I would very much like to begin by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, whose land we stand on today, and I pay my respects to their traditions and customs and to their elders, past, present and future. Given where I am standing, I must also acknowledge our collective history of the treatment of the first proud peoples of Sydney Harbour and the rest of this land that was named New South Wales. The path to full reconciliation and equality with our indigenous sisters and brothers has taken too long, as has tangible and long-lasting action. The recent move to recognise Aboriginal Australians in our Constitution, while welcome, was shockingly overdue.
We still seem a long way from reaching the moment when we can all proudly say that an Aboriginal Australian can expect to live to the same age as an average non-Aboriginal Australian, and we still seem a long way from reaching the moment when an Aboriginal mother feels safe in the knowledge that her baby has the same chance of living a healthy life and receiving a decent education as the majority of other Australian babies. Here I acknowledge the Aboriginal women and men who have stood tall and fought tirelessly, since the day European boats began arriving on their shores, for their people's rights, dignity and self-determination.
This State has a proud and often colourful history of struggle, of ordinary people standing up for their rights and the rights of others. And this Parliament has hosted many inspiring leaders and visionaries, and I stand here profoundly aware of this history and my responsibility and accountability to the people of New South Wales. I am taking this seat in the place of Lee Rhiannon, whose tireless work in ensuring that the big end of town is held accountable for its actions is admired and respected by communities across New South Wales. Her work both in the Parliament and in the community has been a constant inspiration, and I look forward to seeing her continue to fight for the people and environment of New South Wales as a senator in the Federal Parliament.
If I am able to continue her work with just half the energy, integrity and determination she has shown during her years here, I will be fulfilling my responsibilities well. The people of New South Wales can rest assured, however, that I will aim for much more than half. The hard work and dedication over many years of other past and present Greens colleagues in this place—Sylvia Hale, John Kaye and Ian Cohen—is also inspirational, and I look forward to continuing that work with John, Ian, David Shoebridge and others in coming years. In July next year Lee Rhiannon will join eight other Greens senators and the Federal member for Melbourne in providing this country with strong, compassionate leadership. I have no doubt they will provide a stable, steadying hand on the Government's shoulder to the enormous betterment of this great nation of ours.
I join 21 Greens elected to State and Territory parliaments across the country and many more in local government. I feel immensely proud of my party's ongoing achievements, and feel able to say with a good degree of certainty that these numbers will grow within a few short months. More Greens are getting elected to all levels of government across Australia because more and more people are realising that the Greens represent their values and give voice to their vision—a shared vision of a fair and decent country. This is a vision of an Australia where the voices of communities and the needs of the environment are heard over the greed and self-interest that has come to go hand-in-hand with so many of the activities of big business and industry in this country.
This is a vision of a country where ecologically sustainable development means just that; a vision of a country in which views are tolerated, rights are upheld and our wonderfully rich diversity of peoples, cultures, religions and choices are respected and celebrated; a vision of a country in which communities are healthy and resilient, our cities liveable and sustainable, and our lives rich with learning and discovery and full of creative pursuit; and a vision of a country where our children and young people feel secure, loved and confident, and have the freedom simply to be children. My role as an elected Greens member of Parliament is to play my part in bringing this vision one or two steps closer to becoming a reality, in making New South Wales a better place.
The Greens vision of a just, peaceful and sustainable world, articulated so eloquently by Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown, is being heard and accepted by a growing number of people not only across Australia but also across the world. There are Greens parties in more than 70 countries, with some sharing government in countries such as Latvia and Finland; and in Ireland, too, where there is a Green Minister for Sustainable Transport, a Green Minister for the Environment and a Green Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. And of course here in Australia we are seeing a growing number of Greens elected representatives taking on positions of increased responsibility at all levels of government. The Greens are truly an exciting, dynamic party of which to be a part.
