Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and the Department of Primary Industries' (DPI) court cases against five duck rescuers falls apart. Rescuers found guilty of only one of five charges. Magistrate refuses to award the $18,000 court costs because of DSE wildlife heavy handedness in arresting rescuers final weekend last years' duck-shooting season and criticizes wildlife officers for refusing warmth to rescuer. Magistrate says legal for rescuers to be on the water, expresses surprise that DSE did not provide care for injured birds at the wetlands - that it was left to duck rescuers to do this. No rescuers convicted or fined. No court costs. Rescuers good behaviour bonds until October this year.
Government departments fail to suppress duck rescuers, waste scarce court resources and taxes
Following a six-day hearing [!] in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court in March this year, five duck rescuers were today each acquitted of four charges out of five. Each were found guilty of only one charge when rescuing waterbirds on wetlands near Kerang, in northern Victoria, during the final weekend of the 2011 duck shooting season.
Magistrate Mealy found the charge of 'hindering' proved against rescuers Luke Milroy and Lucas Treloar. The charge of operating noise producing equipment, being a whistle, in a manner likely to cause unreasonable inconvenience or nuisance to any person contrary to the Wildlife (SGR) Regulations 2004 was proved against Linda Duckham, Penny Cameron and David Mould. They were given undertakings (good behaviour bonds) without conviction.
DSE Prosecution fails to get costs
Prosecution costs of approximately $18,000 were sought by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), but refused. The Magistrate observed that the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) had not been even-handed in the laying of charges (with the DPI prosecuting). He indicated that the Department appeared to hold rescuers responsible for the provision of vets at the wetlands, when the Department should be responsible for the welfare of wildlife.
Wildlife Officers known duck shooters: conflict of interest needs Omsbudsman
Coalition Against Duck Shooting Campaign Director, Laurie Levy, today said: "Last year, DSE compliance officers planned a 'sting' that was code-named 'Operation Bolte' - after the late Victorian Premier, a keen duck shooter - with the aim of cracking down on rescuers in what can only be seen as a blatant attempt to accommodate their duck shooting mates.
"Most of these compliance officers, who are now all working in the newly established 'Game Victoria' within the DPI, are themselves known duck shooters.
"These officers have a serious conflict of interest which must be investigated by the Ombudsman's office."
Undemocratic abuse of taxpayer's time and overburdened court system
"The charges against rescuers have resulted in an enormous waste of taxpayers' money and court time, especially when Magistrates' Courts throughout the state are clogged up and unable to hear important cases for months on end, and when the majority of Victorians oppose the recreational shooting of native waterbirds and want this activity stopped," Levy said.
Coalition Against Duck Shooting
MEDIA RELEASE, Thursday, June 7, 2012
Article written by Robyn
Even though it wasn't held in a conveniently located venue/time, the meeting was jam packed. Both pro/con were represented in the audience and they were lively, but mostly well behaved. It should be emphatically noted that every member of the NSW govt refused to attend or be on the speakers panel.
Laurie Levy raised frightening concerns
Laurie Levy (Hon Activist), fresh in from VIC, spoke first. His compelling story wove strong and very frightening parallels through many concerns regarding the Shooters Bill. He was also the first of several speakers to bring up the dark side of the FGA & GC (Field & Game Australia & Game Council).
Most recently and during severe drought, FGA was convicted of stealing water from the Latrobe River and diverting it into their private shooting property to attract water birds and duck season could then commence:
97% of hunters choose not to join the Shooters' Party
Next up, Catherine Cusack (Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability) noted that 97% of all hunters choose not to join the Shooters' Party. She gave a number of examples of the Shooter's Party also threatening past govt (Bob Carr and John Howard to name two). She was a good speaker, but she spoke so quickly that I couldn't note down half of what she said (sorry). I did catch that 3.5 million tax-payer dollars goes to the Game Council (GC).
History shows hunting does not controlled feral animals
Dr. Carol Booth (Invasive Species Council, filling in for Dr. Tony Peacock), began by saying, "Good Morning". She wasn't confused about the time of day, but she said felt she was in a parallel universe when dealing with the Shooter's Party, especially since they bill themselves as conservationist. She said we need to heed the lessons of history because using hunters for "feral" animal control has never worked and is actually a conflict of interest.
