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Speech: Wombat cull permit in Point Pearce (Matters of Interest)

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:36): I rise to discuss wombats and World Wildlife Day. Yesterday was World Wildlife Day, and our Minister for Environment and Water posted on his Facebook page a lovely message that I wholly endorse. It is headed, 'World Wildlife Day', and has pictures of various fauna and flora. The post reads:

It is such an important time to protect and care for our beautiful natural environment. Show your support by donating to the Wildlife Recovery Fund. All money raised will go towards re-establishing habitat for wildlife in South Australia's bushfire affected landscape. Donate here:

It had a link to the Wildlife Recovery Fund and a picture of a kangaroo. The irony was not lost on the Wombat Awareness Organisation, which posted that message from the minister, urging supporters who were opposed to a cull of 200 wombats on the Yorke Peninsula to let the minister know what they thought.

I watched with great interest last night as that page received dozens of messages and feedback for the minister about the decision of his department to cull 200 wombats. It grew quite quickly over the course of the night, and it was near 50 or so before I went to bed. When I woke up this morning there were 457 messages recorded, but not a single one of them, in the past 10 hours while I had been asleep and not looking at my Facebook page, were visible. A few hours later the minister's department, or the minister himself, deleted not just the Facebook post but the page entirely. I suspect those 457 plus messages were not to his liking.

Indeed, the approval of a permit to cull 200 southern hairy-nosed wombats is not only not to the South Australian community's liking, it has also raised serious international concerns. According to the letter of the law, killing wombats is actually taken as serious business in this state, so serious that we have a maximum penalty for destroying a southern hairy-nosed wombat without a permit set at $2,500 or six months' imprisonment, with the court's jurisdiction to impose additional penalties if more than one animal is involved. In the place where the permit for a cull has been approved, there were six wombats found dead, shot, but no action was taken. Now we have approval from this department for a cull of 200.

The decision of the department needs to be made on various impacts, including environmental, ecological, economic and social. DEW also needs to be satisfied that the application for a destruction permit is focused on minimising adverse impacts rather than reducing populations. It also provides that whoever applies for such a cull permit needs to demonstrate that a range of nonlethal and humane management techniques have been put into action and their effectiveness evaluated and that the proposed culling techniques comply with the appropriate code of practice. That code of practice, of course, requires that an adult wombat is shot in the head and a baby wombat is decapitated. It is, in fact, breeding season so, of those 200 wombats due to be shot, many may well be decapitated as they are joeys.

This approval has not only caused ire on Facebook but local elders—including Quentin Agius, who is an Adjahdura traditional owner as well as a Narungga and Ngadjuri elder—have been so concerned that they have spoken out in the media. Indeed, Mr Agius has put out a press release that has been incredibly critical and condemning of this move. He has also stated that he was not consulted. In the past 24 to 36 hours, traditional owners, locals, Narungga people have expressed their concerns directly to me and my office, saying that they were similarly not consulted.

Today, in the other place, the Premier claimed—and these had certainly been the rumours that I had heard—that the wombats were to be culled because they had mange and it was being distributed to the dogs in that community. Mange is not a reason to cull wombats. The community was not consulted. The minister needs to withdraw the permit that his department has authorised to kill 200 wombats and then maybe he can turn his Facebook page on again and celebrate World Wildlife Day.

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