Roos loose in Greens' top paddock

18 Feb, 2015 01:00 AM
Senator Barry O'Sullivan.
Their economic strategy would end in us all standing naked and cold in a virgin forest
Senator Barry O'Sullivan.

COLORFUL Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan has slammed the Australian Greens during a heated debate over the commercial kangaroo industry.

NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon accused the Nationals of misleading the Senate on kangaroo numbers and job benefits, a stance that left Senator O’Sullivan hopping mad.

He subsequently challenged Senator Rhiannon to drive at night between Longreach and Winton in Queensland and then decide whether kangaroos are endangered.

Debate between the two Senators was sparked after Senator O'Sullivan moved a motion last week, which was agreed to, asking the Senate to “recognise Australia's ability to develop and expand the kangaroo meat and hide industry, which can create jobs and build wealth for communities across rural and regional Australia”.

But Senator Rhiannon said by “blindly supporting” the motion about developing and expanding the commercial shooting of kangaroos, “the Liberal, National and Labor parties have shown they know little about the kangaroo industry”.

She said the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia claimed the industry was worth $270 million per year and supports 4000 jobs.

However, she said independent peer-reviewed research about to be published in the Journal of Ecological Economics showed the kangaroo industry was valued at $88 million per annum maximum.

“The research uses the same input-output analysis used by economists and governments to infer the number of jobs created is just 880 per annum,” she said.

“Senator O’Sullivan’s assertion that the plagues of kangaroos across Australia necessitates an expanded commercial industry is contradicted by government kangaroo data.

“In Senator Sullivan’s own State of Queensland this year’s quota report shows an up to 50 per cent decline in most areas from the previous year.

“Analysis of NSW government count data obtained under FOI (freedom of information) is showing up to 64 per cent of NSW western survey transects are returning zero counts of kangaroos.”

Senator Rhiannon said it was biologically impossible for kangaroo populations to ‘explode’.

She said they are slow-breeding, slow-growing marsupials with 73pc juvenile mortality.

Senator Rhiannon also said kangaroo population growth sits at 3-10pc in good years and crashes up to 60pc during drought.

“The major parties should learn the facts about the commercial kangaroo industry and about kangaroo reproductive biology and ecology before perpetuating the myths of abundance and super-fecundity,” she said.

Green 'conspiracy theories': O'Sullivan

However Senator O’Sullivan said the Greens’ claim that kangaroo numbers were in decline and were an ‘at risk’ species, “only further illustrated the environmental movements’ disconnect from the everyday reality of people in rural Australia”.

He said grazing pressure from kangaroos was taking up to half of the pastures on some drought-stricken properties across Western Queensland.

Senator O’Sullivan said “ridiculous comments” from the Greens about kangaroos facing extinction proved its party members “never left their air-conditioned, inner-city offices to investigate rural issues for themselves”.

“Senator Rhiannon embarrasses herself by sharing conspiracy theories about kangaroo numbers being in terminal decline,” he said.

“She only has to drive between Winton and Longreach at night to see the plagues of roos.

“Unfortunately Senator Rhiannon won’t be able to see the thousands of roos littering the roadside when she flies home this weekend from Canberra to her home in inner-city Sydney.

“And, anyway, she also wouldn’t know what to do if she found herself in the bush if there wasn’t a pristine walking track with coloured markers leading the way.

“After the Greens have saved the kangaroos from extinction maybe they can save feral dogs or cane toads by taking them to the capital cities to find happy homes.”

Senator O’Sullivan said he had spent his first year in parliament driving to every corner of Queensland talking to constituents about the current drought.

“I have been driving the rural roads across my State for my whole life - I have seen how the land changes and the impacts of drought and flood and fire,” he said.

“Like pretty much all rural people, I don’t need to read an academic study to know what the reality is.”

During a Senate speech in August last year after a lengthy tour of western Queensland, Senator O’Sullivan raised concerns about long-term profitability issues in some segments of the agricultural sector, namely beef cattle production.

But he also pointed out survey work on a property he visited during the tour which showed it had 26,000 kangaroos on 110,000 acres.

“It is professionally estimated that they are eating up to 50 per cent of the pasture,” he said.

“The cattle are competing with this and they are competing with the dogs.”

Senator O’Sullivan said available data “clearly showed” the number of Red, Eastern Grey and Wallaroo kangaroos in Queensland had more than doubled from about 12 million to more than 25 million over the past decade.

“The Kangaroo meat and hide industry is an important program for the government to progress – it will create jobs and build wealth in rural and regional areas – something the Greens’ policies seem to want to stop,” he said.

“The Greens are just economic vandals who are hell-bent on destroying every industry in rural and regional Australia.

