Anyone who happened to notice that I started this blog just over two weeks ago could be forgiven for wondering at my total silence since then. In fact, I was overtaken by an astonishing letter from the ACT Government’s Chief Minister, Andrew Barr.
In my next post, I will provide some brief background material on the ACT government’s annual kangaroo slaughter. Once I get the hang of driving this blog, I will publish some of the background papers I have compiled over the years about this slaughter: the cruelty to the animals, the lack of science to support it, the strong science showing it is causing ecological damage.
In this post today, my main concern is with the ACT government’s apparent disregard for human life – and its own laws.
In September 2015, the Coalition of Animal Protectors (CAP) wrote to the Chief Minister of the ACT with extraordinary evidence that the government had endangered the lives of its own citizens during last year’s kangaroo slaughter.
This evidence has been compiled by CAP primarily from the government’s own documents. It concerns the shooting of kangaroos on an area of unleased public land known as the Rose Cottage Horse Paddocks.
Dog walkers, horse riders, cyclists and many other members of the public, especially from the adjacent suburb of Macarthur, use this land by day and night. The nearby Wanniassa Hills Nature Reserve was closed for the shooting as usual, but there was no signage and no public announcement to warn the public that shooting was also occurring on the horse paddocks.
The unexpected and unannounced shooting of kangaroos on the Rose Cottage Horse Paddocks was reported to the ACT police on 24 June 2015 by a member of the public who believed the shooting to be illegal. Two police constables attended the scene but dismissed the report, accepting the claim of an ACT government ranger (who happened to be on site) that a licence for shooting there did exist. The police did not require the ranger to produce this licence.
From documents received under the Freedom of Information Act some time later, it turned out that, in fact, no licence for shooting on the Rose Cottage Horse Paddocks had existed at that time.
Once the ACT government realised that the unlawful shooting had occurred, it should have immediately cancelled the shooters’ licence. Or, if the shooters and/or the rangers, had made a genuine mistake about what land they were shooting on at the time, the government should have apologised to the public and taken steps to make sure the shooters and the rangers knew where they were allowed to shoot in the future.
Instead, the government responded – the very next day – by including the Rose Cottage Horse Paddocks in another licence that had been issued for shooting kangaroos on several other nearby parcels of unleased public land. Interestingly none of these blocks of land, which are also routinely used by the public, had been sign-posted either, and no announcement had warned the public that shooting was occurring there.
Extending that other licence to include the Rose Cottage Horse Paddocks made shooting there legal from then on.
Despite the clear danger to human life of allowing shooting on land so well-used by the public, the government still failed to put up any signs or make any public announcement to warn people away from the Rose Cottage Horse Paddocks or from the other nearby blocks of unleased public land.
Our submission in September drew all this to the Chief Minister’s attention. We waited three months for a response. Not receiving one, we sent him a reminder. Two days after sending our reminder, we received the letter that has keep me busy for the last two weeks.
The letter merely repeated the government’s tired old attempts to justify its kangaroo killing. It did not acknowledge or address a single one of the legal or public safety issues we had raised in our submission.
So I have spent the last two weeks preparing our submission to the ACT Ombudsman and complaint to the Police Professional Standards Operation Monitoring Centre. I will keep readers posted about what comes of these. If anything.