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Featherdale Wildlife Park - Extract from Legislative Council Hansard of 26/09/96

The Hon. J. F. RYAN [4.28]: I put on the record a number of additional concerns I have about the manner in which the law enforcement branch of the National Parks and Wildlife Service has handled complaints against the proprietor, or perhaps the now former proprietor, of the Featherdale Wildlife Park at Doonside, who I will today name, Mr Bruce Kubbere. I hold documents that indicate that the owner of the park has come to the attention of the NPWS on numerous occasions since 1970 for serious and wilful breaches of wildlife protection laws. In many instances the breaches of law have been detected by experienced field officers who have a reputation for their no-nonsense adherence to the law - perhaps the "Merv Beck Raiders" of the wildlife service.

When field officers have detected breaches of the law and sought to prosecute Mr Kubbere they have been stopped from doing so by senior officers, frequently for reasons that have been unexplained. One such officer who detected offences was Mr Clive Bennett. In 1971 he visited property owned by Mr Kubbere and seized numerous young spoonbill and ibis fledglings from the property. Mr Kubbere claimed that he did not know how they got onto his property. Despite Mr Kubbere's claims, Mr Bennett laid charges, which were subsequently lifted by senior officers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, without explanation, before they reached court. Later Mr Bennett visited the Featherdale Wildlife Park and discovered numerous discrepancies between actual number of animals held at the park and the number suggested by the records kept by Mr Kubbere. Mr Bennett again proceeded to take action. Mr Kubbere attended a function at which the then Minister for Healt! h,! ! Laurie Brereton, and the then Minister for Planning and Environment, Eric Bedford, were present. He complained about Mr Bennett to the Ministers. The next day Mr Bennett was called in and reprimanded for his actions and was told to make arrangements to hand back records or evidence taken from Mr Kubbere.

I have an extraordinary report signed by Mr Jack Giles, then assistant director of the wildlife branch of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, now a senior executive of Taronga Zoo. He reported
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that Mr Bennett's action had been the subject of complaints to Mr Brereton and the Minister for the Environment and he criticised Mr Bennett for being too confrontational. He ordered him to fall into line with the practice adopted by other investigators of checking with head office before they conducted inspections of suspect properties. Finally, Mr Bennett was told to return the evidence which he had collected from Mr Kubbere as rapidly as possible. I also have a report from Mr Bennett's immediate superior officer, who answers in full all of Mr Giles' complaints about Mr Bennett. He complained that head office was attempting to emasculate his law enforcing efforts. These reports, when read together, provide a fascinating insight into how mates looked after mates in the Wran Government.

In 1984 Mr Bennett again had cause to investigate Mr Kubbere. This time it was as a result of an advertisement in a newspaper in which Mr Kubbere indicated that he had rare Australian native birds for sale. Mr Bennett uncovered the fact that Mr Kubbere had the birds and did not have a licence to hold them, much less sell them. Mr Bennett sought permission from the previously mentioned Jack Giles to prosecute Kubbere. According to a statement made by Mr Bennett to police he was told by Mr Giles not to take action because the Minister was "reviewing all exhibitors and you do not need to inspect premises". I also have a 1988 report from the National Parks and Wildlife Service prepared by Mr Patrick Holland, who now works in the office of the Minister for the Environment. In that report it is clear that Featherdale Wildlife Park was the subject of a visit by a ranger called Ken Blade, who found that Mr Kubbere again did not have his record bo! ok! ! s up to date. Mr Kubbere had to leave in a hurry just before representatives of the parks service arrived. Mr Blade was given three conflicting reasons for Mr Kubbere's hurried departure. Later Mr Holland reported a conversation in which Mr Kubbere admitted that he did not have his books up to date. In that report Mr Kubbere is quoted as saying:

      Look I have done you lots of favours over the years. John Cook used to bring the new rangers out here to look at the place and learn the ropes. John still calls in from time to time . . . I have done a lot for you people. I have a donation box and I've given John Cook information about other fauna dealers . . . Look I'm a busy man, I only get to do the books once or twice a week.

Mr Kubbere was again told to submit his books. I do not know what happened after this incident but I understand that once again Mr Kubbere escaped legal action. I make no suggestion that Mr Holland, from Pam Allan's office, acted improperly. Another ranger, Bob Conroy, had reason to recommend action against Mr Kubbere in July 1992 for offences again involving trading in rare birds. I have a document indicating that he had to chase up senior parks service officers to take action against Mr Kubbere five months later. In March Mr Kubbere received a letter from Mr D. A. Johnstone of the National Parks and Wildlife Service telling him that although prosecution action had not been instituted against him on this occasion, his attention was drawn to a number of matters, which I take it were found to be inadequate. Why was action not taken against him? It was hardly his first offence. I also have a memo from the same Bob Conroy dated a month later indicating ! th! ! at he wished to discuss, among other things, with senior National Parks and Wildlife Service staff, items such as the apparent protection of some fauna dealers - birds exhibitors. How lucky can a person get? Mr Kubbere appears to have been a protected species himself. [Time expired.]

Extract from the Legislative Council Hansard of 26/09/96 - Corrected Copy

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