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Duck Bill dead in the water

Duck Bill dead in the water

An attempt to have the 2020 Duck Season banned this week has failed after voting on the Bill was deferred indefinitely and the Government declared it would not support it.

But that does not mean duck hunting in Victoria is safe.

In the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick put forward a bill to have duck hunting banned in 2020 under the Wildlife Act.

He made the usual emotive, wildly exaggerated and outright false claims used to attack duck hunting and had the support of three other Senators representing The Greens, The Reason Party and Sustainable Australia.

The overwhelming response was from those opposed to the Bill with the Government declaring it would not support a ban on the 2020 season.

During Questions Without Notice, Minister for Agriculture, Jaclyn Symes said “The Andrews Labor government had a duck season this year and we have got no change of policy in relation to that. … If we were to vote on the motion, we would oppose it.”

The reason the Bill was not voted on is less clear. After statements from several MPs in relation to the Bill, a motion to adjourn the debate until later in the day was carried.

Opponents of the Bill argued to keep the debate open and put it to a vote, which would most likely have seen it defeated. But all the Labor MPs, along with Meddick and his supporters, voted for the adjournment.

Some observers say this is a way to bury the Bill without the Government having to publicly take a stand on the duck hunting issue.

If they vote against the Bill, the headlines in the mainstream media would be along the lines of “Andrews Government votes to slaughter ducks” or words to that effect. If they vote for the Bill, they go against long-standing policy to support hunting in Victoria.

By adjourning debate, the Government ensures the Bill will not get to a vote and avoids both issues, but it is still able to declare its support for hunting. The safe middle ground.

It also places the onus on keeping duck season on hunters ourselves. The Government has not said duck hunting is here to stay forever.

In his rebuttal of claims made in Mr Meddick’s Bill, Labor’s Nazih Elasmar referred to duck hunting’s sustainability relying on safety and responsibility. He also pointedly closed his statement with “We have no current plans to cease duck hunting”. It leaves the door wide open for future debate on the issue, especially if there is a season of bad hunter behaviour as there was in 2017.

But overall, the debate on the Bill was a good outcome for hunters as it put on the table Government-sourced facts about duck hunting. It also demonstrated majority support for duck hunting and gave MPs an opportunity to declare where they stand on the issue.

Naturally there was support from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Jeff Bourman and The Nationals Melina Bath. Liberal Democrats MP Tim Quilty took the opportunity to point out the divide between rural Victoria and the “urban elites … who have lost their connection to the natural world”, and went so far as entertaining a “Rexit” where regional Victoria would secede from the State.

Perhaps the most eloquent of the Bill’s opponents was The Liberals MP Gordon Rich-Phillips, whose comments on intolerance resonated strongly.

“It is often the case that those who preach tolerance, those who preach respect for minorities, those who preach respect for other cultures are in fact the most intolerant themselves,” he said.

“We saw the demonstration of that this morning with Mr Meddick’s comments on this motion where he sought to demonise a group of Victorians who participate and have participated for generations in a legitimate recreational and cultural activity, just because he does not like it.

“The man who preaches tolerance on everything else came into this place and made some frankly disgusting comments about the fraternity of Victorians who engage in recreational hunting on our wetlands.

“He made claims about illegal activity, he made claims about rubbish being left, he made claims about damage to trees and the like, all without basis, all without evidence, because he does not like a legitimate cultural activity that has been pursued by Victorians over generations.”

Click here for the full Hansard transcript of the debate on the Bill. Minister Symes’ comments in support of duck hunting during Questions Without Notice are here.