NEW Assistant Trade Minister Mark Coulton says he’s “furious” at the Greens saying the kangaroo is an endangered species in an effort to ban export markets; especially when they actually outnumber the Australian population by about two-to-one.
Mr Coulton was elevated from Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives to the Coalition ministry earlier this month after Michael McCormack replaced Barnaby Joyce as Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister.
The Parkes MP said the export of kangaroo meat and other products and kangaroo culling were critical to farmers and people in his western NSW electorate - but the Greens were threatening the industry’s future in an anti-exports campaign that exploits naive understandings about the iconic national animal, in overseas jurisdictions.
Mr Coulton expressed concern at NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon’s recent ploy to further sabotage trade opportunities by promoting a controversial documentary on kangaroos, during a delegation to Europe, which he says contained misinformation.
I'm in Brussels talking kangaroo protection with Members of the EU parliament. First meet with @Dr_KlausBuchner, German Greens MEP and member of the EU Foreign Affairs Committee, and Martin Kohler, Greens adviser on trade. pic.twitter.com/DlPvbQ6Lk7— Senator Lee Rhiannon (@leerhiannon) March 5, 2018
“Of particular interest to me right now is the markets for kangaroo meat and I’m extremely annoyed, furious would be a better word, that Lee Rhiannon is in Europe trying to damage the industry’s prospects there,” he said.
“She’s already had some success to damage the trade to the US with a ban out of California for kangaroo products so we need to nip this in the bud.
“It’s absolutely mind boggling that a Senator who represents and lives in an inner-city area, out of complete ignorance, driven by ideology, is trying to damage an industry that has great potential to deliver benefits to so many people.
“She’s claiming kangaroos are endangered when in fact it’s the opposite situation.”
Mr Coulton said about 47 million kangaroos existed in Australia right now which represented about two kangaroos for every person.
“In the western part of my electorate, in the western region of NSW, there are reportedly 12 million kangaroos which is a lot more than the number of sheep, cattle and goats,” he said.
“But they’re having severe impacts on the farmers.
“The industry has the potential to employ a lot of people in my electorate and help graziers with managing kangaroo populations that are competing with their livestock.
“A lot of the indigenous communities are involved in the industry, whether it’s through shooting or harvesting.
“In Walgett, the kangaroo works there is probably one of the largest employers in town so it’s vitally important that we hang onto these industries.
“Kangaroo populations aren’t under threat and as a matter of a fact they’d be under threat if they weren’t controlled to a sustainable level because when the grass and the water runs out, they fall into ill health and decline in a far more concerning and non-desirable way than if they were harvested and slaughtered in a sustainable way for human consumption or pet meat.
“What I’d like to know is, certainly (Senator Rhiannon) has got a reaction in Australia, but how widely she’s having an impact on any markets in the EU, that’s another matter.”
Senator Rhiannon has made several moves recently to highlight her concerns about kangaroo culling in seeking to thwart the export of products, including unsuccessfully moving a Senate motion in mid-February
In a Facebook video, she said “how Australia treats kangaroos is gaining more international attention”.
“Kangaroos are not pests – they are a unique animal and they have rights,” she said.
“Kangaroos are in trouble.
“We need to understand what is happening to these incredible gentle animals to help ensure that they do not disappear from our rural and regional landscapes.”
According to the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia (KIAA), the industry is widely regarded as an “intelligent use of a sustainable resource and is supported by scientists, conservation groups and academics as being a benchmark for a natural resource use model”.
The KIAA estimates the gross value of production for the kangaroo industry in 2014 at $174 million - but with ancillary benefits like reduced agricultural damage and reduced road accidents the economic contribution is over $200m per year.
The industry typically has over 2000 kangaroo harvesters licensed at any one time and generates over 2000 jobs in the processing and transport sector plus others in areas like government, sales and allied activities.
Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud also hit out at Senator Rhiannon for promoting the documentary, ‘Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story’ during the Green’s recent trip to Brussels.
“It's absolutely disgusting that she would go over there and try and destroy the kangaroo industry that has huge potential for jobs in regional Australia,” he said.
National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson said the new kangaroo documentary was “quite misleading and very damaging to Australia”.
“There is a lot of misinformation around kangaroos and how we treat kangaroos in Australia,” she said.
“This is an issue we need to address very calmly and need to make sure we keep facts on the table when talking about something so dear to Australia as kangaroos.”
Green’s Senate motion defeated 44 votes to 12
But Senator Rhiannon’s Senate motion – backed by Victorian independent Senator Derryn Hinch who also wants livestock exports banned and Greens Queensland Senator Andrew Bartlett – said the Australian government’s management of kangaroos “tends to be structured to service commercial shooting and farming industries”.