My father's family here in Sydney has a long history of active Labor involvement. As the first active Green in my extended family I perhaps represent the growing number of people of my generation, as well as those older and younger, who see the Greens as a party that shares their vision of a just, peaceful and sustainable world. My colleagues and I are here representing people who want their parliamentarians to care about and stand up for people, not vested interests. We are here because an increasing number of people see the Greens as playing a vital role in the ongoing fight for justice, equality and the protection of our natural heritage. We are here because an increasing number of people see the Greens as the party that champions open and transparent government. And we are here because an increasing number of people see the Greens as the party that represents their own values of compassion, fairness, integrity and respect for nature.
The four founding principles of the Greens are ecological sustainability, social justice, peace and non-violence, and grassroots democracy. These principles will guide the work I do in and outside of this place, while the party's thousands of passionate and dedicated grass roots members will inspire me to ensure I do that work with humility, integrity and purpose. I am well aware that I, like all other elected Greens across the country, am riding on the shoulders of an extraordinary network of committed party members across New South Wales and Australia and I thank you all for everything you have done to get us where we are today and for where I stand today.
In 1970 I was one of approximately 10,000 babies born in Australia who was put up for adoption. Though my birth mother lived in Melbourne, she joined other girls-in-waiting at St Margaret's Women's Hospital, in Darlinghurst, in the months before my birth. When I was reunited with her 10 years ago she told me she had lived with the most enormous amount of regret at her decision, a decision she felt forced to make due to society's notions of what an ideal woman and family were at the time. Her story of how she and her unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock were viewed back then makes me thankful we have come a long way. I am thankful to the struggles of the feminist movement, from the first suffragettes to the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1970s and later, that a woman now has more control over her reproductive choices in Australia than ever before. I am thankful too that in 2010 pregnancy out of marriage is no longer viewed by most as the bringing into this world of an illegitimate child by a girl who got into trouble.
I am a proud feminist and note with dismay how much more we still have to do before a woman's gender does not impact on the amount of pay she will earn in her lifetime, or when a woman's gender does not mean she will be so much more at risk of experiencing sexual assault than her male counterpart. In the early 1990s I attended Griffith University in Queensland, where I worked closely with a group of passionate and feisty women to establish a Women's Room and Women's Collective on campus. We used these partly as a basis to play our part in the active pro-choice campaigns in Queensland at the time. Despite the relentless work of the pro-choice lobby, it is a blight on the history of women's rights in this country that in New South Wales and Queensland a woman and her doctor can still be charged under the Crimes Act for procuring an abortion. It is my goal to work with progressive women from all sides of politics to decriminalise abortion during my time here.
At three weeks of age I was adopted by loving parents who had recently settled in country Queensland, growing up living a life of comfort, love and having the freedom to roam and explore the town and bush around me. As is the case with many people who are passionate environmentalists, I have no doubt that my love of nature and animals was instilled in me from a very early age. Owning and caring for pets, camping with my father and brothers and bushwalking with my parents in the beautiful rainforests of Lamington National Park are some of my most precious childhood memories. I firmly believe that each and every child must be able to enjoy many positive experiences of the natural world if we are to ensure that as a society we value nature and understand our fundamental connection to it. To this end I believe that environmental education, including the study of the appreciation of nature, must become a central component of our education system in this country.
I am a firm believer in the links between social equality and a healthy environment. I recognise that the conservation of nature and the attainment of truly sustainable communities will only be possible when people have their physical, emotional and spiritual needs fully met. During my time in this place I will be standing up and speaking out for New South Wales's precious natural areas, its magnificent coastlines and its too many threatened species and eco-systems, like many before me have done. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to those passionate men and women, particularly from regional New South Wales, who stick up for the environment, for nature and for animals often in the face of adversity and sometimes shocking abuse. The vast majority of people in New South Wales respect and admire your determination in giving a voice to the environment and to seeing a world full of natural wonders passed on to future generations to love and enjoy.
