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Low waterbird numbers, no waterbirds breeding, most wetlands dry -
yet the Victorian Labor Government irresponsibly announces a 2016 duck shooting season, creating public anger

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Premier Daniel Andrews faces internal Labor dissent over duck hunting

January 31, 2016 Farrah Tomazin

Farrah Tomazin

The Sunday Age's state political editor.

Some Labor members claim the decision to allow another duck hunting season leaves the party vulnerable to the Greens.

Some Labor members claim the decision to allow another duck hunting season leaves the party vulnerable to the Greens. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

Premier Daniel Andrews faces internal dissent over his government's decision to allow another duck hunting season – despite Labor's own environmental policy committee calling for a permanent ban.

Rank-and-file members are furious by the move, which they claim could blunt Labor's message against animal cruelty and leave the party at even greater risk to the Greens.

The government has announced the start of a full-length 12-week season, but has imposed fresh restrictions on the daily bag limit amid concerns about low bird numbers and dry conditions.

Illustration: Matt Golding

Illustration: Matt Golding

As part of the restrictions, hunters will be given a bag limit of eight birds on the first day of the season, which begins on March 19, followed by a bag limit of four ducks per day until the season ends on June 13.

However, inside Labor ranks, members have repeatedly called for a rethink on duck hunting by passing a series of motions through the ALP's Conservation, Resources and Environment policy committee.

The first motion was passed in the lead up to the 2014 state election, urging Labor to "prohibit the recreational destruction of native wildlife on public or private land".

The second, passed last May, went even further, asking the government to cancel the scheduled duck season that year and noting that the committee would "support permanently banning the recreational shooting of native water birds."

"People need to be aware that most people in the Labor Party want duck shooting banned, yet they've ignored their own policy committee, they've ignored their branches and they've ignored their members," said one well-placed source.

News of the angst within ALP ranks came as the authority set up to regulate the hunting industry was accused by the Greens of  trying to promote hunting, which is not meant to be part of its role.

Minutes of meetings by the Game Management Authority suggest the body had spent considerable time discussing the potential expansion of hunting in areas where it is currently not permitted, meeting key hunting groups, and attempting to have a more active role in water management.

Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber said the documents – obtained under Freedom of Information laws – exposed the GMA as a bureaucracy for the hunting lobby, rather than an independent regulator.

"What the hunting lobby want is open season on pretty much any wildlife that's on private land," Mr Barber said. "They've now been given their own bureaucracy, with taxpayer resources, that is supposed to enforce hunting laws but is in fact constantly lobbying for expanded hunting opportunities."

However, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford disagreed, saying that the authority – whose role among other things is to make recommendations to the government about game hunting management , the control of pest animals, and declaring public land open and closed to hunting – "has been carrying out its functions appropriately."

Asked why the government decided to open another duck season despite the pleas of its own members and data suggesting that water bird numbers are at significantly low levels, Ms Pulford said: "Labor's 2014 Platform stated that we would promote a range of sustainable uses of Victoria's wetlands, including tourism and recreation, where they are compatible with environmental values."

"While we understand duck hunting may not be everyone's cup of tea and some say we should not go ahead with it - this is an important recreational activity for thousands of people."

"Hunting is an important contributor to many small rural communities. Victoria's 48,000 licensed game hunters, including about 26,000 duck hunters, contribute more than $430 million to local economies each year and help support over 3,000 jobs."

Hunters have also expressed disappointment at the restrictions announced this year. Shooters and Fishers MP Daniel Young said he was not aware of any scientific evidence to prove that the Victorian duck season had any significant impact on duck populations or their recovery in later years.

"Premier Andrews has stated before that duck shooting is a legitimate activity. The announcement of a modified season flies in the face of this while there is no evidence to suggest the need for changes," he said.

Read more:

Duck-season tactic by the State Government reeks of cowardice

January 28, 2016 12:00am ED GANNON Herald Sun

The opening of the duck hunting season last year. Picture: Yuri Kouzmin

THE State Government took political cowardice to new heights last week. Or should that be new lows?


