Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Economy

A light at the end of a decade-long tunnel …

And so … after at least a decade, millions of dollars, constant war and constant derision – and including a $5000 Reward hosted by Tasmanian Times for a freshly-killed fox – a light appears to have dawned … Mercury: Rockliff switches sides on fox hunt TASMANIA’s controversial and expensive fox hunt wasted millions of dollars chasing ­imaginary pests, Jeremy Rockliff told Parliament yesterday. The Primary Industries Minister accused Labor of putting all its bio­security resources into “chasing imaginary foxes around the state” and leaving other areas exposed. The Fox Eradication Taskforce was established by the Labor government in 2001 and billed as a necessary response to the biggest invasive pest threat the state had ever faced. Since then $50 million had been spent. At its peak the fox taskforce had a staff of 63 and 34 vehicles. Reported sightings, the discovery of scat and a dead fox near Burnie were cited as evidence that a population had become established. Mr Rockliff said in 2006 that then primary industries minister David Llewellyn had put wildlife at risk by not allocating more money to the ­effort. The taskforce was abolished in 2013 but money was still being spent maintaining a “watch and act” effort to ­respond to reported sightings. Independent MLC Ivan Dean, a long-time critic, last year unsuccessfully called for the Government to conduct an inquiry into the fox chase. Yesterday, Mr Dean said he was stunned Mr Rockliff had come out against the program. “I was hung out to dry and called a moron for my stance,” Mr Dean said. Another critic, wildlife biologist David Obendorf, said Mr Rockliff was the first bio­security minister to acknowledge money was wasted …

Read more here

• David Obendorf in Comments: For the period 2001-2013 the Tasmanian fox program was supported by all political parties – Labor, Liberal and Tas Greens. Primary Industry Minister, Jeremy Rockliff is the first Minister responsible for biosecurity to acknowledge that taxpayer funds were wasted ‘chasing imaginary foxes’. I do congratulate him for his honesty, and yet it has taken far too long in coming. Tasmanians deserve an explanation from the Tasmanian Labor Party who were in government for the whole time this expensive fox program operated. An independent scientist panel – of which I was a member – worked for nearly 5 years reviewing all aspects of Tasmanian fox program. We have now published our research findings in leading international science journals. We concluded that there was no empirical evidence that a fox population existed in Tasmania – localised or widespread. Consequently the justification to keep that taxpayer-funded program going for over a decade supported by tens of millions of dollars needed to be critically reviewed and published. There are some extremely important lessons for Biosecurity Tasmania to learn from this fox program. Minister Rockliff’s press release and his comments in the Parliament yesterday now put the Tasmanian government firmly in opposition to the Invasive Animals-CRC claims in 2014 that “foxes are now widespread in Tasmania”. I wonder what the Commonwealth Governmemnt’s position will be now?

• Ian Rist in Comments: Taxpayers’ wasted funds is one thing but who is going to take responsibility for the badly thought out, ill-advised 1080 meat based baiting campaign? Native animals and domestic dogs were poisoned in this stupid saturation baiting campaign. A blight on Tasmania’s sad History which will have long term ramifications and consequences with a similar likeness to the irresponsible action of the Government of the day placing a bounty on the Thylacine. In both instances we will not forget and we will never forgive.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]
28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Ian Rist

    September 17, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    I recently had a very senior Liberal admit to me that the Liberals are very embarrassed over this whole sorry saga.
    They have finally realized that they have inherited quite a few of the participants in the fox heist… right up to and including senior bureaucrats!

    We wait for the the outcome of the long running Tasmania Police inquiry into this sordid mess.

  2. Ian Rist

    September 20, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Just to confirm the “Raspberry” story on the ‘foxy looking puppy’ here is his original contribution to Tasmanian Times.

    http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/fox-believer/

    It would seem on the 19th December 2005 it was a ‘foxy looking puppy’ but today in his The Mercury comments it is a fox cub?

  3. Ian Rist

    September 20, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    You have to admire the poetic licence taken on The Mercury fox story by one of the early day commenters “Rasberry”.

    http://www.themercury.com.au/news/tasmania/rockliff-switches-sides-on-fox-hunt/story-fnj4f7k1-1227530731027

    “Let’s not forget the dead fox cub that I found at Lillico in 2006. The story goes that it was shot in the area and then dumped near the penguin viewing platform. So how did it come to be in Tasmania? It must have either been born in Tasmania from a wild or captive vixen or it was imported. Either way, Tasmania can’t afford to ignore the continuing possibility that foxes might become established here”.

    Which raises the point where are all the old protagonists from the early ‘foxes are every where’ days?
    Very conspicuous by their absence are the John Connors, Paulies and many other regular under pseudonym contributors.

  4. Ian Rist

    September 20, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Yes # 23 The pickled fox is not the fox claimed to have been shot at Symmons Plains on the 13th September 2001.
    I say again what I have said many times…..
    “It is my belief that one of the three foxes is in the famous July 2001 fox photo (under the Longford sign) and the other two were collected from Bosworth’s house at Main Street Perth, Tasmania”.