Here, I would like to acknowledge the passion and fighting spirit that my colleague Ian Cohen has shown in his years of speaking up for the environment in this place and outside of it. Due to the dedication of conservationists like him over many decades, and yes, due to those committed individuals within past and present governments who have listened, New South Wales has an extensive national park system that contains some of the most remarkable natural areas in the world, some of them right here on our doorstep. From the World Heritage areas of Barrington Tops and the Blue Mountains, to the eerily beautiful moonscape of Mungo National Park in the State's west, to the spectacular gorges and forests of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia system in the State's far north, New South Wales is immensely rich with nature's wonders. Yet despite this track record of national park declaration from both Labor and Liberal governments alike, our natural environment is in trouble. Because when it comes to ensuring that future generations can enjoy and reap the rewards of a healthy natural world like we are so lucky to be able to today, national parks are not enough.
In this the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, New South Wales has little to boast about in some vital areas of biodiversity conservation. Sustainability assessments undertaken by the Department of Environment and Climate Change for its 2009 New South Wales State of the Environment report show that 64 per cent of all assessable fauna species and 65 per cent of birds have a moderate or greater risk of extinction. Meanwhile fish stocks and marine ecosystems are under significant pressures. As a child I loved fishing with my father and brothers and remember nights when the amount of whiting you could catch off the beach or bream off the jetty seemed never-ending. Now, an increasing number of people who make their living from the sea the world over are speaking of empty nets and worrying how to make ends meet.
We must restore the balance between the rights of future generations 100 years or more from now to throw a line out with their children and catch something in return and for communities everywhere to enjoy healthy food from the sea, with the rights we enjoy now to harvest such an extraordinary amount of fish and other marine life from our oceans. We must also ask ourselves what value do we place on nature? We need to work together on finding solutions to this fundamental question if we are to turn around the decline in the health of our natural environment. If we better understood the value of what we receive from nature—the fresh water, healthy soils, food, medicines, clean air as well as relaxation and enjoyment—we would better recognise the urgency and importance of safeguarding what we have left.
Here in our own backyard of Sydney, how much do we really value healthy water catchments if we continue to allow longwall mining to take place under rivers that supply Sydney with its drinking water? What value do we place on our rivers when longwall mining causes riverbeds to crack and subside, and for some of this water in rivers on the driest continent on earth to simply drain away? And in our wider backyard of New South Wales, what value do we place on healthy soils and aquifers when we prioritise coalmine after coalmine over the health of some of the nation's most productive agricultural land? Are we passing on a world to our children and theirs with no birds in the sky or fish in the sea? Though dire, this is not a hopeless situation but will require true environmental leadership from present and future governments to protect habitat, both terrestrial and marine, to ensure the survival of many species.
We all have a responsibility to leave a legacy for our children and future generations of a healthy and productive planet. Life on earth, in all its miraculous forms, has evolved over billions of years, while we modern humans and our towns and cities have been around for an almost insignificant amount of time comparatively. However our impact on the earth has been far from insignificant. I truly hope I can play some part in ensuring laws are introduced that begin to address the drivers of the ecological crises around us. The impact that climate change will have, and is having, on communities across Australia, as well as on the plants and animals that call this beautiful nation of ours home is profound.
During my more than five years heading up the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales it was distressing to see this devastating environmental crisis that humanity has brought upon itself and the natural world not receiving anywhere near the attention it so urgently requires.
Like many Australians, I am angry and dismayed at the inaction of governments the world over to reduce carbon pollution, and at how beholden they are to the vested interests of companies whose polluting activities are those that need to be controlled. Future generations will look back at this time with an even greater sense of anger and dismay if the people given the power to act continue to sit and do nothing. I truly hope that I can work with many of you in this place from all sides of politics in the coming years on lasting solutions to the climate change problem. We must rise above our political persuasions, beliefs and ideologies to work together on this, still our greatest moral challenge. Unless we all work together to end the undue influence of industry and big business on our system of government and political decision-making then communities and environmental interests will continue to be sold out in the quest for higher profits and so-called shareholder value. I look forward to supporting the work of my Greens colleagues in this fundamentally important area and to working with them and others to expose the undue influence and corruption of our democracy at every opportunity.
