House debates

Monday, 22 October 2018


Crimes Against Wildlife

7:29 pm

Photo of Jason WoodJason Wood (La Trobe, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to raise my voice once again regarding concerns about incidents of brutality against wildlife in Victoria—in Australia—and also overseas. Last month, I gave a speech in parliament in relation to banning domestic trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns in Australia. This important issue is one that I have brought to the attention of the House before due to Donalea Patman, the director of Love of Wildlife. I'm indebted to her for her advice and information about the problem. Cruelty to animals is unacceptable. When it's iconic wildlife, it's totally reprehensible, whether it's occurring in Australia or, as I said, overseas.

I first of all thank Donalea Patman for the great work she's done. We've worked closely together to ban the importation of any lion parts. This has stopped Australians from going overseas, getting their hunt trophies and coming back in, so congratulations, Donalea, for the work you've done. When it comes to rhino and elephant ivory, we're working again. A great report has been tabled under the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement. I thank the chair, Craig Kelly. We hope this is on the COAG agenda in December this year.

I'm very keen to work with the environment minister, Melissa Price, when it comes to the killing of and cruelty to Australian wildlife to ensure we have consistent national laws. We need to increase the maximum jail term of up to seven years for animal cruelty, particularly against wildlife. The state and territory governments should increase penalties and fines after the killing of more than 400 wedge-tailed eagles and the targeting and running down of emus by a man in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Bringing penalties in line with public expectation would give police access to phone interception and listening devices to assist with the investigations on acts of cruelty and, in particular, wildlife smuggling. Wildlife smuggling is a big business for organised crime.

Offences for the killing of native wildlife differ greatly across the states and territories: a fine of $7,928.50 and six months imprisonment in Victoria; one year in jail in the Northern Territory; and in Queensland the fine is up to $50,000. Unfortunately, the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999—the EPBC Act—does not apply to wedge-tailed eagles, except the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, which is listed as an endangered species for the purpose of the EPBC Act. Killing or injuring a member of a listed threatened species on a Commonwealth area is a federal offence, with an applicable penalty of imprisonment for two years, or $210,000, but, again, the penalty is far too low. Also, there is a fine of $105,000 for a strict liability offence—that is, without having to establish a fault element, such as a person intending to do the offence or being reckless and offending. Again, this is only relevant to the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle. Other species of eagle are not listed as threatened species and do not fall under the scope of federal laws.

It appears unlikely that telecommunication intercept acts could be used to investigate wildlife crimes. The issuing of interception warrants are regulated by the federal Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. This allows authorised state and territory agencies and relevant state and territory police to apply for two types of interception warrants: a telecommunications service warrant, which allows an agency to intercept communications made to or from a particular telecommunication service, or a named person warrant, which allows an agency to intercept communications made to or from any telecommunications service.

This is a very important issue in my electorate of La Trobe and right around Australia. People hate seeing our native wildlife brutally killed, for fun or even because some believe they are a pest. We do need national laws. We need to have stronger laws, have a consistent approach and put our wildlife first. I think that's something Australians expect.