    Re # 24 Fame and fortune I would say.
    Oh well I guess it helped sell a lot of papers.

  5. David Obendorf

    September 20, 2015 at 2:22 am

    Mr Rist, I did read with some interest the many twists and turns in the media commentaries and letters of correspondences of our Tasmanian fox spiv.

    But I remain perplexed Mr Rist and I do wonder who would be up to committing so many conflicted versions of the same story-line to print week after week, year after year? And I do ask myself for what purpose was there to be gained by this malarkey? Fame, fortune or just for fun?

  6. David Obendorf

    September 19, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    A pickled fox sits in a vat of alcohol in the Queen Victoria Museum. It is all logged in and labelled as the alleged fox that the late Eric Bosworth of Perth allegedly shot on a property called “Symmons Plains” in the northern Midlands on 13 September 2001 (according to a statement he gave to PWS ranger, Mr Chris Emmms).

    There are number of problems for the authorities that this dead fox exhibit suffers from:

    (1) it should have shown all the post mortem signs of it being in the environment decomposing for 10 days. It does not.

    (2) it should have been examined in a manner which is consistent with the veterinary pathologist [Dr Phillip Ladds] Report – it does not.

    and lastly,

    (3) it should not be present in the archives of Queen Victoria Museum, as the pathologist told me that the condition of the putrid carcass is such that it was discarded; disposed of, not kept!

    It is noteworthy that Mr Ian Rist and several Tasmanian shooters who were fellow hunters with Mr Bosworth were collectively told by Mr Bosworth that he brought three shot foxes from Victoria back to Tasmania prior to his claimed shooting of a fox at Symmons Plains. Mr Bosworth notified PWS of his re-discovery of the fox he’d shot 10-days previously. Mr Bosworth claimed he was on the same property collecting wood when he found the dead fox.

    What we are uncertain about is how many foxes the ‘posse of PWS staff’ who inspected his Longford home and premises took possession of that evening in September 2001. Certain there is a little more to come out on this dead fox episode.

    Was it one decomposed shot fox, or two or perhaps three (frozen) foxes?

    Any ideas from the Tasmanian fox-watchers? Thank you.

  7. Ian Rist

    September 19, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Would Dr Obendorf care to clear up the Launceston Museums Symmons Plains fox exhibit referred to in an open letter reply to Ian Rist?

    “The independent expert identifying an endemic long-tailed mouse from the gut did receive it (otherwise how could he do a written report) and the [fox] carcass was retained. It is in the Queen Victoria Museum”.

    I too, have a copy of the letter from Hans Brunner (the independent expert referred to) clarifying exactly what he did receive from the gut of the Symmons Plains fox.
    Nothing like what Chris Emms and Nick Mooney claimed on ABC Radio in a ‘phone hook with myself and Senator Murphy.
    The Symmons Plains fox has no credibility at all, fact is it was one of three imported from Geelong in Victoria.

  8. Ian Rist

    September 19, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    (cont.)
    2013
    15 June The Advocate Wildlife expert hit out at scepticism over foxes
    ‘The evidence is overwhelming but there is still a lot of people who don’t believe it. I had a bit to do with the carcasses when they were found and I don’t think it’s at all clear that they were hoaxes, but people assume they were.’
    Mr Mooney urged those with conspiracy theories about foxes in Tasmania to “take a cold shower and have a look at the evidence”.
    ‘Have an open mind. If you pull out your conspiracy card, you can say nothing! ‘
    ‘A lack of trust in the government is fundamental to the problem.’

    1 October Letter to Editor – Mercury
    Fox evidence is strong and on public record
    ‘Ian Rist’s latest rewrite of history is mischievous or careless. Every forensic report of the first fox carcass [Erick Bosworth shot fox 2001] is consistent with the claimed shooting near Symmons Plains, even if not proving it. The independent expert identifying an endemic long-tailed mouse from the gut did receive it (otherwise how could he do a written report) and the [fox] carcass was retained. It is in the Queen Victoria Museum.
    The idea the second fox [Burnie 2003] was killed on a boat is scuttlebutt.
    The idea the third fox [dead fox from Glen Esk Road 2006] was moved from somewhere else is not proved and it remains most probable it was killed in Tasmania.
    The fourth fox was most of a carcass including jaws [plural], hardly “match-box sized” [exhibit from Lillico 2006].
    Only a minority of the 61 scats with fox DNA could be identified to individuals, so they don’t represent 61 foxes.
    Finally, we still don’t know what a few foxes do in a vast landscape, meaning they might not hang around long enough to give enough scats for multiples to be found considering the surety of finding scats good enough to be identified is surprisingly low, even with dogs.
    All these matters are described on the public record for anyone wanting to do the homework.
    Mr Rist, whatever their shortcomings, “unsubstantiated sightings” are commonly accepted as evidence by scientists be they birds, wallabies or wombats.’

    17 October Letter to Editor – Mercury
    Speculation
    ‘Correcting Ian Rist’s misrepresentation of reports and pointing out his “facts” is hardly me ‘demanding we believe foxes exist’. People can make up their own minds but it’s clearly best to consult original reports and avoid such nonsense.’

