National Firearms Agreement
Mr O'SULLIVAN (Northern Victoria) — I rise on behalf of The Nationals to speak to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party motion, and I certainly look forward to making a short contribution in relation to this motion. I want to start off in relation to the economic impact of hunting in Victoria. This is a very salient point, and it is one that the coalition has been very strong on all the way through.
In the last turn of government I was working for Peter Walsh — who was the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security at that time — as his chief of staff, and we took the decision that we actually wanted to find out what the actual worth of hunting in Victoria was, because we had arguments on both sides. Some were saying it was good and some were saying it was bad, so we thought, 'Let's actually find out once and for all'. So we got RM Consulting, a reputable consulting firm with a strong background in regional issues that understands these sorts of impacts on regional communities, to do that study, and that study was pretty comprehensive in its findings, with a figure of $439 million in 2013 in terms of the economic contribution to Victoria's economy.
A lot of that is spent in regional Victoria and some of it is also spent in metropolitan Melbourne, but obviously hunters come from both metropolitan areas and regional areas. The coalition very clearly at that time understood the importance of hunting in Victoria and took it upon itself to put that investigation into play in terms of what that would be worth to Victoria's economy. It is not just the dollars that are significant, it is also the jobs that creates, and thousands of jobs have been created as a result of hunting in Victoria. Whether that is working in the shops that sell equipment for hunting or whether it is at the service stations from which hunters get their fuel, ice, beer or food. Whatever it is, it is spread right around the state's economy and has a big impact.
Just recently I have contributed to that economic activity, having bought my first rifle only a few months ago. So I am very pleased to say that I am now one of the firearm owners in this state. If you look at where that money has come from, it is in relation to pest animal hunting, which is about $59 million, including the hunting of deer — and it was good to see the executive officer of the Australian Deer Association, Barry Howlett, in the gallery before; duck season is about $43 million; and quail is at $18 million. So it is not just in one particular area; it is spread right across the whole lot, and that spread also means it is spread right across the whole of regional Victoria in terms of where that activity actually occurs.
The coalition also did a whole range of other things that were very important for the hunting industry. One that was probably number one on their wish list in terms of what they wanted to achieve was the implementation of the Game Management Authority, so I was very pleased to be a part of the government that was able to introduce the Game Management Authority, which has given the industry a much clearer line of sight in terms of the regulation of hunting. What you must understand about hunting is hunters are the most conservative people when it comes to wanting to look after animals and the environment so it can sustain a hunting fraternity into the future. If you ever go down to Heart Morass at Sale and see the work that has been done down there, it is absolutely amazing to see where that has come from to where it is now and what that has done in terms of conservation for the wildlife down there.
Also the coalition brought in the fox bounty — $10 if you brought in a scalp from a fox. It is a pity that the current government scrapped that for a period of time, and it was only after 18 months of severe pressure from this side of the chamber that the government reluctantly brought back in the fox bounty. It is one of the clear ways that we are able to manage foxes out in the regions, because they do enormous damage to young stock, whether it be lambs, calves or baby goats. They do enormous damage to the economy and to those animals. Also with the wild dog bounty we introduced that at $50 per scalp and then raised it to $100 because we could see we were getting a real impact in terms of the impact on wild dogs and foxes. So the coalition has been very strong all the way through in terms of the contribution that we have been able to make in terms of supporting the hunting industry.
In terms of the national firearms agreement the comment I want to make in this space is that in terms of the changes that were made back in 1996 I think everyone agrees that was probably reasonable at the time and those rules have really stood the test of time some 20 years later, but any changes to the firearms agreement must involve people from the hunting community who actually understand on the ground what the implications are. Because what the hunting fraternity gets very sick of is when you have public servants who make decisions in relation to these issues who do not really understand what they are talking about. They might understand the theory but they do not understand the practice of actually undertaking these activities. So we need to ensure that any changes that occur have a full representation at the table from the people who actually undertake these activities and know what they are on about.