“Their economic strategy would end in us all standing naked and cold in a virgin forest eating wild berries.”

Senator Rhiannon also engaged in a vigorous debate on kangaroo numbers and the industry’s value with former veteran Queensland LNP Senator Ron Boswell last year.

In a Senate speech last February, she said two popular myths – that there’s a “super abundance” of kangaroos and the iconic animals are pests – were “so firmly entrenched in the Australian psyche that we do not think to question the science behind shooting kangaroos”.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story quoted the number of full time equivalent jobs created as 211 - Senator Rhiannon has clarified this figure to 880 on Wednesday afternoon.

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


18/02/2015 5:04:55 AM

A quick dose of reality for the Greens. An animal which has a high commercial value that impacts upon a business is far more likely to be embraced by that business, and managed sustainably for the long term than an animal of low to zero comm value. A low value animal is a pest and will be rigorously controlled the cheapest way possible. The greens seem determined to make the roo a zero value animal.
18/02/2015 5:19:27 AM

If the fluffy senator is going to quote science she needs a little more consistentcy. Qld counts clearly show an increase of 30% every year there is a half decent season and if young mortalities were so high than that science was obviously done in a drought year. If numbers did decrease by 50% last year (I can see little evidence) than it was caused by the devastating drought which certainly did the same to stock numbers. The difference being we could sell most of the stock and not watch them starve to death. And as for numbers, there is less than 4 million sheep in Qld and 25 million kangaroo
18/02/2015 6:57:28 AM

Kangaroos aren't like livestock. Cattle grow an enormous amount of meat, very quickly, and can be handled and herded. Kangaroos are wildlife, and remain wild. They can't be handled or herded, but must be shot! That means inherent cruelty and suffering and hygiene issues. Also, it takes up to 12 years for a kangaroo to mature, and even then there's only a small quantity of human-edible meat! How can Senator O'Sullivan claim there are "plagues" of kangaroos? What's the benchmark for "normal" and "plague" numbers, when historically there have always been plentiful kangaroos in Australia?
18/02/2015 6:59:38 AM

As long no one makes a profit from them, the Greens don't care what happens to kangaroos. It's the thought of evil profit that worries them.
18/02/2015 7:29:15 AM

The Greens have no idea about the difference between gross value of production and value added. Not that this comes as a surprise.
18/02/2015 8:52:15 AM

A quick google search says Roos mature to breeding at 16/17 months and only live to 6/8 years in the wild. Maybe they live a lot longer on the dope plants down at the local hippie commune, hey VivKay?
18/02/2015 12:54:56 PM

The female kangaroo is usually pregnant in permanence, except on the day she gives birth; however, she has the ability to freeze the development of an embryo until the previous joey is able to leave the pouch. This is known as diapause, and will occur in times of drought and in areas with poor food sources. The composition of the milk produced by the mother varies according to the needs of the joey. In addition, the mother is able to produce two different kinds of milk simultaneously for the newborn and the older joey still in the pouch. - A very adaptable animal.
18/02/2015 12:59:34 PM

Once in the pouch, it fastens onto one of the four teats and starts to feed. Almost immediately, the mother's sexual cycle starts again. Another egg descends into the uterus and she becomes sexually receptive. Then, if she mates and a second egg is fertilised, its development is temporarily halted. After about 190 days, the baby (joey) is sufficiently large and developed to make its full emergence out of the pouch. So when seasons are good it can have two the three joeys in 12 months, amazing animal and requires management in a modern world like any other animals in our landscape.
Koori Woman
19/02/2015 11:51:48 AM

As an Indigenous Woman who works across Country re educating people about Kangaroos, I find some of the above comments astounding! Embryonic Diapause is rare in East.Grey Kangaroos & unknown in West.Grey Kangas (Dawson 1995) Joeys take app.18 months to wean, Kangas breed at a rate of only 9% yr (Arnold 1991) Rearing of Joeys 200-360days. Kangas do not breed in drought & reduce breeding during dry. Population stabilises in balance with Country. Senator Sullivan you have no clue re Kangas..none. Female Kanga's are pregnant in permanence? Now I've heard it all!! VivKay great comment,you talk sense!!
19/02/2015 12:00:56 PM

Grassfed, you don't know what you're talking about. They have 1 joey in the pouch and 1 at foot. The one at foot takes 18 months to ween. So that is 4 years for 2 joeys. Then 50% of joeys are taken by foxes. Then the road kill. I don't know where you get your so called facts from. Cocky, you're a dill. Kangaroos live till 20 human years. Do ya research properly! There is a major decline in kangaroo numbers. You just have to take a walk in rural Australia to see that! Lots of rabbits, livestock and foxes... Roos? Not so many. You people need your glasses checked!
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