    2014

    25 September – Stock & Land Extreme view on foxes defended
    ‘Eye witness stuff is what interest most people – but it is the most useless evidence. I think there have been a few (foxes) – at least one was true – but there’s a lot of dross in the middle. The key thing that attracted too much attention was about hunters bringing in a bunch of cubs – there is no evidence, apart from eyewitnesses account.’
    16th Australasian Vertebrate Pest conference – abstract
    The recent introduction of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) to Australia’s island state of Tasmania represents a significant ecological and economic threat.

    Ian Rist accepts full responsibility for reporting all media content. 20/09/2015

  9. Ian Rist

    September 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    2011
    11 January Letter to the Editor – The Mercury
    Nothing new in state plans to import foxes
    ‘The possibility of importing live, desexed foxes with hormone enhancement and radio collars was openly discussed years ago. The idea has regularly been aired by the fox team … people including me, were nervous about bringing in foxes – desexed or not.’
    ‘The concept never really went away and was considered recently because of the persistent need to find out whether foxes behaved differently with a dearth of neighbours from how they are known to behave in well studied usually high density populations. It would be also highly advantageous to know whether known foxes were being detected by standard monitoring and whether they are killed by baiting. ’
    2012

    15 January Letter to the Editor – Mercury
    Fed up with fox tirades
    ‘The concept of importing live, desexed, radio-tagged foxes to find others and/or get a measure on methods was considered but not done for perfectly sensible reasons. To read your tirades [responding to six authors of letters to the editor published on] one would think it had all happened; and to suggest all the evidence of foxes is concocted is intellectually lazy and cynical.’

    29 January Letter to the Editor – Mercury
    Too cynical
    ‘Cynicism seems to be replacing informed, thoughtful argument. Repeated glib dismissal of fox evidence, including the finding of more than 30 scats with fox DNA fit the definition of cynical.’

    21 February Letter to the Editor – The Mercury
    Fox intuition
    ‘I am in awe of Stan Berry knowing there are no foxes in Tasmania despite the dozens of scats with hair or DNA; carcases, one containing an endemic species, foot prints and fox blood, let alone the best sighting reports.’

    4 June Letter to the Editor – Mercury
    Challenge laid
    ‘How drab to see cynicism about foxes in Tasmania bob up again as the intellectual lazy shot that evidence is associated with funding deadlines … all 58 scats found containing fox DNA and/or hair … the four fox carcases retrieved, one containing an endemic species and fox blood found.’

    13 June Letter to Editor – Mercury
    Useful fox sessions
    ‘Be reasonable. A classic Tasmanian behaviour not to go to information sessions and then complain about the lack of information.
    If the meeting giving information about the fox eradication program was loaded toward supporters then surely John Hayward, a well-known sceptic wouldn’t have been asked.’

    26 September Letter to Editor – The Mercury Fox Conspiracy
    ‘It seems Ivan Dean; the Lord Monckton of the fox issue is peddling another vague conspiracy theory to explain a non-event [the fox skull discovery in a shed]. Mr Dean also claims obstacles were thrown in his way trying to access the skull, implying another conspiracy. As for the tests supposedly done by Dr Obendorf at the Queen Victoria Museum and dramatized in the reporting … [Skull reporting … [Skull Riddle, Mercury 23 September]

  10. Ian Rist

    September 19, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    (cont.)
    2009*
    16 January – Foxes – It’s simple*
    http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/foxes-its-simple/
    < http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/foxes-its-simple/>*
    On Woodstock Lagoon footprint: ‘We recorded the prints of all local small
    dogs we could get including Mr Cox’s whippet and none closely matched the
    canid prints we recovered. … the whippet freely trotted about Mr Cox’s back
    yard and was easy to record while visiting a friend who rented a cottage
    there [Chris Spencer]. A whippet has a very different foot to a fox. The
    prints we collected were not whippet feet and by far most closely match
    fox.*
    On the Photo of two hunters hold a dead fox at Woodstock Lagoon: **‘**… we
    have an anonymous letter from someone claiming to have been there,
    insisting it was all true.’*
    On the contents of the dead fox confiscated from Eric Bosworth: ‘The gut
    content was retrieved from the fox by a taskforce officer [Chris Emms] with
    some evidence gathering training and sent to independent experts for
    analysis.’*
    On the circumstance surrounding the Burnie 2003 dead fox: ‘We received an
    anonymous tip off (of the ‘hiss in an ear’ kind) that it had been killed on
    an incoming boat at the docks and dumped on the road but there is no
    evidence of this. It was very freshly dead when retrieved by the police
    from the road. There is nothing material to change the deduction that the
    fox was road-killed there.’*
    On the origins of the Lillico dead fox cub: ‘… much later we received a
    report that a local shooter killed this pup (1 of 2 he reportedly saw) some
    distance away while shooting rabbits and moved it to where it would be
    found. Confidentiality for the shooter was requested by the reporter (again
    because of fear of public ridicule).’*
    On the Old Beach incident: ‘On 17th May, barbed wire and sand was put
    adjacent to holes in fences hoping to collect hair from passing animals. On
    22 May blood was collected from underneath the wire. On 5th June the test
    came back as Fox. On 14th June cameras were placed and only on 19th June
    (nearly 1 month after blood was collected) fox urine was used in a last
    attempt to lure a fox in. … The second chicken kill [at this site] with dog
    saliva occurred during this sequence. Chicken kills are not unusual in
    Tasmania and originally this was not treated with particular concern,
    especially since it was away from fox ‘hotspots’. It only became a priority
    after we got DNA results back by which time the fox could have been far
    away before we placed cameras.’*

