Legal view on Game Council shutdown

Many shooters have already started to blame the demise of the Game Council on an act of political bastardry by the NSW Liberal and National parties.

Superficially I can understand this view, as ill-informed, anti-gun statements by NSW Premier O’Farrell indicate that he is no friend of the sport.

I have read the report of Independent Consulting in respect to the Game Council, which is available for download from the Department of Primary Industry website, and, I have to say that while I am disappointed about the loss of the Game Council, I believe that the NSW Government would have failed in its obligations to the NSW taxpayer if it had not taken the action that it took, and the well publicised alleged poaching activities of a senior manager have nothing to do with this decision.

Public sector agencies differ from private sector ones in that good governance dictates that they have a clear performance management processes in place. In brief, the government performance management/planning cycle involves an agency having a corporate plan that sets out in broad terms how the agency will meet its statutory responsibilities under the Acts that the agency regulates. This corporate plan then dovetails with the agency’s strategic plan that details the strategies it will use to discharge these responsibilities, and beneath that individual staff performance agreements dovetail with the strategic plan.

The agency’s strategic planning function would set out how it applied staff and money to meet certain deliverables that it needed to achieve. These deliverables should be ‘measurable’, and on the basis of the measured outcomes, the agency could determine how it needed to apply its resources over coming years.

The consultant’s report indicated that the Game Council had an out-of-date corporate plan and an existing strategic plan. It is somewhat incomprehensible how they could have had a strategic plan without a corporate plan, as these plans are complementary.

‘Measurables’ relating to their functionality appeared missing from the strategic plan.

Essentially, in government, if you cannot measure you cannot manage, as you cannot look toward profit as a measure as the private sector does.

Furthermore, you cannot work out how many staff, or how much money you need to discharge your statutory functions.

Central to my reasoning here is that government agencies must operate in an environment that complies with modern good governance. Small agencies inevitably have difficulty with this, particularly when they are as under-funded and understaffed as was the Game Council. However, part of the reason that the Game Council may have been underfunded is that it did not have the documentation in place to make an appropriate case for an increase in funding.

Hopefully the Department of Primary Industry will sort out the administration of the Game Council activities, and it will again be business as usual for NSW shooters.

If not, it will be time for shooters to prepare for a fight.

One issue that requires urgent clarification is the status of Game Licences, because many Shooters Licences have been issued on the basis that these licences constitute ‘Genuine Reason and Special need’. Hopefully the Registry will continue to recognize them as constituting this while this mess is sorted out.

Simon Munslow is a specialist in firearms law. See his website and Facebook page for more information.




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Simon Munslow