It also said that in 2015, between 65,000 and 650,000 kangaroos suffered non-lethal body-shots and a further 110,000 joeys died from commercial shooting alone, with pouch joeys decapitated or their skulls crushed.
It also said kangaroos are slow-growing and are shot beyond their low reproductive capacity, with long-term government raw data illustrating kangaroo absence and decline, “yet this is not reflected in the published population estimates from which an impossibly high commercial shooting quota is extracted”.
The motion - defeated 44 votes to 12 votes with Senator Hinch and the Nick Xenophon Team voted with the Greens for it - called on the Commonwealth and all states to make available all historical and current kangaroo survey data and methodologies, and commercial and non-commercial shooting and demographics data for all shooting zones across Australia.
But in speaking against it, Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath said all state-managed harvests of kangaroos for international export must be approved by the state government and kangaroo management, including animal welfare, was primarily the responsibility of state and territories governments.
Senator McGrath said state management plans required that the harvest of kangaroos was sustainable and humane.
He said there had been no adverse long-term impacts on kangaroo populations after more than 30 years of kangaroo harvest management plans.
“In fact, there are an estimated 47 million kangaroos across Australia today compared with 27 million in 2010,” he said.
“The National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes agreed by all states in 2008 must be complied with under each of the states' management plans.”
The Green’s motion also said kangaroo was a “wild-shot bushmeat” that is “butchered and transported on open unrefrigerated trucks in the field and, in 2014, Russia banned kangaroo meat imports for a third time due to contamination, with rapid food security alerts in the European Union about kangaroo meat since then”.
Senator Rhiannon raised that discussion during the recent Senate estimates hearings in Canberra, with officials from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
Exports Standards Branch Assistant Secretary David Cunningham said the Russians had only suspended once, that the Department was aware of, and it wasn't because of health reasons with regards to meat export/import standards.
“Typically, importing countries will have their own microbiology testing programs,” he said.
“What happens is, if meat is exported from Australia and it's not detected here but is detected there, we conduct an investigation and find out what went on.
“It doesn't typically result in a suspension, particularly for some microorganisms like E.coli - when a product is cooked, the food safety risk is very minimal.
“In the case of Russia, in 2014 there were a number of port-of-entry detections at the Russian end.
“There is one plant that is registered to export to Russia.
“It's not suspended because of those port-of-entry detections; it's because of the requirement to audit on a regular basis and the administrative difficulty of getting an audit done by the Russian audit teams.
“In the case of Russia and other importing countries, many require a periodic audit of establishments to maintain the listing to export to that country.
“It just so happens that in this case that audit hasn't happened, as has been the case for a number of Russian establishments, for reasons beyond food safety.”
Queensland Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan said any suggestion that kangaroos were on the cusp of extinction, based on the scientific evidence available, would be completely false, to which Dr Cunningham said “That's our understanding”.
“The harvest of kangaroos is set by annually-revised quotas, and these are managed by the Department of Environment and Energy and the states' authorities,” Dr Cunningham said.
“My understanding is that the harvest quotas are rarely actually reached.
“I mean the sustainable level is not harvested, and over 30 years of commercial harvesting we haven't seen a decline in kangaroo populations, including through periods of severe drought, which would be expected to impact on populations.”
Senator O’Sullivan also asked Department Secretary Darryl Quinlivan if the suspension of kangaroo hide exports into California two-and-a-half years ago had resulted from a “fairly intense” campaign by environmentalists in California.
Mr Quinlivan said that was his understanding.
“I know it has caused serious problems for the kangaroo industry,” Mr Quinlivan said.
Senator O’Sullivan said the development of the market in China for kangaroo meat had also been resisted by China due to fear of reactions from environmental movements, to which Mr Quinlivan said “I have heard that Chinese officials have said that”.
“We've got trillions of kangaroos, the Chinese don't want them because of environmental issues and we're going to lose businesses and employment because of the cessation of trade into California,” Senator O’Sullivan said.
But Senator O’Sullivan said he reached an agreement earlier “you'll be astonished to know” with Senator Rhiannon; despite the difference in their views.
“We've agreed we're going to meet and see if we can't find some midway ground around the kangaroo issues,” he said.
“It's affecting jobs, the industry and our ability, I think, to open some further trade.
“If we can find some common ground on that, we may just be able to reverse what's happening in California and keep all those hundreds of jobs.”
Assistant Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Anne Ruston said she was also pushing for a briefing with a leading kangaroo processor to protect against Senator Rhiannon's “behaviour next week when she goes to Europe and making sure she doesn't tell any untruths”.
Senator Rhiannon said “it would be very good for everybody to watch the movie ‘Kangaroo: A love-hate story’.
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The story Coulton “furious” at Green’s plot to ban kangaroo exports first appeared on Farm Online.