    6 March Letter to the Editor – Examiner *
    Evidence prompts support for fox eradication*
    ‘Mr Davey glibly ignores all the evidence found since the four carcases
    and more than 30 scats with fox DNA were found, which no amount of denial
    will make go away. This cynical denial of legitimate evidence is truly
    bizarre.’*

    12 November Article – The Mercury Wildlife expert calls it a day*
    ‘I’ve had such a good run on public money, I’m happy to give something
    back as a volunteer.’*
    13 November – ABC Stateline*
    ‘Except for climate change it’s certainly the biggest issue for wildlife
    in Tasmania since the last ice age I feel. There’s no question about that.
    … You’ve got to do more baiting, you’ve got to be more aggressive, you’ve got to disregard the super sceptics’.*
    (cont)

  11. Ian Rist

    September 19, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    (cont. 2008)
    1 August – Ten Network *
    Devil’s Advocate **[presenter Stacy Thompson] *
    ‘It’s a special place for wildlife because it got left behind somewhat,
    ahhm … Bass Strait last time before a lot of the animals from mainland
    Australia actually gotten here. So we were isolated as an island before
    dingoes got here and foxes never established here. The place was
    protected, somewhat of a fantasy island (chuckles). So we had thylacines
    and devils and all sorts of endemics, but in more recent times there’s a
    whole lot of species been … been exterminated by foxes, in particular on
    the mainland that have existed here because we didn’t have foxes.’ *

    *On Glen Esk Road dead fox: ‘Ahh, there was some people there with a dead
    fox … that they’d just picked up. They … the fox was warm, I … . So we had
    a, ahh … fox that had been killed maybe 10, 12-plus hours before. But
    that’s just a piece of the puzzle, we’ve got the whole weight of evidence.
    The … one of the most striking piece of evidence in my mind was a fox that
    was shot and it had an endemic mouse in its gut; that’s a mouse only found
    in Tasmania. We’ve got foot prints and we’ve got scats that have got fox
    DNA or fox grooming hairs … we’ve got foxes in Tasmania.’*

    * Foxes eat many of the same things devils eat, so if you take devils out
    of the equation all of that food is there for foxes essentially. And the
    impact that would have on our fauna, which is not adapted to cope with fox
    predation; foxes are a super animal! Ahhm, … we’re looking at a
    catastrophe. In fact the impact on our small mammals would be greater than
    the last Ice Age. We know we’d have a list of extinctions; exactly the
    animals that have become extinct on the mainland because of foxes. *
    We think that that whole package of conservation, agricultural loss, human
    health, loss to wildlife tourism could cost $20 million a year. *
    Wake Up to foxes*
    ‘Damon Colbeck has joined a few others wallowing in lazy cynicism. With a
    smidgen of research he’d find out that the scats with fox DNA were analysed
    by Dr Stephen Sarre’s lab at the University of Canberra; some being
    verified by Dr Oliver Berry in a different mainland lab. Taskforce members
    have reported seeing 3 foxes but the public has reported many hundreds of
    sightings of what may have been foxes; some of which seem very credible.’*
    ‘Years ago the taskforce was challenged to produce repeated, properly
    collected and independently analysed evidence. Now that has happened
    aplenty; the goal posts move again. Come on Tasmanians wake up!’*

    26 December Letter to the Editor – The Mercury Fox evidence *
    ‘Stan Berry’s glib dismissal of fox evidence seems to rely on a conspiracy
    theory to overcome the obvious. Is Stan Berry suggesting that Tasmanians
    are skipping about the bush scattering fox scats at random hoping we will
    find them?’ *
    ‘The fox shot in 2001 contained a long-tailed mouse, Pseudomys higginsii;
    a species only found in Tasmania and the evidence strongly weighs to the 3
    foxes apparently road kills in Tasmania being just that. The one I examined
    at Cleveland [Glen Esk Road] was warm.’
    weighs to the 3 foxes apparently road kills in Tasmania being just that.
    The one I examined at Cleveland [Glen Esk Road] was warm.’ *
    2009*

