BRISBANE SUPREME COURT DECISION
MISSION BEACH AGILE WALLABIES
Despite months and months of painstaking, tireless work by ASK, local volunteers and our legal team, and the investment of thousands and thousands of dollars in legal costs, donated by our members and supporters, unfortunately we were unable to suspend the five permits issued by the QLD Department of Environment and Heritage to kill 1660 Agile Wallabies and their joeys at Mission Beach Far North QLD. The judge rejected every one of our applications and grounds for review including the fact that the department issued permits for more than the estimated population of Agile wallabies at Mission Beach, despite the fact that the permits had the potential to exterminate the entire Cassowary Coast Agile wallaby population, despite the fact that wallaby proof fencing was a reasonable non lethal alternative to trial before lethal means were employed according to the legislation, but which wasnt used before killing was authorised. The judge also rejected our argument that two of the permits were issued to mitigate damage to pasture for cattle grazing yet these property owners did not have permits to graze cattle as it was world heritage protected land. We also argued that the permits put at risk the public's fair and equitable access to nature, which according to the law must be taken into account, particularly because the wallabies serve a very important role as a tourist attraction at Mission Beach and the permits had the clear potential to wipe out this asset. Instead the judge felt that because the department decision maker did not have any of this information in front of him at the time, that he was not expected to be aware of wallaby proof fencing, or the fact that two of the permit holders did not have permits to graze cattle, or that the wallaby population was at risk of extinction as a result of the permit despite the fact that he failed to conduct proper population counts, therefore he was not in breach of the law, despite the law stating that before a permit is issued, non lethal alternatives must be considered, the conservation of the species must be protected, and the associated precautionary principle must be considered, along with a long list of other legal considerations that must be made by the decision maker before he makes his decision and that we exposed in our legal application. The judge also rejected our application to not have costs awarded against us, instead ordering that we pay for all the legal costs of the Queensland Dept of Environment and Heritage. He was clearly not sympathetic to this cause in any way shape or form.
We would like to sincerely thank everyone involved in this landmark legal challenge against the Queensland government, particularly Ruth Hatten (BAWP) who did absolutely everything in her powers to help us with this case and save the wallabies, including securing the pro bono legal assistance of renowned Barrister Stephen Keim and Barrister Paul Smith. She also secured us Tracey Jackson paralegal from Couper Geyson. Tracey is truly one of the most hard working committed and caring lawyers we have ever known who truly has the interests of the animals in her heart at every step. These four people are truly legendary and we can never ever thank them enough for their dedication to this case and to justice in general. We feel truly honoured to have met and worked with them.
We must also thank David Pollard and Dan Ramp who, as our expert scientists committed hours and hours of work and writing without pay to help this case. These two incredible men are assets to this cause who have truly changed the path for our wildlife in Australia. We could not have even got this case off the ground if it wasn't for their compassion and commitment. Thank you so much guys.
We would also like to dearly thank Tanya Jones, Robert and Sue Tidey, Bruce Smith and Mark and Sissy Vine, who without their brave contribution for their witness statements, we could not have launched this case at all. They are all truly incredible Mission Beach wildlife carers who are fighting for the lives of these precious wallabies at Mission Beach day after day in the face of unimaginable adversity and violence. They are the true heroes here and we thank them for everything they did to assist us in this case and for giving thousands of wallabies another chance at life at their wonderful shelters at Mission Beach.
The photo below is of two of the little orphans at Robert and Sue's sanctuary.
Finally we would like to thank our members and supporters who donated generously and helped in any way they could so that we could fight this case. Thanks to you, we have changed the course of history and even though we lost, our legal team believe we have permanently affected the way in which permits are issued to kill these precious animals in Queensland. We must also remember that because of this case, and the significant media coverage it received in Queensland and nationally, that so many more people have been educated on the issue, as well as learning how important these animals are to so many of us. We must remember that the public education and awareness that is gained through these legal processes is a significant result even though we did not win on paper.
Below are the wise words of our legal team who believe that our case was successful in many ways, even though we lost.
From Tracey Jackson
Para legal Couper-Geyson
“While we are disappointed that we were not successful on any grounds in the application, our client (ASK) is confident that this matter has made a significant difference to the way DEHP will consider future permits. While the Judge found that the decision maker was not bound to consider wallaby proof fencing and other non lethal methods of control before issuing a permit, we can be almost certain that they will consider those issues in the future. We congratulate ASK on taking a brave initiative in the interests of the Mission Beach agile wallabies specifically, and other native animals in general.You all need to feel good about what you’ve done – and what you’ve achieved. Often at RSPCA, when we were faced with a fight we knew we would lose – or dealing with a loss like this – we remind ourselves that these are the times that our work for the animals really counts. Anyone can fundraise and petition and create awareness and run easy winnable court cases – that is when ‘fighting’ for the animals is easy – when everyone is on your side - but it takes courage to fight the unwinnable battles and endure the tough stuff for the animals – to continue when you aren’t winning, when nobody is on your side, and when you’re faced with more hard work than you think you can cope with – that is when you are really doing the job you set out to do”
Our incredible legal team from left, Tracey Jackson-paralegal, Stephen Keim SCand Paul Smith
You can view just some of the news reports on this issue and our court case.