Time for Government to back its rhetoric in support of hunters
The 58th Victorian Parliament is about to wind up, with four more sitting weeks prior to the election on 24 November. Between the publication of this magazine and Parliament’s last sitting day in late September, we will see whether the Andrews Labor Government has the fortitude to back its rhetoric about supporting hunters in Victoria. The Andrews Government is currently sitting on one of its own bills, after I successfully added amendments to expand the objectives and functions of the Game Management Authority. In short, the changes would provide a framework by which the regulators of the hunting sector would function much like the regulators of the fishing sector. The amendments are imbedded in the Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, which the Government essentially drafted to clean up and update a number of acts related to primary industries. The original bill only provided for minor changes to the Game Management Authority Act 2014. However, the act’s objectives and functions for the GMA is very narrow and restrains the authority’s effectiveness. Therefore, I felt the timing was right to introduce amendments to create a robust framework for the agency responsible for licensing and regulating game hunters. The Government’s original Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill passed the Legislative Assembly late last year. The amended version passed the Legislative Council in May. At the time of writing, the bill was still lingering in the Legislative Assembly for approval with my amendments. I can only assume the Andrews Labor Government has stalled in putting this bill to a vote for fear of having to adopt my amendments. The amendments I added are structurally the same clauses found within the Fisheries Act 1995, which the Minister for Agriculture concurred was working well to regulate the fishing sector. On the one hand, the Minister argues the GMA is failing in its expected duties, based on the unsubstantiated findings of a flawed report released last year. Yet, on the other hand, the Minister says she does not want to fix the shortcomings of the GMA with a framework that is working really well for the Victorian Fisheries Authority. The doublespeak and empty rhetoric is concerning. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party has long advocated for better resources and legislative powers for the GMA, but the Government continues to drag its feet in providing substantial resources to the hunting sector. Failing to support these amendments would be another lost opportunity for the Government to show it truly supports hunting in Victoria. I encourage you to contact your local MP and ask them to request the Government to bring the Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill to a vote. Review of 2018 duck season Duck hunters this season behaved exceptionally throughout the 2018 season. This is really no surprise, but as the number of hunters increase so does the risk there will be some not doing the right thing. Again, any issues that were detected were minor and committed by a handful of wrongdoers, compared to the more than 25,000 licensed Victorian duck hunters who enjoyed favourable conditions in most parts of the state. In the instances where violations were committed, the GMA were effective this season in showing it can perform an acceptable level of compliance activities. The Minister acknowledged this in stating ‘they redeemed themselves’ this year. However, the GMA focus cannot simply be on hunters anymore. To act on the disturbance of wildlife, officials must also fine every protester with a fluoro vest, a whistle and a flag. Unfinished business As this will be my last column before the election, I would like to thank everyone who offered support and encouragement during my first term in office. As many readers know, politics is not my background and two months before the 2014 election it never crossed my mind to run for office, much less envisioned I would hold a seat. It has been an absolute pleasure representing the constituents of Northern Victoria, as well as the interests of fellow hunters and outdoor recreational enthusiasts. I would like to think my actions in Parliament helped raise the profile of hunters and shooters. More broadly, though, l believe the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MPS brought to light the widening gap between the needs of country Victorians and those living in and around Melbourne. At every opportunity, we tried to speak on behalf of rural and regional Victorians, who so often feel ignored by the city-centric Andrews Labor Government. Like the above-proposed improvements to the GMA, there still is much unfinished business. Therefore, while my first term in Government may be ending, I do hope after the election I have the opportunity to continue the work we started.