In Question Time today, Mark asked the Minister for Human Services, representing the Minister for Environment and Water, a question about the culling of kangaroos.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: This week, my office (and I expect the offices of all other members of parliament) has been receiving many emails from South Australians on the issue of kangaroo culling for commercial, domestic and export markets. The emails are calling for the permits to be immediately revoked. The reasons given in the emails are:
The cull if permitted to continue will cause kangaroo populations to become ecologically unsustainable and likely lead to extinction.
The emails explain this further by saying that the South Australian government's quota system, that is, the number of kangaroos that can be killed in each commercial subregion, uses a higher percentage than what is considered ecologically sustainable by leading scientists. Also, that when kangaroo populations decline due to environmental changes, such as drought, the percentages of kangaroos being killed increases and the kill quotas become double what is ecologically sustainable. My questions of the minister are:
1. Can the minister confirm that quotas and permits are based on the best current scientific evidence so that the only purpose of the cull is the protection of biodiversity and the environment, rather than commercial considerations?
2. Will the minister revise the current quota system to ensure that permits for kangaroo culling are only issued as a last resort measure, when kangaroo populations are scientifically determined to be overabundant?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I thank the honourable member for his question and acknowledge his longstanding interest in these issues. The matter of abundant native species is something that requires careful consideration. I think it is worth putting on the record that Australia's landscape has been significantly modified since white settlement. There have been many mistakes made along the way and some species have become more abundant than others.
Corellas come to mind, which are a particular pest, and I acknowledge that those species which are often termed—I can't remember the term used, but are often considered more cute or furry are the ones that often raise quite a lot of concern in our community. We saw in the ACT a couple of years ago a situation where we were receiving emails from people overseas concerned about that particular cull because the government at the time determined that the species was a pest.
It is interesting, when you talk to some landholders, particularly in parts of the Adelaide Hills where they have some native vegetation they are trying to protect, they say that they need to fence it off because kangaroos eat grasses and vegetation, and so they can be a threat to some of the native species as well. These things are always a question of balance. The substantive questions he has asked me I will take on notice and refer to the appropriate minister and bring back a response.
On 17 March 2021, the following reply was received -
The Hon J.M.A Lensink: The Department of Environment and Water has advised that:
The South Australian Commercial Kangaroo Management Plan 2020-2024 (the management plan) has been developed to guide the sustainable management of commercial kangaroo harvesting in South Australia. The management plan is prepared in accordance with the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and satisfies the requirements of the relevant Commonwealth legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The primary goal of the management plan is to ensure an ecologically sustainable harvest of kangaroos and to provide a mechanism to reduce the damage that can be caused by overabundant kangaroos. This is achieved through the application of the best available scientific knowledge, best practice management and monitoring of outcomes, to ensure that the viability of kangaroo populations is not compromised by any action undertaken in accordance with the management plan.
The management plan provides a framework for the sustainable harvest quotas to be calculated based on population surveys. Permits for commercial harvest of kangaroos allow for a set proportion of the population to be harvested each year. In circumstances where the kangaroo population is low, based on the results of the population surveys, the plan provides for the reduction in harvest quota and the number of permits that can be issued, or in certain circumstances, the closure of specific harvest zones.