  12. Ian Rist

    September 19, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    (cont.)
    2007 *
    11 March 2007 – *Sunday Tasmanian*
    ‘We found five scats in the area [Conara/Epping Forest) in the months after
    the Glen Esk fox, I found one myself’, Mr Mooney said.
    24 April – interview with Tim Cox ABC radio *Statewide Mornings*
    ‘In the early days we didn’t expect – never imagined – that people would be
    demanding murder-style evidence treatment … but we under scrutiny perhaps
    that’s fine, because we are spending lots of money.’
    25 April Letter to the Editor – Mercury
    ‘Facts all too clear on fox evidence’*
    25 April Article – The Mercury Fox task force biologist wants more
    rigour*
    ‘We have got a bit of a basic problem in that a lot of the evidence that
    we get hold of has already been handled or mishandled by people with the
    best of intentions picking stuff up. It makes us an easy target, but we can
    do much better and we have certainly made mistakes. In the early days we
    never imagined that people would be demanding murder-style evidence
    treatment; now we are under a degree of scrutiny and we are spending lots
    of money.’
    Mr Mooney has no doubts that a local fox population is now established in
    Tasmania. *
    23 June 2007 Article – Sydney Morning Herald/Age Good Weekend*
    The fox files*
    ‘I’m of the view that a sighting remains unconfirmed until an animal is
    shot. Having dealt for a long time with [reports of] thylacines, I am aware
    of the frailty of eyewitness evidence. *
    Foxes can be introduced through background risk [stowaways], human
    mischievousness and complete bloody-mindedness. We could be dealing with
    all of the above; God knows we’ve got our fair share of weirdos in Tassie.
    What matters are that foxes are here, not how they got here.’*
    ‘Mr Mooney accepts in total, 9 pieces of “hard evidence” by the taskforce
    over its six years; a footprint [Woodstock Lagoon 2001]; four fox carcasses
    [one shot, , three road-killed, three scat samples (animal droppings )–
    and a drop of blood’. *
    Mooney estimates there may be up to 400 foxes in Tasmania. He believes
    numbers are slowly increasing and will explode imminently unless efforts
    are stepped up. He can foresee the fox population reaching 300,000 within
    decades.*
    ‘The sceptics’ campaign is like a handbrake on the issue. It involves
    people sitting back with their arms crossed, waiting for something to
    happen. The problem is that it has already happened.’ ‘Then there is the
    background of the thylacine saga, which has set everyone up to a bit of an
    eyebrow-lifting whenever someone says they’ve seen something. People
    believe what they see and who they know. A Tasmanian farmer will believe
    another farmer before he believes a scientist; a shooter is more likely to
    believe another shooter than a farmer. But I’m in the business of risk
    assessment and risk management. We can’t wait to do something until people
    believe there are foxes. By the time everyone is sure, it will surely be
    too late.’ ‘I think if I had the funding to keep tracking those [Webb
    Dock] foxes, I’d eventually have put a radio collar on one that made it
    across Bass Strait.’ *
    4 November Letter to the Editor – Sunday Tasmanian
    No need to fake fox evidence*
    ‘13 pieces of hard evidence since 2001. Where is the incentive for
    fabrication?’
    November – *ABC 7.30 Tas Fox Scats*
    ‘The baiting will probably never produce a fox carcass simple because 1080
    doesn’t have onset of symptoms for a couple of hours and the animals wander
    off. Very few poisoned foxes are found on the mainland and tens if
    thousands are poisoned there. It is very unlikely. By the time we find the
    carcasses it will be too late.
    (cont. 2008)

  13. Ian Rist

    September 19, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    (cont.2005)
    *2005*

    January – *Nature Australia* Summer 2004-05
    ‘ … in 2001 foxes (*Vulpes vulpes*) were discovered in Tasmania – this time
    not just the past eccentric incidents but an apparently concerted effort
    at introduction. The Fox Free Taskforce was born and I was assigned to
    tailor fox detection and erafication in Tasmania’s special situation
    (having many large dasyurids and very few foxes; the exact opposite of
    mainland Australia).’
    3 May –Tasmanian Times. *Fox furore*
    ‘We have had over 20 [1080] baits taken in absolute classic fox style.’
    2 June Article – The Mercury *Sceptics threat to the fox task*
    ‘Super-scepticism of Tasmanians makes it more likely evidence of foxes will
    be overlooked because people are less likely to come forward. Public
    criticism of the response also means the public and authorities may not
    again respond unless evidence is overwhelming; satisfying the lowest common
    denominator, meaning it will likely be too late.’
    6 August Letter to the Editor – Advocate *Fox sightings*
    ‘Knowing which sighting is chalk and which is cheese is indeed troublesome
    and that is why we base our reaction on the total evidence of foxes in
    Tasmania, the best eye witness accounts, especially if independent and in
    the same places and the hard evidence’.
    30 November Letter to the Editor – Mercury *Foxes still main threat*
    ‘They [cats] are a sideshow compared to what foxes will do if established.’
    ‘No one has argued with my calculations that Tasmania has the potential to
    have 270,000 foxes. Since foxes seem to be in pre-establishment phase in
    Tasmania, we still have a red-hot chance of beating them [foxes] … tackle
    the achievable [fox eradication] which I argue to be the most important.’
    *2006 *
    19 July Letter to the Editor – Mercury *Foxes key to doomsday strategy*
    ‘Increasingly obvious presence of foxes’
    2 September Article Mercury *Tassie fox plague fear*
    Mr Mooney said the latest discovery [at Glen Esk Road] and 9 years of
    research suggested there was as many as 50 foxes in the State.
    ‘This is possibly the biggest risk to Tasmania’s native mammals since the
    last Ice Age; it’s not going to go away by wishful thinking.’
    ‘My main concern is that this evidence is widely distributed; it is going
    to make them [foxes] very hard to get rid of.’
    14 November Article – Advocate
    *Bold plan to see foxes eradicated in 10 years*
    Mr Mooney said that there could be between 40 and 300 foxes in Tasmania.
    (cont.2007)