For weeks, shooters and anti-duck season campaigners have been demanding an answer as to whether duck season will go ahead this year.

With the spreading dry, there has been a view that duck populations may have fallen, forcing the Government to pull the pin on the season.

The annual duck season puts a Labor Government in a no-win position. On one hand, approving the annual cull offends those who hate shooting — more often than not Labor-leaning voters — providing more fuel for them to turn their back on the party and opt for the Greens.

On the other hand, Labor wants to show it is the party for all people, that it isn’t just the level-crossing party for city voters. Ticking off duck season sends the message that it does govern for the bush, where duck shooting is seen as part balancing nature and part rite of passage. And don’t forget the outer suburbs, home to a great many shooters.

So the Government faced three options. Ban duck season and risk the wrath of shooters. Let it go ahead and face the fury of anti-duck season leader Laurie Levy and his band of protesters. Or give it the green light but with restrictions on how many ducks can be shot — an option that tries to please everyone but doesn’t really please anyone

Eventually, it chose the latter compromise, with the 12-week season to start on March 19, and a reduction in how many birds can be shot on any one day.

So, how does the Government make such an announcement? By issuing a media release at 10.30pm last Friday.

The gold standard has always been for politicians to release bad news at 5pm on a Friday, with everyone heading off for the weekend. It’s politically known as “taking out the trash”.

But 10.30pm is a world-class performance. Just as Nick Kyrgios was spitting the dummy at the Australian Open and the Melbourne Stars were pumping the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford made the announcement.

If you were willing to give the Government the benefit of the doubt, you could argue it was deliberating all day and only came to its decision at such a late hour.

But it didn’t. For nearly two weeks The Weekly Times was being told an announcement was imminent. Let’s just call it for what is was — an attempt to hide an unpopular decision.

Duck shooting is seen as barbaric by many because the birds are defenceless, and don’t appear to be a pest such as rabbits and foxes. However, for others they are a nuisance that must be controlled. One Mornington Peninsula lettuce grower, Wayne Shields, recently lost 90 per cent of his summer crop and laid off three workers because of damage caused by ducks.

The Government just needed to gulp, hold its nose, and announce duck season in a transparent way, and at a sensible time of the day. It now just looks cynical and sneaky.

And, in doing so, it has failed to win fans of those who support duck shooting, those that oppose it, and those who want open government.

ED GANNON IS EDITOR OF THE WEEKLY TIMES This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


On 4 January 2016 Federal Victorian Labor member for Wills, Kelvin Thomson MP, wrote to Environment Minister Lisa Neville
calling for the recreational shooting of native waterbirds to be banned (see letter below).

PDF Version - 92Kb

Banned: for the first time in 30 years 'waterbirds hero' is silenced

Date: December 16, 2015

Suzanne Carbone

Laurie Levy has been campaigning against duck shooting for 30 years. Photo: Angela Wylie

Laurie Levy has been campaigning against duck shooting for 30 years. Photo: Angela Wylie

When you think about duck hunting, you picture veteran protester Laurie Levy up to his knees in water and holding up a dead or injured bird.

Now, for the first time in 30 years, the campaign director of the Coalition Against Duck Shooting will not be at the opening of the 2016 season after being banned from the wetlands for six months.

Mr Levy, 74, pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday to obstructing a game officer by grabbing his boat at the start of this year's season. Mr Levy was fined $500 for obstruction and $250 for entering the water before 10am.

Lyn White will replace Laurie Levy at the opening of the duck season. Photo: Thom Rigney
Lyn White will replace Laurie Levy at the opening of the duck season. Photo: Thom Rigney

Before duck hunters rejoice at the absence of the man with the moustache and binoculars, he will be replaced by animal cruelty activist, Lyn White, the campaign director of Animals Australia.

Mr Levy, described by supporters as a "hero for waterbirds", told Fairfax Media the battle continued despite his ban. "We've fought so many court cases over the years, I've lost track of them all. It's another battleground. We fight on the wetlands and we fight in the court."

