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'Stitch-up': inquiry's duck hunting ban call raises ire

Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS

Victoria may have held its last duck hunting season after an inquiry recommended a ban, riling shooters and some unions.

An upper house committee tabled a report to state parliament on Thursday calling for recreational duck hunting to be banned across all Victorian public and private land from 2024.

Committee chair and Labor MP Ryan Batchelor said native bird populations had been falling over the past 40 years because of habitat loss.

"The environmental science showed a long-term decline in population numbers of native birds, and that outlook worsening with climate change," he told reporters.

Other recommendations include converting duck hunting reserves into public land where people can camp and fish, allowing traditional owners to continue hunting, and retaining exemptions for farmers to control bird populations on agricultural land.

Estimates of duck wounding rates provided to the committee ranged from six per cent to 40 per cent each year, equating to at least 15,700 ducks during the 2022 season.

Even with improved safeguards, the report ruled thousands of ducks would still be wounded.

The RSPCA urged the Andrews government to legislate a ban.

"This report is the next crucial step to end native bird hunting in Victoria," state chief executive Liz Walker said.

Animal Justice Party MP and committee member Georgie Purcell, who has faced death and rape threats during the inquiry, said the government could cancel the 2024 season with the stroke of a pen.

"They can cancel next year's season in the gazette and then they can commit to legislating on it before 2025," she said.

The majority report found there was little data on the direct economic impacts of native bird hunting, but noted the state collects about $8.4 million a year from 58,000 licensed hunters.

Victorian taxpayer funds are used to monitor bird populations and hunting compliance, but the report said policing was almost an impossible task because of game reserves being vast and dispersed.

Sheena Watt, one of three Labor committee members, wrote a minority report despite voting for the 17 findings and eight recommendations to be adopted.

In it, the Yorta Yorta woman was at odds with the call for an outright recreational ban, instead suggesting more stringent management, regulation and compliance.

The Victorian government is required to respond to the report within six months, and Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated it will do so in due course.

Field and Game Australia chief executive Lucas Cooke accused the government of launching the inquiry with a "pre-determined outcome" and flagged a targeted campaign to lobby local Labor MPs.

"Hunters have broadly, for probably too long and to our detriment, been a silent majority," he said.

Electrical Trades Union state secretary Troy Gray told the committee in June that any duck hunting ban would trigger a mass walk-off on projects across the state.

In a joint statement with the CFMEU and two other unions, the ETU boss described the inquiry as a "farce".

Mr Gray said it was time for government leaders to decide if they stood with working-class communities or animal rights activists.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Jeff Bourman and coalition members separately called for duck hunting not to be banned in their own minority reports.

Mr Bourman said the majority report was a "stitch-up" and disputed the wounding rate data.

Channelling former prime minister Scott Morrison, Liberal committee member Evan Mulholland said Ms Purcell and others wanted to "end the weekend" for all Victorians.

"Next will be deer hunting, next will be four-wheel driving," he said.

Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania are the only states where duck shooting is permitted.

Western Australia, NSW and Queensland banned it in 1990, 1995 and 2005 respectively.