  14. Ian Rist

    September 19, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Actual comments made to support the existence of foxes in Tasmania from 2001.
    All quotes in inverted commas are verbatim.
    *2002*
    9 March – ABC Radio National – Science Show
    ‘Our information is that they (the fox cubs) were brought here quite
    deliberately by people: it can only be for malicious intent. Our
    information is they were basically smuggled in by a vehicle on a ship.’
    26 March 2002 – *Nature *
    ‘The information that the authorities have received leaves no doubt that
    foxes were deliberately brought to Tasmania.’
    14 th May 2002 – The Mercury Scientific adviser to Tasmania’s Fox
    Taskforce Nick Mooney said Tasmania could support 600,000 foxes. ‘If you
    think cats are bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet’, Mr Mooney said.‘The
    evidence is good and the stakes are so high that we cannot afford to ignore
    it’, Mr Mooney said.
    ‘If this was a bizarre, sophisticated hoax, there’s been ample opportunity
    for people to take the credit’, Mr Mooney said.
    12 September – ABC TV – Catalyst
    ‘Two years ago a group of environmental vandals committed an unthinkable
    crime. They hand reared up to 19 fox cubs and released them into the
    previously fox-free Tasmanian wilderness. It is hard to comprehend that
    such a petty act has unleashed the greatest extinction threat since
    Tasmania’s last Ice Age 10,000 years ago.’
    17 December – Birding Australia website
    ‘It seems foxes have good friends beyond the idiots bringing them to
    Tasmania. Over 300 reported sightings, ‘hearings’ and ‘smellings’ of what
    may have been foxes, the vast majority sighting reports in clumps
    (hotspots). Several of these have been in near optimal circumstances by
    excellent naturalists. (Hard Evidence) A whole carcase of a 14-16 month old
    (from teeth analysis) male reportedly shot at Symmons Plains in September
    2001 containing a partly digested, endemic Long-tailed Mouse plus other
    plants and animals indigenous to Tasmania. DNA tests show the carcase and
    the skin are closely related – at least cousins.
    Anyone who knows about foxes will be able to tell you that “by the time
    everyone is sure, you can be sure it’s too late”. I for one am not
    prepared to sit back and see what happens.
    I have had to walk away from years of work in raptor research and
    conservation, wildlife tourism and devil management because of this issue
    and however inconvenient, I recognise the priority.
    12 June 2003- ABC TV – *George Negus Tonight*
    ‘*You have to say the releasing of foxes in Tasmania is worse than
    sabotage, it’s ecoterrorism. *
    *2004*
    29 July 2004 – Tasmaniantimes.com *The horror of foxes*
    ‘The Police were not involved until mid-2001. The Police investigation
    finished before any hard evidence of foxes was available and any case was
    an inquiry only about fox importation. At the time of Mr Llewellyn’s
    announcement we [PWS] were pretty sure we knew who was involved with
    importing, rearing and releasing the foxes. However, that’s not good
    enough and charges were not laid. In fact, under the State regulations the
    time limit for filing charges then 6 months now much extended) had well and
    truly expired anyway.*On the Bosworth fox:* ‘the fox reportedly shot near
    Symmons Plains … the evidence still stands. There was a *partly digested
    long-tailed mouse in its gut*, a species only found in Tasmania; we can’t
    just pretend that evidence doesn’t exist.’
    ‘We have other hard evidence from elsewhere – footprints [Longford] and a
    scat confirmed by mainland experts and some scats and kills deemed highly
    probable. We have also had some baits taken in a classic fox-style.’
    15 August 2004 Article – Mercury *Hoax theory on fox pelt story*
    A once-critical piece of Tasmanian fox evidence has been thrown into doubt
    by wildlife ranger [*Nick Mooney*] suggesting it was suggesting it was
    likely a hoax.
    The fox pelt was sent to the PWS in August 2001, believed to have been
    skinned from a fox featured in an infamous photograph with two men near a
    signpost near Longford. A month later a fox was allegedly shot at Symmons
    Plains by Eric Bosworth and in November, then Fox Taskforce head *Peter
    Mooney* [brother] said genetic testing showed the ‘Bosworth fox’ and the
    pelt were “almost certainly siblings”. This appeared to confirm fears that
    deliberate attempts to introduce foxes to Tasmania had established a
    breeding population. *Nick Mooney*’s comment has distanced the [Bosworth]
    fox and the pelt.
    ‘The Longford photo of the anonymous hunters and *the dead fox is indeed
    likely an irresponsible hoax* – not at all funny since it wasted lots of
    effort. We had to take it seriously at the time to try and settle the
    issue, but I doubt we’ll ever know for sure.’ ‘I blame them [the hunters]
    because they know… it’s such a pain us [DPIPWE] having to try and
    reconstruct.
    (cont.2005)

  15. Ian Rist

    September 18, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    I am sure the Labor leader Mr Green and the father of foxes Mr Llewellyn will regret making the following statements in the Parliament.
    From the House of Assembly Hansard 16th September 2015.
    Mr Green “The Labor Party did not think up a fox taskforce. It was on the basis of advice provided to us about a threat not only to our biodiversity but to the farming sector across the board. That advice was provided in good faith by the department when it was working properly. It was based on scat samples and a whole range of other things”.