Mr Levy said it felt "strange" that he wouldn't be at the opening of the recreational duck-shooting season but had the utmost confidence in Ms White. "The good thing is Australia's best campaigner, Lyn White, will be on the front line taking my place.

Laurie Levy clashed with a duck hunter in 1991. Photo: Bruce Postle
Laurie Levy clashed with a duck hunter in 1991. Photo: Bruce Postle

"It will shock the Labor government and also shock the Game Management Authority, which is the quasi-government department that oversees the duck-shooting season."

There is doubt whether the 2016 season will proceed due to environmental concerns and native water birds being at their lowest level since surveys began 33 years ago.

The Game Management Authority is monitoring conditions in its report "Considerations for the 2016 season" and notes there are 26,000 licensed hunters in Victoria.

Dead freckled ducks were placed outside Treasury Place in 2014. Photo: Angela Wylie
Dead freckled ducks were placed outside Treasury Place in 2014. Photo: Angela Wylie

Mr Levy said that when he started campaigning in 1986, there were 100,000 hunters. "The culture has changed and duck shooting is no longer acceptable."

Ms White, a former police officer in South Australia, has campaigned about the treatment of live exported animals and provided evidence to the ABC's Four Corners that resulted in the suspension of live exports to Indonesia.

She urged the state government to cancel the 2016 season. "Wetland habitat for native water birds is at the lowest level ever recorded since surveys started some 33 years ago," Ms White said.

"There is glaring evidence that the environmental conditions are in fact much worse than when duck seasons were cancelled on environmental grounds in 2007 and 2008."
Ms White also praised the irreplaceable and "heroic" work of Mr Levy. "To see Victoria's prime protector of waterbirds over the past 30 years, Laurie Levy, banned from the wetlands for six months, for actions that most Victorians would applaud, is an enormous travesty of justice."

David McNabb, the general manager of Field and Game Australia and a hunter for 21 years, said his organisation "acknowledges and respects" people to have a point of view but not when they break the law.

"Hunting is a lawful, legitimate activity that is highly regulated. Hunters in Victoria and throughout Australia contribute more to the active preservation of wetlands than many other groups."

He said the conditions weren't "dire" and believed the season should proceed.
Colin Wood, a duck hunter for 55 years and chairman of the Shooting Sports Council of Victoria, noted Mr Levy's "nuisance value" and said it was "high time" he was banned for interfering with a legal activity.

"These people are putting themselves in harm's way deliberately," he said. "It's annoying to all of us and a serious danger.
"Whether he's doing it or someone else, it's still a problem. Duck hunting is legal and it needs to be able to continue without harassment."

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The Coalition Against Duck Shooting's wrap up of the 2011 duck shooting/rescue season video...

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Media Release


MEDIA RELEASE                                          Tuesday 24 March 2015

Over 100 dead native birds, including threatened and protected species, to be displayed outside the Premier’s office at 10am today

Shooters & Fishers Party Upper House member spins a line to cover up Illegal slaughter of threatened & protected species

The Coalition Against Duck Shooting will display over 100 native waterbirds outside Labor Premier Daniel Andrews’ office, 1 Treasury Place, East Melbourne, today at 10am.

These birds were recovered from just three Victorian wetlands (Lake Murphy, Lake Elizabeth and Bullrush Swamp) during the opening of the 2015 recreational duck shooting season last weekend.

The new Shooters & Fishers Party MP, Daniel Young, who was shooting on Lake Murphy in the state’s northwest on Saturday, stated to the media that: “We all do the right thing ... we know what we’re doing and we only shoot what we’re allowed to.

Campaign Director Laurie Levy today said: “Daniel Young is either spinning a line to the media or incredibly ignorant of the realities of duck shooting.  During the weekend, rescuers recovered over 100 dead or wounded waterbirds, including illegally shot threatened species such as Freckled Ducks, Blue-billed Ducks and Musk Ducks, as well as protected Hoary-headed Grebes, Eurasian Coots and a Swan.

“These illegally shot birds represent just the tip of the iceberg, as rescuers had their hands full searching only three wetlands.