Finally, I must speak on another issue close to my heart. During my time at university my brother Richard ended his long battle with paranoid schizophrenia by taking his own life. I will be working to support organisations and individuals who undertake advocacy and provide vital support for people experiencing mental illness, and their families, particularly support that prevents young people from suiciding. More than 10 per cent of people in New South Wales suffer from a long-term mental health or behavioural problem—a shocking statistic, which I hope during my time here I can play some small part in addressing.
I am looking forward to my time in this place, excited and somewhat daunted at how much there is to do if any part of the vision I outlined earlier is to be realised for our country, for our communities, and for our children. I do know that the task ahead will be made that much easier by the support of those around me, including the Greens members and supporters in the gallery tonight. Your dedication to the Greens vision is so inspiring and I look forward to working with you all for communities and special places across New South Wales over the coming months and years.
To my friends in the gallery who are not party members, I look forward to our time together sharing stories and laughter over a meal now more than ever before. To my parents, who could not be here tonight, and to Paul's family who is now mine too—Margaret, Michael, Marley and Luca—thank you for your love and acceptance. And to my life partner, Paul Sheridan, without whose love and support I know I would not be standing here today, simply thank you.
It is with pleasure that I join in debate on the Plant Diseases Amendment Bill 2010 and advise the House that the Shooters and Fishers Party supports the bill. As this is my inaugural speech to this Chamber, I acknowledge the fact that, for me, the occasion is one of both pride and of sadness at the same time. It is a great honour and a privilege to be elected to this place, but I am here as a replacement for my friend and colleague the late the Hon. Roy Smith, whose sudden death shocked us all.
I place on record from the outset that Roy's work will be continued. He flagged a number of issues he wanted dealt with in his inaugural speech to this place just over three years ago. I will continue with that agenda, and indeed add many topics of my own to that list. Particularly, I hope to continue to negotiate further changes to the firearms legislation that Roy was working on when he died. He was seeking to make more sensible amendments to aspects of the legislation that unreasonably restrict legitimate firearm owners, but do nothing to enhance public safety. On that issue we were, and always had been, like-minded. Roy was also keen on reintroducing shooting sports and firearms safety programs in public school sports programs. This is another key point that we will pursue.
Target shooting is a popular and international sport; indeed both a Commonwealth Games event and an Olympic event. Our football, cricket and tennis stars begin their sporting careers at school. We believe our young shooters should be given the same opportunities in their chosen sport. I publicly place on the record my thanks to a number of people, first, to my friends and colleagues in the Shooters and Fishers Party, to my parliamentary friend and colleague Robert Brown and to John Tingle, the party's founder and its first parliamentary representative.
I have worked with Robert and John since joining the party in 1992 and as Chairman of the Shooters Party in 1995. I have watched the comings and goings of this place as more than just a disinterested observer for more than 15 years. Roy, Robert and I owe much to John for his mentoring and leadership—particularly in the way in which during his time in this place he earned the respect of members from all sides of the Chamber. His path-finding efforts after being elected in 1995 have made it all the easier for those of us who have followed in his footsteps.
I also acknowledge the invaluable support for the Shooters and Fishers Party from the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, particularly the New South Wales and Sydney branches of which I have been a member since 1974, but also all the other branches throughout the State that share our aim of protecting and promoting the rights of shooters and hunters. The same should be said for Australian Hunters International—a club that I, with five others, founded in 1982—and for all the hundreds of other clubs, large and small, around this great State of ours.
Recently the Shooters Party changed its name to the Shooters and Fishers Party. We are unashamedly a party that seeks to promote and defend the rights of our core constituents—the shooters and fishers of New South Wales. We also understand our position in this place. Unlike other minor parties, we do not seek to be the Government: We seek only to represent the people who support us and so, in votes in this Chamber, we will generally support whichever of the major parties is in Government, unless the legislation impacts inappropriately on the shooters and fishers of the State.