    The Father of foxes Mr Llewellyn. Hansard 16th September 2015.
    “I do not agree with the bluff and bluster comments about the fox taskforce. That is trying to provide a smokescreen that you can hide behind. Woe betide you if a fox is found in Tasmania after the statements you have been making. You know there have been two dead foxes and hundreds of scats found in Tasmania”.

    What really troubles me is here we have members of Parliament again expressing how much they don’t know about topics raised in the Parliament. They have illustrated how little they know about the fox topic…how many other topics aren’t they across.
    Do they rely on the advice of self-serving public servants across all topics ?

    I believe the opportunity was there for a 1998 cash strapped NPWS to take advantage of the partial sale of Telstra which funded the National Heritage Trust and the Federal EPBC Act.
    The EPBC Act contained certain requirements such as Key Threatening Processes ( the fox was listed as a key threatening process on the 16th July 2000).
    Tasmania didn’t have any foxes (well the one that allegedly jumped off the City of Port Melbourne at Burnie on the 31st May 1998 may have counted except it was caught in a rabbit trap a few days after it disembarked, donged on the head and buried in the rabbit trap owners garden)…so when the fox was listed as a Key Threatening Process on the 16th July 2000 all we needed was some foxes, well we didn’t have any real live foxes but we certainly had some carcasses imported, some 1200 plus fox scats and various other fox products.
    The media were being fed a never ending fox diet and Tallyho the great Tasmanian fox hunt began.
    Surely we all can now see how this all unfolded?

    If I were Mr Llewellyn I would be checking some old notes and recalling who gave him all that sound advice way back in 2000-2001…I believe he is going to need it!

  16. Jack Jolly

    September 18, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Tim (#11)

    Being complacent about bad science, terrible management and an unwillingness to reform is the quickest way to get them here.

    I don’t know anyone unwilling to accept that the risk is real.

  17. Ivo Edwards

    September 18, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Now that Agriculture minister Rockliff has effectively declared to parliament that foxes never established in Tasmania, it would seem appropriate to clarify some additional associated matters, in order for the public to be perfectly aware of the significance of this momentous admission: –

    1. Undoubtedly the Minister takes advice from his senior staff at DPIPWE, so presumably they too now share his belief that all foxes in Tasmania were “imaginary”. Could someone please confirm this and broadcast to the world that the whole fox eradication programme is now officially acknowledged to have been an expensive and very embarrassing mistake?

    2. Hopefully the embedded knife in the body of the fox eradication program will be twisted mercilessly until proper additional acknowledgement is forthcoming by DPIPWE and Minister Rockliff. This will admit that the eradication programme was not only based on faulty data and reasoning, but that it had no chance of eradicating foxes if they were present, that its proponents lied when they claimed no rare and endangered animals were being poisoned, that it diverted money from real wildlife conservation issues, and that even today it has no clear idea about how to deal with a likely future incursion of foxes.

    The minister rightly points out that the Tasmanian Labor party was responsible for the debacle. At least Labor though decreed that 1080 poisoning for pest browsing wallabies and possums would end in 2015. Minister Rockliff rescinded this ruling, with the result that about 35,000 ha of land will unnecessarily continue to be poisoned each year with inevitable collateral damage to already threatened native species from secondary poisoning, and unmentionable cruelty. This makes a mockery of our claims that we are so much more humane in our killing methods than a lot of other countries!

    Surely it is time to do the right thing by our unique wildlife by giving it a chance to recover from its precarious existence from decades of poisoning by banning 1080 once and for all? This includes primary poisoning for foxes, feral cats and browsers which all result in cruelty and unacceptable secondary poisoning?

  18. Tim Squires

    September 17, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    If we become complacent it’s sadly only a matter of time until foxes become established in Tasmania. They are rampant on the mainland, and Bass Straight is crossed regularly by many kinds of vessels.

  19. David Obendorf

    September 17, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    The shameless sophistry from the DPIPWE story-tellers constructed this fox farce that led to a fox-less [i]eradication program[/i]. Those who manufactured it’s genesis and decade-long story-line must have deduced that it still has a little further to run down the author of Tasmania’s fantasic Mr Fox fable.

    It was a media free-for-all and doubtless it sold many hundreds of thousands of local newspapers for over a decade based on a hunger for the latest fox storyline. Storylines trotted out with monotonous regularlity by the public relations operatives embedded with the fox program.

    I wouldn’t be congratulating a disingenuous and discredited program as Phil Parsons seems to be suggesting. ‘Cry wolf’ in Tasmania has been a well honed pursuit practiced so many times on guillible Tasmanians.

