Considering the amount of problems brought on by duck hunting season in Victoria, it's time for the Government to finally end it, writes Peter Wicks.
LAST WEEKEND was an important one in Victoria as some of the COVID-19 restrictions had been lifted meaning people could do some of those things they’d been hanging out to do.
You couldn’t go to your local gym. Catching a flick at the movies was out. A sit down breakfast in your local café was still a no-go. Dinner at a restaurant was definitely off the menu and going for a pint at the local pub was still a distant memory.
So what could you do last weekend that you couldn’t do the weekend before?
You could blast harmless ducks out of the sky with your mates.
In progressive Victoria, the duck shooting season that was off due to COVID-19 was now back on again.
Our wetlands should be a safe haven, not a slaughterhouse! @BirdlifeOz condemns the @DanielAndrewsMP government for allowing duck hunting season to go ahead. A bag limit of three ducks and shortened five-week season indicates there shouldn’t be a season at all. #banduckshooting— BirdLife Australia (@BirdlifeOz) February 25, 2020
The shooters were going to be out in their droves and given the season was starting late, there was going to be more ducks than you could poke a stick at. It was going to be like shooting fish in a barrel.
Sometimes, however, the reality doesn’t meet expectations.
In fact, the only thing more scarce than the shooters were the ducks. The number of shooters was way down as the public proved once again the popularity of activities involving animal cruelty is declining fast. It was the lack of ducks that surprised many, however, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the Victorian Government.
The Andrews Government is normally one that prides itself on listening to the advice of experts. This shooting season, however, they not only ignored the advice of experts, they actually acted against their advice.
Professor Richard Kingsford of Birdlife Australia, one of the worlds leading experts on birdlife, released a report that featured a section titled ‘The birds are burning’. When he spoke of the decimated numbers of birdlife after the fire season, he was ignored. Instead, sources claim, the Government took the word of the Game Management Authority (GMA) who assured them the numbers weren’t impacted by the fires or the drought.
The GMA’s advice was based on a Department of Health report titled ‘Economic and social impacts of recreational hunting and shooting’, which even goes so far as to say its findings are ‘biased towards active hunters and shooters’.
In a desperate bid to appease animal welfare advocates, the bag limits (corpse count) had been reduced this season. They needn’t have bothered as there was hardly any game to shoot at. The GMA couldn’t have been more wrong about bird numbers if they’d based their numbers on the reading of tea leaves as research.
Listening to advice that comes from the GMA regarding shooting is akin to listening to advice on the impact of smoking from Phillip Morris or British American Tobacco.
In fact, their name would suggest that “Game Management” is the GMA’s primary concern. If this is the case, then it is hard to think of a greater example of a complete failure of a supposed “Authority”. One wonders if they can’t be counted on as an authority on game management, then what can they be counted on?
There were some familiar sights on the wetlands last weekend, though — the usual piles of rubbish left behind. Where I spent the weekend, a lovely place called Laanecoorie, the wetlands were littered with beer bottles and KFC boxes and bones.
I would have always assumed that alcohol and firearms were not a good mix, but in Victoria, the Government seems to think they go together like fish and chips. It is also interesting to note that the nearest KFC is over a half-hour drive away from these wetlands and in a different council area. The locals get the mess but not the business.
Many are surprised that Victoria, with the normally progressive Andrews Government in power, still has a shooting season at all. Surprised, given it is inherently cruel, wildly unpopular, raises no revenue for the state and the massive decline in those taking part.
One of the reasons this government has failed to ban it like most other states is that there are some loud voices supporting the cruelty within Victorian Labor. They, along with some in the union movement, have shooters in their family or have friends who partake in the occasional weekend wildlife massacre.
These people have pushed the lines that shooting is a “working class” pastime, that union members are shooters and that shooters are Labor voters. This is how they defend the indefensible.
It’s hard to argue against the claim that shooters are Labor voters. It’s hard to deny this when every year we hear so much outrage about the shooting season coming from the Liberal and National Parties. Every year the Liberals are on every TV and radio station calling for a ban, telling the public that shooting is all part of a Left-wing agenda. Right?
It’s also hard to argue against the “working class” theory. You may have seen the cocaine-snorting shooters on the opening weekend receiving some coverage. Nothing says “working class” more than cocaine. That’s been the case ever since Charlie Sheen and Wall Street.
Seeing these shooters showing up in their shiny new SUVs with their boat trailers and boats, wearing all the expensive camo gear like some wannabe weekend Rambo and carrying guns where the only thing bigger than the gun barrels is the price tag, it’s hard not to think “minimum wage”. A few lines of coke, shoot some defenceless birds, slap each other’s backs and return to the factory floor a hero on Monday.
But, the fact is the bulk of shooters are about as working-class as Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith. They drive up from the suburbs because you can’t shoot the birdlife in Albert Park. They bring their food, drink and mates with them and when they leave, they leave a trail of carnage and rubbish for local councils to spend their limited funds cleaning up. They vote for the Coalition which is why you’ll only ever hear the Liberals supporting shooting.
Just as you’ll find a red M&M or two in every packet, I’m sure there are union members who are shooters. But just like you won’t find a pack of red M&Ms (except maybe for a special promo) you will find that more shooters carry platinum credit cards than union cards.
At the last Victorian Labor conference, members and union representatives voted overwhelmingly for the party to review its policy on duck shooting. Unfortunately, there has been hardly a whisper about the promised review since.
It is clear the members, the unions and the public are looking for change.
We just need a government with the guts to deliver it.
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