Right: A duck hunter takes aim while his dog looks on. Despite state government promotion of the sport, Victoria is one of the last states to allow duck shooting.
Arguments in favour of Victoria's new duck shooting regulations
1. These new regulations help guard against accidental shootings
The Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) claims that one of the primary aims of its duck hunting regulations is to improve public safety during the duck hunting season by reducing the risk of accidental shootings.
The State Government has claimed that it was because of 'significant public safety concerns', that it introduced new laws to keep protesters further away from hunting areas.
Victorian Agricultural Minister, Mr Peter Walsh, has stated, 'All members of the public who are on wetlands where duck hunting is permitted must ensure they are acting safely and legally. Safety is the number one priority.'
The DPI's Internet site includes the following statement 'The periods where unauthorised people are restricted from entering specified hunting areas are considered to be the minimum to achieve the desired public safety outcomes.
The restrictions only apply to 227, or 6%, of Victoria's 4,000 public wetlands, affect only part of the reserves (the water body and extending out 25 metres from the water's edge), apply to only part of the day (essentially, late evening and early morning) and for only three months of the year.
At all times, unauthorised people are able to freely move about those parts of the reserve which are not restricted (i.e. all land areas to within 25 metres of the water) and, once the daily restricted period ceases, unauthorised people can enter the water (i.e. between 10:00am until two hours before sunset).
Similar provisions have been in place since 1993 and have had little impact on peoples' enjoyment of these areas.'
Colin Wood, of the Sporting Shooters' Association, has claimed that having protesters in the water during the hunting season is dangerous.
Mr Wood has stated, 'It hasn't been satisfactory and we really feel these changes are long overdue. We'd like to see them go a bit further, but honestly it's a massive move in the right direction.'
2. These new regulations protect the rights of duck hunters
The new regulations stress that duck hunting is a legal activity under Victorian law and thus that duck hunters have the right to pursue this activity unimpeded so long as they themselves abide by the relevant laws.
The new regulations also stress that protestors and others who impede the rights of duck hunters run the risk of prosecution.
The Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Internet site states, 'Duck hunting is a legal activity and people should be able to participate in an unhindered way. People who scare birds away, stand in the way of hunters, or distract or abuse hunters may be charged with an offence.
People committing any of these offences can be fined, or arrested and convicted by a court.'
The DPI stresses the penalties which may be imposed on those who infringe duck hunters' rights.
'Penalties for non-compliance with the public safety provisions can result in an Infringement Notice or charges being laid and an appearance in the Magistrates Court. The maximum fine a Magistrate can impose is approximately $2,800 and a conviction can be recorded.
There can be ongoing ramifications for people receiving a court conviction. Many employers conduct record checks of any prospective employees and convictions can limit future employment opportunities and earning potential. In addition, criminal convictions can prevent entry into certain countries.'
3. These new regulations protect the lives of protestors
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) states that the new regulations affecting protestors have been put in place because of the pervious dangerous behaviour of this group. The DPI's Internet site states, 'Some sections of the community oppose duck hunting. Some anti-duck hunting activists choose to voice their opposition by entering wetlands in a coordinated effort to disrupt hunting by scaring birds away and interfering with hunters.
Such confrontational situations are unsafe for protestors, duck hunters and law enforcement officers. In the past, a voluntary Code of Behaviour was introduced to prevent potentially dangerous interactions. However, this was not effective, resulting in the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police recommending that legislation be introduced to physically separate protestors and hunters to ensure the safety of all concerned.'
The DPI goes on to state further that the new regulations are not intended to infringe on the rights of protestors, who can still enter wetlands to protest and to retrieve birds, but merely to ensure that they do not do so in a way that endangers themselves or others.
The DPI's Internet site states, 'While recognising the right of individuals to express their views, it is also important to be aware of some of the potential risks of engaging in illegal protest activity, particularly for people who are unfamiliar with how to behave in a safe manner around waterways and firearms...
The dangers of inexperienced people being in close proximity to firearms were graphically displayed on the opening day of the 2011 duck season when a protestor was struck by stray pellets while in a specified hunting area during a prohibited time. While the injuries were minor, the protestor was very lucky not to be blinded or even killed.'
4. These regulations will boost rural economies
It has been noted that regulations that help to ensure the smooth operation of the Victorian duck hunting season will be an advantage to rural economies.
The Victorian Agricultural Minister, Pr Peter Walsh, has noted that game hunting generates around $100 million annually and supports jobs in hospitality and recreational supplies, such as vehicles, boats, fuel, firearms and ammunition, plus camping and hunting equipment.
The same point has been made by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) which states on its Internet site, 'Duck hunting...is a stimulator of the economy, supporting the manufacturing, hospitality and retail sectors. It is also important in generating expenditure in rural economies and supporting jobs.'
This position has also been put in Field and Game Australia's background paper which states, 'Hunters spend millions of dollars annually on their recreation. The dollars 'spent on hunting are not confined to the urban areas, but help sustain the economies of rural Australia.
Many communities benefit directly from the annual influx of hunters' dollars. The ancillary equipment used by hunters leads to direct employment of others to service hunter needs.'
It has been claimed that in addition to the 25,000 registered duck hunters in Victoria, hunters from the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales also travel to this state over the three months of the duck hunting season to participate in this hunting opportunity. This year, under the new regulations, there is a new 14-day non-resident Game Licence to facilitate game hunting by visitors to Australia. This means that tourists from overseas are also being encouraged to visit Victoria and in the process contribute to rural economies along with visitors from interstate.
5. Duck shooters advantage wetlands
Duck shooters and other game hunters claim that they assist in the management and maintenance of the species they hunt and thus that the new regulations allowing their sport to proceed in a safe and controlled manner is actually to the advantage of duck populations.
The Field and Game Australia (FGA) has produced a background paper which claims, 'Hunters play an important role in game management and wetlands conservation and therefore contribute, in a tangible and practical way, to the preservation of our wildlife and game resources. Hunters also make a significant contribution to the eradication of pest animals and vermin.'
The FGA's background paper further states, 'In stark contrast to some other groups in the community, hunting organisations such as Field and Game
Australia (FGA) has adopted a very practical approach to conservation which helps maintain game populations. Since 1958, the Association and its members have contributed time, money and physical resources towards numerous wildlife management and wetlands conservation projects.
It is quite ironic that had it not been for the work of the FGA and hunters, the numbers of wildlife and game that the anti-hunting groups claim to protect would be less than they are today.'
The FGA concludes, 'Hunters are always mindful that the taking of game does not have long term affects on species populations. Population counts of duck and other waterbirds are now made annually. The knowledge of waterbird numbers and species distribution is increasing all the time. Links are being established between waterbird populations and environmental factors such as national rainfall patterns which largely dictate breeding opportunities.
Hunters, through their intimate knowledge of wetlands and all wetland birds, are making a valuable contribution to this library of knowledge.'
A similar point is made on the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Internet site. 'Duck hunting is managed sustainably in Victoria and is regulated to ensure that the conservation status of game ducks and non-game species are not put at risk. Hunting organisations contribute much effort into conserving and restoring waterfowl habitat, installing water control structures, erecting nesting boxes and controlling pest plants and animals.'