The recent policy proposal to withdraw the on-ground activities and support of Local Land Services from wild dog control in the region bears all the hallmarks of a policy developed in a room a very long way from the people who will ultimately be affected.
This situation is not new. It is, in fact, how most government policy is developed. Of particular concern in this instance, however, is the directive accompanying the policy proposals, from the Department of Industry, that “services like this must be done on a cost recovery basis and must not negatively impact the private market.”
There are many things more important than the private market, and management of land and resources is one of them. Government has an obligation to lead by example, and by effectively shifting from partner to policeman, as in the proposed LLS changes, it is washing its hands of a fundamental responsibility: that of ensuring a sustainable farming future.
Farmers in the region were rightly outraged to learn that under the Biosecurity Act 2015, LLS would be placed in the position of overseeing farmers’ wild dog control measures and imposing penalties for inadequate action. These ‘penalties’, presumably are part of the proposed ‘cost recovery’.
Wild dogs wreak millions of dollars worth of havoc every year and controlling feral animals already costs farmers dearly in time and money.
Policy makers, however, driven by the market imperative of government, don’t see the heartbreak of a paddock of mauled and mutilated sheep and lambs. They don’t feel the impact of lost income as flocks are decimated by dog attacks.
John Barilaro’s intervention to overturn the changes was welcome but there needs to be more. Mr Barilaro is part of a government that is hell-bent on privatisation and cost recovery. As a member of the National Party, which traditionally has represented the rural sector, and the Deputy Premier, Mr Barilaro is in the ideal position to effect change in how the government approaches changes in policy that directly impact the farming sector.
The Biosecurity Act 2015 is an important piece of legislation, replacing 14 other Acts and providing a reguatory framework for risk minimisation and management.
However, it is worthless if it uses those regulations to abrogate its legislative responsibility and throws farmers to the wolves (or wild dogs) with no warning or consultation.