A bill to amend the Game and Feral Animal Act has been introduced in NSW parliament, proposed by Robert Brown, the Shooters Party MLC who took over the seat vacated by John Tingle. Brown negotiated the original Game Bill on Tingle’s behalf and was the Game Council’s inaugural Chairman.
Several of the changes in the bill are worthwhile including the potential to open National Parks to shooters, allow game parks, and facilitate the resumption of duck hunting. But these are already found in other States. What NSW also has, that the other States don’t, is an oppressive apparatus to enforce hunting legislation. Brown’s bill expands the scope of the Game Council and takes it further down the path of controlling all hunting within NSW. Hunters, the core of Shooters Party support and no fans of regulation, will not be pleased.
One of the bill’s provisions is to expand the list of game animals subject to the Act, including some native animals, and allow the list to be amended by Ministerial Order. Proposed additions to the list include just about every pest animal known including cane toads, starlings, pigeons, sparrows and Indian Mynahs.
This is significant because it is illegal to hunt game animals on private or public land without a game hunting licence. There are exceptions, including hunting pest animals on private land (currently pigs, dogs (other than dingos), cats, goats, rabbits, hares and foxes living in the wild), property owners and occupiers hunting deer and game birds on their own land, and employees of government authorities. But that still broadens the scope of the Act enormously. Shooting pests such as pigeons or Indian Mynahs, even with an air rifle, will be illegal on any public land unless the hunter is an employee of the public owner or has a R-category game hunting licence and the land is a gazetted hunting area. Clearly, the aim is to drag councils and catchment authorities into the Game Council net so they can no longer use local hunters who do not have game hunting licences.
The powers of Game Council inspectors will be increased. The bill will give inspectors the right to require a vehicle to stop so that it can be searched without the inspector being accompanied by a police officer. The Game Council can appoint a wide range of people as inspectors including a member of staff of the Game Council, a statutory officer, public servant or person employed by a public or local authority, plus people prescribed by the regulations. Search powers include the right to break open containers in the vehicle.
This is a gross invasion of privacy and property rights. Confrontations between inspectors and innocent hunters are inevitable.
The bill extends the existing offence of obstructing, hindering or impeding an inspector to include assaulting, threatening or intimidating an inspector. Intimidation is a highly subjective term and not defined in the Act, which means an inspector who wishes to stitch up a hunter will simply be able to claim he was intimidated.
In an obvious attempt to go after the vehicles of hunters who offend the Game Council, courts will no longer be limited to $10,000 when ordering the forfeiture of hunting property.
In an appalling example of interference in legitimate commerce, taxidermists will be unable to preserve or prepare game animals such as deer or ducks unless the taxidermist is satisfied the animal has been legally hunted and keeps a record of names and dates, which must be made available to a Game Council inspector on request. This will extend the scope of the Act to yet another occupational group.
In command and control societies the government supervises the masses by throwing a web of regulation over individuals and organisations that is slowly but inexorably tightened. These changes to the Game and Feral Animal Control Act are a good example. While being promoted as advantageous to hunters and their critics derided as Green fanatics, there is another side to the story – NSW does not need the Game Council and its brown-shirted inspectors to regulate hunting.