Hunters need to maintain the opportunity to hunt so they leave breeding females, and they focus killing only male trophy animals. They also are restricted to hunting during daylight hours, and that 'ferals' are fecund and mobile which makes ground hunting the least effective method for control.
Danger of introducing new species for hunting
But, she felt the most dangerous aspect of the bill was the introduction of new species for hunting. (I'll jump ahead and note that Robert Brown's rebuttal was that the new species would be behind wire).
Shooters' Party Member seems out of touch
Robert Brown (MLC, Shooter's Party) started by saying he had history on his side. He went though specific items in the bill, explaining points he felt were most relevant. But (as illustrated by his above comment regarding new introduced species), he seriously just doesn't appear to "get it' at all.
Lee Rhiannon NSW Greens: Why so much public money to promote private party with less than 3% of vote?
Lee Rhiannon (MLC, NSW Greens) was a dynamo. She began by asking why so much public money is used to promote a private party with less than 3% of the vote. She illustrated a number of times how both Labour and Opposition have been long-time mates with the Shooters and have lobbied and traded back-room deals for many years.
Many letters against the bill - some points for even better letters
Of special note to all letter writers: within days of the June introduction of this bill, over 1000 letters hit the Green's and other government offices, which had an enormous impact according to Hon Rhiannon. She urged us to keep writing and gave some salient points to send to both the Premier and local members:
1) First, the GC should go away. They've blown through millions of public dollars in 18 months and this was public funding designed to last 10 years. They've now asked for additional funds, plus raised their budget by 30%. Also note, they've never been able to control 'ferals' and have never become self-sufficient as Ian McDonald promised they would. This money could be better and more responsibility spent.
2) Keep to "No Shooting in NP". Period. No exceptions.
3) Keep to "No commercialisation in NP"; keep them low impact and not tourist-theme parks.
4) Request the Upper House quit their deal-making and debate on merit only.
I'm sure I've left out heaps, but this is all I have time for right now.
h3>Why so much public money for unpopular game council and nothing for selfless wildlife carers?
Please note that one of the audience speakers at the end asked why so much public money was supporting gun lobbyist and private parties when native animal carers couldn't even get a tax break on self-funded care. She got the largest "whoop-whoop" applause of anyone. I'm certainly including this strong suggestion in my letter on where to better place public funds.
Please write if you can, continue to write if you can, and/or attend a meeting if you can.
Guilty plea to water theft in Sale Court
Field and Game Australia’s (FGA) Gippsland spokesperson, Gary Howard, today pleaded guilty in Sale Magistrates’ Court to illegally taking and diverting water under control of an authority. The water was diverted from the Latrobe River onto Heart Morass - the organisation’s private shooting property – just a week prior to the opening of the 2009 duck shooting season.
Magistrate Lou Hill fined Mr Howard $1,500 without conviction and was ordered to pay $1,500 in costs.
The prosecution followed the Coalition Against Duck Shooting’s undercover survey of the property one week before the opening of the duck shooting season.
Campaign Director, Laurie Levy, today said: “This is a huge blow to Field and Game Australia’s credibility. It is not just a theft against the local Gippsland community, but a theft from all Victorians who are doing it tough due to the long 12-year drought.
“It is more than just a coincidence that the water theft took place in the lead-up to the 2009 duck shooting season, especially as approximately 100 Field and Game Australia members had paid to shoot on the property on the opening morning. It came as no surprise that the siphoned water had attracted around one thousand native waterbirds to the wetland,” Levy said.
“As Field and Game Australia entered into a partnership to purchase the property with the Hugh Williamson Trust, the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) and environment group, Watermark, it remains to be seen whether these highly reputable organisations will risk their credibility by remaining in partnership with FGA.
“This year the Brumby Government gave hunters a duck-shooting season, despite the science and the Department of Sustainability and Environment recommending against one, and yet Field and Game Australia let them down by illegally taking water.
“The question that has to be asked is whether this is the first time FGA have taken water without a licence, or just the first time they’ve been caught?” Levy concluded.
For further information contact:
Laurie Levy, Campaign Director,
Coalition against duck shooting
Source: Coalition against duck shooting Media Release, "Guilty Plea to water theft", Tuesday 23 June 2009