I believe that the Shooters and Fishers Party is still unique in the world of Westminster parliaments in that New South Wales is the only State to have specific representation for shooters and fishers in its Parliament. We intend to work tirelessly at increasing our representation in this place. We will even have a close look at certain lower House seats, should circumstance require it.
Of course my greatest supporters have been my family, particularly my lovely and activist wife, Cheryl, to whom I have been married for 34 years. We have three beautiful adult children—my daughter, Annie, and twin sons, Robert junior, and Adam. Annie in turn has a real hardworking, dedicated, great husband in Adam and they have two beautiful children—my first grandchildren, Alicia, aged two, and Aiden, aged five months. Cheryl has been my rock in life. She is very independent of mind, a great sounding board, and a hard worker for all those causes and groups that she sees as needing support. She has always supported me in everything I have done since we met in Rover Scouts at the age of 19. Life's ups and downs have been many, but Cheryl Anne is a constant.
I am the Australian product of migrant parents, Czeslaw and Tini Borsak, the eldest of their three children. I have a younger brother, Stephen, and a still younger sister, Christina. My parents ended up in Australia, as many millions did, after World War II destroyed their homes, their way of life and communities in Europe. Their story is different, but not unique to their generation at that time. My father was born in the regional town of Biala Podlaska in eastern Poland in 1918. He was apprenticed as a tailor and, by the age of 21, already had his own small business in Warsaw. By 1 September 1939, the date Germany invaded Poland, he was well established and prospering. My mother was a school girl, 12 years of age, living in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
By 1942 my father had been involved in the intrigues of the local resistance movement and its many factions for some time—one might say warring factions. On 2 October that year, he was arrested at his shop by the Gestapo, charged with being a Communist member of the underground, and put into Pawiak central prison in Warsaw. Here he was interrogated until eventually he was shipped out to Majdanek concentration camp, located near Lublin, on 17 January 1943. After a short internment there, he was condemned to Buchenwald concentration camp and shipped there by rail; he was without any food or water for four days. I can still remember that when my father did talk about his experiences of that time—and that was not often—he would describe them as his descent into Dante's description of hell.
Somehow, though, he survived those experiences. With the Allied forces rolling eastward, early one morning in October 1945 he escaped into the Weimar forest. He hid there for three days and eventually was found by a United States of America Army patrol; he was sleeping by a fallen tree and still dressed in his prison garb. Dad spoke fluent English, having taken English lessons at night school. He also spoke German and Russian. When asked to identify himself, he said his name was "Borsuk", which in Polish means badger—an animal that is very common in the forests of Europe. However, the name he gave was taken down as "Borsak". His real name was Mojsiejuk—a fact that he was keen to hide because of his Communist arrest papers: Better to be unrecognised than risk going behind wire again. He then spent the next two years, until September 1947, in the American Army as part of a Polish Brigade, until he was demobbed with the rank of captain and told to go home.
He had decided that Poland under Communism was not what he wanted. Hearing that there was plenty of work in Holland, he moved to Amsterdam as an official displaced person. He quickly found work in his trade and started to put his life together. He introduced himself to my mother Tini, née Feenstra, at a tram stop, and asked her out for coffee. They had seen each other on occasion in the building in south Amsterdam where she worked as a trainee nurse and my father shared lodgings upstairs. My mother took a real leap of faith with my father. She was only 19 and was working towards formal admission into nurse training. She was born in Zwolle in 1928 and was living with her parents in north Amsterdam. My parents married on 4 November 1948.