“Millions of taxpayers’ dollars are spent for the benefit of duck shooters, but the job of caring for the innocent wounded victims and recovering illegally shot, threatened and protected species is undertaken solely by volunteer wildlife rescuers, who then face fines of $886 for their efforts.

“The public has a right to question why a modern-day Victorian Labor Government continues to allow this violent and cruel recreational activity, especially as duck shooters make up only 0.4 per cent of Victoria’s population.  
“Instead of being a prisoner to the Victorian gun lobby, it’s time Daniel Andrews started governing for the vast majority of Victorians who abhor animal cruelty,” Levy concluded.

For further information contact:  Laurie Levy, Mobile: 0418 392 826


MEDIA RELEASE                                             Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rescuers to target northwest Victoria for the opening weekend of the 2015 duck shooting season

Labor’s female Ministers fail to veto male gun violence and cruelty to native waterbirds

Rescuers and media news crews hit with new fines of $886 for entering water before 10am

Coalition Against Duck Shooting rescuers will target the Kerang wetlands in northwest Victoria for the opening of the recreational duck shooting season this weekend.  Rescuers and media news crews will face new fines of $886, just for entering the water before 10am.

Campaign Director Laurie Levy today said: “With parts of Victoria in drought, wetlands drying out or completely dry and with low waterbird numbers across the state, the decision to allow a duck shooting season this year is highly irresponsible.

“A number of wetlands have been artificially filled to attract birds for the shooters.  This is nothing more than a form of canned hunting.  Waterbirds will have no chance of escaping shooters on those Victorian wetlands still holding water,” Levy said.

“The Andrews Government’s decision to support and encourage recreational duck shooting, including by children as young as 12, contradicts Labor’s commitment to tackle family violence.

“It’s difficult to understand how Daniel Andrews, who portrays himself as a progressive Labor Premier, can continue to support an outdated blood sport that involves male gun violence and cruelty to native waterbirds.

“Labor responded immediately to the cruelty involved in the greyhound racing industry yet fails to react to the appalling cruelty that duck shooters will inflict on tens of thousands of native waterbirds.

“We had hoped Labor’s female Ministers would help convince their male colleagues that compassionate policies will always win the hearts, minds and votes of Victorians.  With nine women Ministers in Cabinet, it is disappointing that they failed to veto the horrific, unnecessary brutality inflicted on defenceless native waterbirds by recreational shooters. It is unacceptable that children and teenagers are being encouraged to fire powerful shotguns at innocent creatures just for fun,” Levy continued.

Levy said that the new, independent Game Management Authority (GMA), established by the previous Napthine Government using $8.2 million of taxpayer funds, has a serious pro-hunter bias.  Yet the new Labor Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, blindly agreed to the GMA’s recommendations while ignoring the expert ornithological advice of Birdlife Australia and the RSPCA that recreational duck shooting is inherently cruel and no longer sustainable.

“It is appalling that there is still no Victorian Government Department responsible for looking after the interests of Australia’s native waterbirds.  That job is left to volunteer members of the public who face huge fines for helping the wounded victims.” Levy concluded.

For further information, contact:  Laurie Levy, Campaign Director,  Mobile 0418 392 826


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Major decline in waterbird numbers across eastern Australia

Premier Dan Andrews continues the cycle of male gun violence and cruelty to native waterbirds – including ‘canned hunting’

The Coalition Against Duck Shooting has condemned the new Labor Government’s decision to hold a 2015 duck shooting season.  Premier Andrews has ignored the latest science that shows a major decline in waterbird numbers and very few wetlands holding water.  

Campaign Director Laurie Levy today asked: “Why is Victoria holding a recreational duck shooting season when Professor Richard Kingsford’s latest aerial survey shows waterbird numbers have declined by some 60 per cent?  Wetlands across eastern Australia are either rapidly drying out or already dry and native waterbirds are in serious trouble.  Professor Kingsford said the numbers of so-called game species in many areas are far below long-term averages.

