THE Opposition’s policy in protecting dugong and turtle populations focuses on stopping the needless cruelty towards the animals, not preventing hunting for cultural reasons, Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch says.
His comments come as self-proclaimed activists, including failed Federal election candidate Yodie Batzke, try to misinform people in the Torres Strait and on Cape York about their policy.
“I have serious concerns about Yodi Batzke and a small number of other individuals in the Torres Strait who, in pushing their own agendas, are grossly misrepresenting the LNP’s policy on the controversial turtle and dugong issue with suggestions that an LNP government would extinguish Native Title rights with regards to the traditional hunting of turtles and dugongs,” Mr Entsch said.
“It has also been suggested that I am personally advocating for the extinguishment of their Native Title rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any such allegation is clearly an out-and-out lie by people trying to satisfy their own agenda.”
Mr Entsch said the policy aimed to both protect dugongs and turtles from needless acts of cruelty and to preserve the traditional rights of indigenous hunters, as stated in LNP policy number 27:
* LNP recognises there is an entitlement of traditional owners to hunt dugongs and sea turtles for non- commercial use under the Native Title Act 1993.
* The LNP will work with Indigenous stakeholders to protect Queensland’s dugong and turtle populations from poachers and stop brutality against these iconic species.
* Some Indigenous communities have already self-imposed moratoriums or regulated hunting practices by issuing permits and licences an LNP government will work with Indigenous communities to see this successful and proactive model rolled out across the dugong and turtle habitat.
* The LNP will remove the current exemption for traditional hunters from the law that makes it illegal for anyone to wound, mutilate, torture or unnecessarily prolong the death of an animal – enforceable with penalties of up to two years in jail or a $100,000 fine.
“In an effort to clarify the situation once and for all, the position of myself and that of the LNP is to protect the Native Title rights of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people,” Mr Entsch said.
“The policy in relation to removing exemption for cruelty is being misrepresented as the LNP wanting to extinguish Native Title rights. This is wrong. It would require hunters to slaughter the targeted animal as quick and as humanely as possible and not subject it to prolonged suffering.”
Mr Entsch emphasised that the policy was aimed at rogue hunters, who were a small minority, but publicity of heinous killings had created the perception that all hunters were torturing the creatures unnecessarily.
“There is no doubt that an overwhelming majority of hunters observe appropriate cultural protocols in their hunting practices,” he said.
“However there is a very small number abusing that right and it’s these people we want to focus on.
“Unfortunately when graphic images of animals being butchered and mutilated while still alive are broadcast around Australia, it has exactly the same impact as the inappropriate slaughter of cattle in Indonesia and it builds public resentment towards the legitimate taking of those species.”
Mr Entsch said Queensland needed to bring its dugong/turtle protection policy in line with the rest of Australia and realise that the law would not hinder traditional hunting.
“The animal cruelty legislation is enacted in every state and territory in Australia except Queensland and there is no state or territory where this legislation prevents indigenous people from enjoying their Native Title hunting rights,” he said.
“Time and time again, I have defended the Native Title rights of traditional owners to hunt for cultural purposes. I will ALWAYS defend that right, however as an elected representative I will not sit back and ignore animal cruelty or the overexploitation of targeted species.”
Mr Entsch said the LNP policy also targeted poachers and the black market trade of dugong and turtle meat.
“We also have to address the issue of a large number of creatures being taken in our joint treaty zone by Papua New Guinean traders and sold to markets in Daru and Port Moresby,” he said.
“This is a serious threat to the species however no positive outcome can ever be achieved without full support of local elders and their communities.
Both myself and the LNP are committed to working with these elders to address problems to guarantee the long-term survival of dugongs and turtle populations.
This in turn will preserve the traditional hunting and Native Title rights for generations of indigenous Australians wishing to exercise that right in the future.”