I believe at that time my father thought that another European conflict between Russia and the Allies would break out, and so he resolved to get as far away from Europe as he could go. He applied for migration to South Africa, Argentina and Australia. The Australian papers came through first. He had saved his own fare, my grandfather paid for my mother's fare, and they left Rotterdam on the ship Volledum in December 1948. They arrived in Sydney in January 1949. They started in a rented bedsit at Cammeray, paying key money to get in with £25 they had saved. They moved 10 times in the following years until, in 1952, they bought a new fibro two-bedroom house in Punchbowl.
I was born on 14 August 1953 at Crown Street Women's Hospital, commenced school at St Jerome's, Punchbowl, and then I went to St John's, Lakemba, until 1962.
During this whole time my father was self-employed—he had a tailor shop in Railway Square in the city—and he remained self-employed for his whole life.
I had a great carefree childhood. We used to roam the streets with our school friends, all over the neighbourhood. I played soccer for Punchbowl soccer club—the red and green devils—and I was the best and fairest in the under 10s in 1962. They were great years. I never forget cracker night and bonfires in the back yard, exploring Salt Pan Creek, catching blue tongue lizards, and trapping and snaring rabbits. Then my father, homesick, decided to sell up and in the middle of the Cold War move us all to Poland in 1963. I can remember being excited about the prospect of seeing snow for the first time. We arrived in the middle of winter in January 1963 to minus 35 degrees celsius, in my father's home town. Poland had hardly changed since the war. There were still war-damaged buildings and pot-holed roads all over the country. It was a great experience for me as I was old enough to remember nearly everything, but it took me only six months to say to my parents that as soon as I was old enough, "I'm going back to Australia; you can't get good chewing gum over here."
By July 1966 we were back in Australia and had moved into the dormitory part of Ashfield in a flat that my father purchased. Within two years he had scraped up enough money with a second mortgage to buy his house in Ashfield near the station; I think he paid about $14,000 for it. This was the house he lived in until the day he passed away in March 1996, after he proudly told me that he had voted for John Tingle in the 1995 election from his hospital bed at Concord. In 1966 I enrolled in Ashfield Public School, then in Ashfield Boys High School and spent the rest of my school life at that school.
My brother and I joined First Ashfield Scout Group shortly after arriving. I did my scouting under a great Scout Master, the late Ron Rowe. Apart from my father, he probably influenced me the most in life. Whereas my father taught me never to lose sight of my goals and never to give up, Ron taught me about structure and achievement and put goal orientation in my life. He also introduced me to his great love of the Australian bush. With him, I went right through scouting, achieving all goals, through to the Queens Scout Award and the Duke of Edinburgh Award. I made lifelong scouting friends. Even today we still get together once a year for a reunion camp, revisiting old camp sites if we can find them.
My first interest in hunting was spear fishing. I used to haunt the beaches we could reach by train and bus, carrying my home-made spears, goggles and flippers, looking for any opportunity to hunt underwater. At the age of 15 I bought my first single-barrel 12 gauge shotgun and hunted during school holidays on friends' properties down the South Coast around Merimbula and Bega. I was keen on rabbits and foxes. We used to shoot hundreds over the school holidays—the hills were alive with them. I remember shooting foxes in the spotlight at night, along with rabbits, and selling the better rabbits to the local shop owner down the coast. We kept the best rabbit and fox skins, and tanned them ourselves.
Life changed somewhat after I matriculated with the Higher School Certificate: I was told by dad that he could not afford to keep me full time at university. Any thought of being a geography and art teacher studying at the Australian National University with a small teachers college scholarship went out the door. I did not really want to be a teacher, so I had to find employment and resolved to be an accountant. After winning a company cadetship with Waltons Stores, I studied part time at night at the University of Technology, Sydney, for a degree in business studies, majoring in accounting. Over the following seven years I completed my Certified Public Accountant [CPA] qualifications, got a public practice certificate and became a registered tax agent.
