” he said.




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