Matters of Public Importance - Management of Protected Species


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (19:06): The issue raised by Senator Hinch has been around a long time. I've been in the Senate almost 30 years, and it was an issue 30 years ago. Since that time, advances have been made. We all appreciate that the dugong and turtle are very special animals but are also animals that need to be protected, if they are to continue. We do understand and appreciate that they have a special significance for Indigenous people. It's important therefore that the species continue to exist so that cultural connection is available to Indigenous communities into the future. To do that, we have to ensure that any hunting of dugong and turtle for traditional purposes must be done in the traditional way. The use of speedboats and mechanised killing equipment is really not part of the game.

I have formed some very strong views on this subject over the years and I have checked my views with the ultimate expert in relation to dugongs and turtles—a former crocodile farmer and hunter, who has one of the best aviaries in Australia and whose wife runs a very special cattle station—and that is the member for Leichhardt, the Hon. Warren Entsch, who has been on this particular subject for a long period of time. He agrees with me, and I agree with him, that for the species to continue and for traditional native title and cultural rights to be observed, it is important that the species only be taken in the traditional way. They shouldn't be hunted in green zones or protected areas, and they should not be allowed to be caught by commercial netting. Apparently, there are instances of this in the north all of the time.

It is essential that meat from dugongs and turtles is not allowed to be cryovacked and then transported by air to other parts of Australia. This is not part of the traditional use of dugong and turtle, and it needs to be stamped out. It's very important that we do support the ranger program that was introduced by the Howard government and has been emphasised by the Abbott and Turnbull governments. It's a great program; the rangers do a fantastic job. They are the ones who can control and monitor the proper take and proper conservation of turtles and dugongs. But there are instances, and I think Senator Hinch mentioned some, particularly at Green Island, where tourists from all around the world, including Japan, come to Green Island to be told by the guides how special these animals are. But one family group—only one family group—ignore the elders, ignore the rangers, ignore the significant traditional owners and are killing these animals on the beach at Green Island in front of Japanese tourists, who turn to each other and say, 'Well, Australia criticises us for killing whales, and here we are on Green Island and, in front of everyone, they are slaughtering these very, very special animals.' That has to stop. The former Newman government in Queensland passed some very stringent laws. Unfortunately, those laws—which would prevent this and impose penalties—haven't been followed up in recent times. It's essential that they are.

There are instances of people doing the wrong thing. By and large, traditional owners do the right thing. I repeat that the rangers do a fantastic job in monitoring and trying to protect the species. They need to be given more power so they can stamp out the bad practices of a few wildcards who flout the laws and treat these animals inhumanely and with disrespect.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Gallacher ): Order! The time for the discussion has expired.

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