“Birds seeking refuge from the drought in northern states will become sitting ducks on wetlands that have been artificially filled just prior to the Victorian duck shooting season.  The government is introducing a form of canned hunting, just to please Victoria’s dwindling number of duck shooters, who make up only 0.4 per cent of the population,” Levy said.

“The Coalition Against Duck Shooting condemns Premier Dan Andrews and his cabinet, including the nine female MPs, for continuing the former Napthine Government’s unnecessary cycle of male gun violence and cruelty to native waterbirds,” Levy said.  

“With so much gun violence taking place around the world today, it is disappointing that in Victoria children from the age of 12 are encouraged onto the wetlands with lethal shotguns and desensitised to violence and cruelty.  Instead we would have expected modern-day Labor politicians would want to teach our children about compassion and kindness.

“Unfortunately the Andrews Labor Government is part of the cycle of male gun violence in this state.  

“The job of looking after Australia’s native waterbirds in Victoria again falls to the Coalition Against Duck Shooting.  We will return to the wetlands in 2015 with our rescue teams and mobile veterinary clinics to help Australia’s native waterbirds,” Levy concluded.

For further information, contact:

Laurie Levy,
Campaign Director,
Mobile: 0418 392 826



YouTube election message to Labor's Opposition leader Dan Andrews and all Labor politicians

To Dan Andrews, Danielle Green, John McLindon, Jacinta Allan, Jennifer Kanis, Jane Garrett, Lisa Neville, Bill Shorten, David Feeney, Noah Carroll, and all Labor politicians.

Dear Mr Andrews,

Lay Down Your Guns is singer/songwriter Daniel Gregory's moving protest song which showcases the actions of duck rescuers and the unacceptable brutality recreational duck shooters inflict on native waterbirds in Victoria.

YouTube Video:

To end this cruelty the Victorian Labor Party must change to a policy opposing male gun violence and cruelty to native waterbirds.

It shouldn’t be too difficult as a dwindling number of duck shooters make up only 0.4 per cent of Victoria's population.

The video is our election message to Labor’s male & female politicians who continue to support male gun violence and cruelty to native waterbirds.

(If you believe any comments made about the Labor Party are inaccurate, we would be happy to remove the video from YouTube.)



Laurie Levy
Campaign Director
Coalition Against Duck shooting
Mobile: 0418 392 826  
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Facebook editorials: Coalition Against Duck Shooting
Twitter: @DuckRescue


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History and Victories

2007 & 2008

Moratoriums called in Victoria and South Australia. The rescue team travelled to Moulting Lagoon, the entrance to Freycinet National Park, on the east coast of Tasmania to confront the shooters and protect waterbirds after the Tasmanian government refused to call a moratorium.


Three states in Australia have now banned the recreational shooting of native waterbirds – Western Australia (1990), New South Wales (1995) and now Queensland (10 August 2005)


Queensland’s Premier Beattie becomes the third state Labor government to ban the recreational shooting of native waterbirds.

The Age editorial (19 March) again calls for the recreational shooting of native waterbirds to be banned in Victoria.

The numbers of duck shooters in Victoria drops from 95000 in 1986 to 19,400 today, although only small number were active on the state's wetlands in 2005.

View our Opening Weekend 2005 article


The Sunday Age editorial (12 January) calls on the Victorian Bracks Government to ban the recreational shooting of native waterbirds in Victoria.

The Victorian government calls a moratorium. Rescue team travels to Tasmania for the opening weekend of their duck shooting season.


The Bracks Government's own Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC) recommends that the recreational shooting of native waterbirds be banned in Victoria because of the inherent cruelty.


Lead shot banned in Victoria.


Premier Bob Carr bans the recreational shooting of native waterbirds in NSW, the second state Labor government to ban the activity.


The Age newspaper editorial (24 March) calls for duck shooting to be outlawed. The first sentence says: 'Duck shooting is not a sport, it is an obscenity'.


The recreational shooting of native waterbirds is banned in Western Australia by the then Labor Government.


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Latest Morgan Research Poll - Majority of Victorians want duck shooting banned.

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