My business career has been varied. After Waltons I was employed by News Limited, then by Coopers and Lybrand and then by George Ward Steel. After we sold that company to a BHP subsidiary a hunting friend of mine, Rick Tween, invited me onto the board of an international insurance broking company, Lowndes Lambert, as Finance Director. I left that company in 2002 as Group Managing Director, I thought to enjoy semi-retirement and develop my personal business interests. I am currently an investor, owner and consultant to some 11 different private companies, employing about 200 staff, turning over about $50 million a year, primarily involved in steel and aluminium fabrication and manufacturing, and computer software and systems solutions. I still keep up my CPA public practice work, though now in a very modest and small way.
I have been involved with the Game Council of New South Wales, prior to set-up and subsequent enactment, first as a councillor, then as chairman since 2004, until my recent resignation prior to being elected to this place. This authority is a groundbreaking organisation that sets the standard for conservation hunting in Australia. It is a template that should be followed nationally if we are to properly use the skill, enthusiasm and knowledge of our volunteer conservation hunters Australia-wide. There simply is not enough money in all the treasuries of Australian governments that can successfully substitute for the free resources of our volunteer conservation hunters. We should be organising them and using them.
I have been a keen and dedicated conservation hunter since the age of 15. I have hunted all over the world, participating in real conservation and wildlife management programs, not just with my mouth but also with my money, time and emotion. Hunters are at the real sharp end of conservation. They provide the real dollar for programs all over the world over the long haul. Recently a small part of the media has sensationalised that I hunt elephants and that, by implication, this is bad. Hunting elephants as part of national programs has guaranteed their survival in countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania and many other African countries that conduct such programs.
If the Black Rhino had been on licence in 1982, when I first saw them in the wild in the Chewore Hills on the Zambezi escarpment, then they probably would still be there today. Conservation hunters would have guaranteed their survival by putting money into the pockets of the starving farmers, who were ultimately wooed into poaching for rhino horn instead. Professional national parks staff could not save the rhino; they were understaffed and under-resourced. If you knew as many white hunters as I do, many of them ex national parks staff, you would begin to understand.
I hunt because I like to hunt; it is part of my genetic make-up. It is in all of us, just more strongly expressed in some than others. Those countries that work with hunters in programs all over the world guarantee the long-term viability of all species and their wild places. The same goes for New South Wales and, indeed, Australia, though we are in an even uniquely worse position. We probably have the world's worst feral animal problem. No parts of our wild places in New South Wales are not infected with feral cats, foxes, pigs, goats, rabbits, hares and wild deer. Even the so-called wilderness areas do not escape their predation on native marsupials, insects, reptiles and birds, large and small, or their effect on native grasses and plants.
The same goes for our total lack of proper balanced conservation of native birds and certain native species. We should be encouraging their management as game, thereby guaranteeing their long-term value and the value of their wild places, whether on public or private land. It is only with the controlled intervention of man in the landscape that we can hope to keep some semblance of what we have in wild species in New South Wales. Total blanket protectionism has failed the biodiversity of New South Wales and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
As for politics, I can thank the Unsworth Labor Government for radicalising me as a shooter, ably assisted by the Howard Government. An especially vivid bad memory for me is the one of John Howard wearing a bullet-proof vest whilst addressing a meeting of shooters in Victoria. That image remains burnt in my brain. If any government epitomised the total lack of understanding of the Australian shooter, their peaceful law-abiding nature and his sporting shooter heritage, it was John Howard's Government. After the 1996 firearms law reforms the whole attitude to law-abiding shooters seemed to change, and not for the better. Personally, I resent being viewed or treated by anyone as a criminal in waiting; yet here I am in this place, 14 years later, having to talk in these terms. It is plainly just not acceptable.
I refuse to bow to a wrong public view of shooters and hunters that is being actively promoted by a small section of the media and certain activists in some parts of political life in Australia. The flak-jacket Howard view of decent Australian shooters and hunters is insulting and just plain wrong, and I will continue to work to change it. I thank honourable members for their polite forbearance, and for listening to my life history and political views. I look forward to lively democratic debates in this place in the future.