While the NSW Government worked itself into a lather over greyhounds chasing ‘live bait’, speaking emotively of bunny rabbits being ‘torn apart’, it’s strangely inexplicable why it procrastinates at the thought of netting to protect live human bait from being torn apart by predatory sharks.
Since 1998, when killing sharks became illegal, there’s been an every increasing outcry to protect swimmers and surfers. While netting is working successfully on beaches from Newcastle to Wollongong, there’s an odd reluctance to net the shark-infested waters of northern NSW. Despite deaths and injures from shark attacks, the government is unmoved.
The ban on commercial salmon fishing has meant huge increases in the fish population, attracting sharks who are not fussy if it’s a salmon or human feast.
Tourism, the life blood of coastal towns, is threatened; talkfests take the place of action as No Shark Cull and Sea Shepherd cornered the Premier and ramped up opposition to efforts to protect humans in the water.
‘We’re environmentalists down here’, says Ballina Mayor David Wright patronisingly, ‘We cannot put up nets that end up killing marine life.’ Fortunately, realists disagree: ‘If it’s a choice between people and animals, I’m on the side of people every time’, says former PM Tony Abbott, a sentiment echoed by Queensland’s Premier Palaszczuk.
While sharks are the issue du jour in NSW and Western Australia, the crocodile problem goes largely neglected. Since crocodiles were ‘protected’ in 1972, numbers have grown exponentially. ‘If conservation works’, said crocodile expert Graham Webb, ‘you build up the numbers and they start eating people… these things are serious predators.’
Crocodiles don’t just attack in the water; they can climb steep banks and in short bursts move ruthlessly faster than humans on land. It’s estimated more than 200,000 cruise the waterways of Northern Australia and as far south as Rockhampton; a cool-off in the tropical heat is risking your life. As croc ranger Mick Pitman says, the only way you’re safe in water is in the shower.
When the Newman Government proposed culling, the Crocodile Protection society pronounced it ‘absolutely disgusting’, ‘disgraceful’, and the idea of a lucrative business – trophy hunting for overseas tourists – sank without trace. ‘Allowing rich tourists to get their kicks from shooting freeliving crocodiles… has no place in modern Australia,’ trumpeted the RSPCA’s Dr Bidda Jones. Meanwhile, a plethora of government environment websites drip with compassion for domestic predators as animal welfare trumps the need for a civilised lifestyle for humans.
As bats, euphemistically called ‘flying foxes’ and carrying the Hendra virus, descend in their thousands on coastal towns, defecating from the sky, stripping trees, polluting water supplies and turning tourists off in droves, Government bureaucracy is on their side. A field officer, called in to help the Queensland town of Gayndah’s bat problem, forbid any disruption that would cause ‘unnecessary or unreasonable stress’ as ‘bats have rights’.
Meanwhile, as possums party in our roofs, munch their way through the rose bushes and destroy orchards and market gardens of those just trying to make a living, the compassion industry goes into overdrive at any mention of killing them. ‘Relocation’ is the bureaucratic buzz word, which only relocates the problem. Possums are not protected in New Zealand which, sensibly, has a thriving possum fur industry. Meanwhile, concerns over animal welfare delay or prevent economic progress: the yakka skink and ornamental snake are holding up work on our largest coal mine, while frogs and the legless lizard impede progress elsewhere.
Snails are punching well above their weight: the Cumberland is threatening work on Sydney’s new airport and the Boggomoss disrupting work on Queensland’s Nathan Dam. Now that Premier Baird has reversed the greyhound ban as the ‘right thing’ to do, there remains the need for action to protect the live human shark bait along NSW’s north coast.Animal activists are, of course, ‘outraged’ at the thought of sharks being caught in netting. Well, bully for them! Human life comes first.
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