Shooters' forum aims for understanding

25 Mar, 2015 06:35 AM
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National Party Senator Bridget McKenzie and shooting champion Michael Diamond.
Too often we stereotype hunters and shooters as rednecks in this community
National Party Senator Bridget McKenzie and shooting champion Michael Diamond.

RECREATIONAL gun users, including those who help control feral animal pests damaging agricultural production, have a new parliamentary forum.

Parliamentary Friends of Shooting was unveiled on Monday night at an event attended by Olympic and Commonwealth games shooting champions Michael Diamond and Laetisha Scanlon, hosted within Parliament House, Canberra.

The new group will be co-chaired by Victorian National Party Senator Bridget McKenzie and Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

More than 40 members of federal parliament have already joined the group, which will hold a field trip in coming weeks for members to experience clay target shooting at a local shooting range.

The event was attended by NSW Nationals MP John Cobb, who was shadow agriculture minister in the previous parliament, and his former counterpart, Queensland Labor Senator Joe Ludwig.

Senator McKenzie - the driving force behind Parliamentary Friends of Shooting - recently told Fairfax Media that being a recreational gun user was a tough political battleground, but one she’s prepared and proud to fight in.

“Too often we stereotype hunters and shooters as rednecks in this community and that’s absolutely not the case,” she said.

She also believes recreational shooters deliver economic, environmental and social benefits to the community, including voluntary work to help control feral pests and animals.

“We have almost 3 million registered firearms and more than 730,000 licensed firearms owners in Australia,” she said.

“In Victoria, hunting contributes $430 million annually to the local economy, with 1500 jobs in direct employment, most of those out in the regions.

“Hunting and shooting delivers an incredible economic, environmental and social benefit to our community, particularly in regional areas.

“Through the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting our aim is to assist Members and Senators who want to learn more about the sport and to have a go themselves.”

According to Senator McKenzie, sporting and recreational shooting was often not regarded with the same prominence as other sporting and recreational pursuits.

She said the new forum would help to promote a more sensible public debate about recreational shooters by better-informing elected members.

Sports like pistol shooting may also be added to the parliamentary sports agenda alongside mainstream sports like football, netball, swimming or soccer, she said.

Shooting stars

Mr Diamond has won two Olympic gold medals in trap shooting; at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and at Atlanta in 1996.

He’s also won eight Commonwealth Games medals and said he started shooting with an air rifle at the age of six.

Mr Diamond told the Parliament House gathering that winning the Sydney gold medal in front of his home crowd was a “truly humbling” experience.

Ms Scanlon said shooting was a challenging sport, both physically and mentally, but one which had allowed her to travel the world and compete at a high level.

She said many people took up the sport at a young age like her due to their parents’ influence, but hoped other people with no family background in shooting would see her competing and would choose to try it for themselves.

“I’m hopeless at netball,” she said.

Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia chair Luca Rossi said given that Victoria’s economy benefitted by $430m from the Victorian hunting industry, the industry was “easily” valued at $1.5 to two billion nationally through the inclusion of target shooting and other associated uses.

“I don’t think anyone in this room would want to suffer what we suffer daily, to conduct our business,” he told the gathering of political and industry representatives.

Mr Rossi said he also wanted to also see more young people taking up shooting sports like clay target shooting.

According to Mr Rossi, sports shooting is a healthy outdoor activity, unlike video games, which he said are less healthy and simulate violence.

Trophy hunting spat

The launch also coincided with a reported spat between the Liberal Party and the National Party over trophy hunting.

It came after the Nationals felt aggrieved at the lack of consultation underpinning the announcement of a recent ban by Environment Minister Greg Hunt on the import of lion products from trophy hunting, into Australia.

Also known as 'canned' hunting, the ban was supported by the Humane Society International for assisting with conservation efforts for lions in Africa.

While not supporting 'canned' hunting, National Party members like Senator McKenzie felt legitimate, recreational hunters, like those involved in controlling feral animals, were being stigmatised via the ban.

Mr Hunt made the ban announcement on March 13, saying the Australian Government was “taking action to protect African lions from the barbaric practice of canned hunting by banning the import and export of trophies made from these magnificent animals”.

“Canned hunting is the practice where lions are raised in captivity for one reason only – so that those who are prepared to pay top dollar are guaranteed a ‘kill’,” he said.

“These new rules mean that if you go overseas and engage in the appalling act of canned hunting, you can forget about bringing your lion trophies back to Australia.

“You don’t deserve the right to celebrate the slaughter of these amazing creatures.”

Mr Hunt announced the maximum penalty for wildlife trade offences was 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $170,000 for individuals and up to $850,000 for corporations.

Mr Rossi – also National Firearm Dealers Association president - told a recent Senate inquiry that feral pests and animals caused about $750 million damage a year to rural communities and farmers and using recreational shooters was an efficient and inexpensive method of control.

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Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

Jacky
27/03/2015 1:48:04 PM

"National Party members like Senator McKenzie felt legitimate, recreational hunters, like those involved in controlling feral animals, were being stigmatised via the ban." Populist misinformation - hunting does not manage pest numbers in a meaningful way - it just kills a few. Hunters brought in rabbits and foxes, remember?
Jean
31/03/2015 2:13:38 PM

Actually the first rabbits came on the First Fleet and were for food not hunting, it wasn't until 1859 that a pastoralist in Victoria released rabbits for hunting. There was already a substantial rabbit population in Tasmania of the common European variety, which seem to have been the result of escapes of farmed food animals. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabb its_in_Australia
bill
15/04/2015 9:13:33 AM

My sincere thanks and congratulations go to those members of parliament who have joined this group. It is very rare in this day and age to see politicians who have the backbone to stand up for something wich is deemed by the media to be unpopular, even though it is fundamentally right. Might I respectfully suggest you consult shooters on the national firearms agreement, installed in 1996. It needs deleting. thank you again.
Kat
15/04/2015 10:42:14 AM

Senator Bridget McKenzie should run for PM. The stereotypes that Green, vegans, anti hunters, and anti fishers taint hunters, sporting shooters and fisher people with is totally unjustified. Many of us are women, whom are law abiding, tax paying, upstanding community members. I respect a vegans right to choose to live their lifestyle, why is it so hard for others to extend the similar courteously for hunters and shooters ? Animal liberation socialists, the media, and politicians, have for too long culturally vilified and discriminated against our ways of life, and sport for far too long.
Harry
15/04/2015 10:44:32 AM

Better to "just kill a few" than do nothing about it or spend ridiculous amounts of money using other means to avoid recreational hunters doing it at their own cost, Jacky.
Les
15/04/2015 3:25:18 PM

Well done Bridget. Finally a voice for common sense. But that is not what is coming from the head of the RSPCA, Liz Walker who says that it is outrageous for a senator to be promoting hunting as its cruel & without though for the animals. This just goes to show that the RSPCA is no longer an animal aid organization, but an animal activist organization who will never receive another cent from a lot of people which will make it difficult for them to "care" for the animals. Shame on the RSPCA for not being objective!
Old Crow
15/04/2015 4:44:48 PM

Well said, Les.

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