Page 2946 - Week 08 - Thursday, 25 June 2009

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I would like to turn briefly to some of the areas that were covered in relation to pest plants and animals. There are a range of programs, as I touched on—wild dogs, feral pigs and the rabbit eradication programs. I had the great privilege the other day of visiting the Institute of Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra which does a large amount of work, both in the ACT and elsewhere, in relation to feral animal eradication.

We talked about some of the programs that are in operation in the ACT. We also talked about some of the research which is being done in relation to the stunning decline in vulnerable species such as Delma impar and Tympanocryptis, along with the golden sun moth, Synemon plana. I also had the privilege of speaking to some of the doctoral research students who are doing their work in the ACT.

Although I noticed, in the answers to my questions, the government is inclined to say that the alarming decline in the count of vulnerable species and endangered species is due to the drought, that is not the message that I was getting from the Institute of Applied Ecology. In fact, the scientists there say that there are probably a range of factors—overgrazing, the drought—but there is no one cause and there is no definite cause that they can see from their research. This is a matter of considerable concern. We should be concerned about the rapid decline of species that we are responsible for.

I want, in that light, to compliment the government on the manner in which it has conducted itself in relation to the kangaroo cull which has now been approved for resumption at Majura. I hope that it will be able to be completed by the end of July. I note Mr Rattenbury’s comments in relation to the fact that the window of opportunity may pass us by this year. I hope that that is not the case, because I think that, although the research is not definitive as to the cause, one of the things that all of the research points to is that overgrazing does appear to have a huge adverse impact on threatened and endangered species in grasslands. I hope that we will see a satisfactory resumption and conclusion of the cull this year.

I also note in passing that, during the estimates process, on a number of occasions I asked ministers about the operation of the MOU between Environment ACT and the Department of Defence and whether that needed to be upgraded to ensure that work was done more proactively and in a more timely fashion. I also note that the Commissioner for the Environment, in answer to questions and in the lowland grassland report, referred to this MOU and called for it to be brought up to date. I commend that work to the responsible ministers to ensure that, if the MOU does not currently work—and the jury seems to be out on that—either enforce the MOU or revise the MOU to ensure that it does work in the future.

We cannot continue to put our native species at risk and in danger because we do not have the necessary instruments available to us to act on their behalf. I think it is incumbent upon the responsible ministers to ensure that the MOU between the commonwealth agencies responsible in this area is effective and can be brought into operation much earlier than has been the case. It is something that has been neglected in this process and it is an important policy instrument that needs to be brought into line.

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