    My only advice to Phil would be to explore a lair or two of 21st Century thylacine hunters, you just might catch a wiff of a Tasmania phox! Good luck.

  20. Karl Stevens

    September 17, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    So the descendants of 75,000 British convicts deploy 63 people in 34 vehicles searching for a predator that doesn’t exist, while deploying nobody to investigate themselves or their motives? How surreal?
    But it’s not over yet. Tasmania is now ‘collaborating’ with the communist Chinese totalitarian dictatorship from one of the most toxic places on Earth to help us save the iconic Tasmanian devil from a disease we probably caused.

    http://www.premier.tas.gov.au/releases/china_and_tasmania_to_collaborate_on_devil_research

  21. Ian Rist

    September 17, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    In reply to # 7
    Firstly you can’t eradicate what wasn’t there.
    Secondly if there is to be a program on feral cats (and that will only happen if the usual recipients of taxpayer largesse can get their hands on funding)… I hope they pick a different bunch of people that do know what they are doing.

    I always said when we being bombarded daily in the media with foxes were here, there and everywhere “that either there were no foxes or the people assigned the task of eradicating them were painfully incompetent”.
    It had to be one or the other….it seems time and honesty has chosen the former.

  22. phill Parsons

    September 17, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    I would like to thank the Fox Task Force for eradicating any fox population in Tasmania. I hope they have similar success with feral cats.

  23. Philip Lowe

    September 17, 2015 at 1:38 am

    I don’t suppose Brian Greene will make a comment about this furphy fraud?

  24. Jack Jolly

    September 16, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    It is a worrying indicator of integrity to have a minister prepared to go against an entrenched culture in his own department. Mr Rockliff and Mr Dean should be congratulated for revealing to us something as rare as a Tasmanian fox in our political life. A spine.

    I noted with some amusement that in the comments section of The Mercury article that a well meaning person remains dogmatic that he had seen a fox eight years ago (and so had his wife).

    Apart from invoking memories of one of the final scenes from ‘The Life of Brian’ the comment betrays what drove this farce onward for so many years. Because he is not alone. Over 3000 Tasmanians also claimed to have seen a fox!

    But ask why this might be so?

    Our government told us originally that foxes had been released en mass in an organised plot. It then posted ‘hard evidence’ and assured us that overwhelming evidence pointed to their existence. Both public servants, politicians and ‘experts’ assured us so relentlessly. Many attacked ‘the sceptics’ publicly and called them ‘conspiracy theorists’ in a never ending public relations driven justification of their own claims that had as much substance as the wind they were chasing.

    The problem is that under these conditions what people claim to have seen is useless information without physical evidence. The Tasmanian fox issue was a government backed thylacine hunt. It demonstrated the lack of regard for evidence and the power of story telling.

    The fox farce is a prime example of why you should not believe what you read in the papers and the power of public relations model of government to make people believe things that don’t exist.

  25. ian Rist

    September 16, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Taxpayers wasted funds is one thing but who is going to take responsibility for the badly thought out, ill-advised 1080 meat based baiting campaign?
    Native animals and domestic dogs were poisoned in this stupid saturation baiting campaign.
    A blight on Tasmania’s sad History which will have long term ramifications and consequences with a similar likeness to the irresponsible action of the Government of the day placing a bounty on the Thylacine.
    In both instances we will not forget and we will never forgive.

  26. john hayward

    September 16, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    It is rare in a two-party system to see the degree of unity against a common foe that the LibLabs have displayed in the Great Fox Hunt, the retrospective views of Dean and Rockliff notwithstanding. It appears to have been a triumph of shared values over partisan interests

    That shared value may possibly have been a sheer love of fraudulence for its own sake. In the absence of any functional watchdogs, we will probably never know.

    John Hayward

  27. David Obendorf

    September 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    For the period 2001-2013 the Tasmanian fox program was supported by all political parties – Labor, Liberal and Tas Greens.

    Primary Industry Minister, Jeremy Rockliff is the first Minister responsible for biosecurity to acknowledge that taxpayer funds were wasted ‘chasing imaginary foxes’. I do congratulate him for his honesty, and yet it has taken far too long in coming.

    Tasmanians deserve an explanation from the Tasmanian Labor Party who were in government for the whole time this expensive fox program operated.

    An independent scientist panel – of which I was a member – worked for nearly 5 years reviewing all aspects of Tasmanian fox program. We have now published our research findings in leading international science journals. We concluded that there was no empirical evidence that a fox population existed in Tasmania – localised or widespread. Consequently the justification to keep that taxpayer-funded program going for over a decade supported by tens of millions of dollars needed to be critically reviewed and published.

    There are some extremely important lessons for Biosecurity Tasmania to learn from this fox program.

    Minister Rockliff’s press release and his comments in the Parliament yesterday now put the Tasmanian government firmly in opposition to the Invasive Animals-CRC claims in 2014 that “foxes are now widespread in Tasmania”. I wonder what the Commonwealth Governmemnt’s position will be now?

  28. ian Rist

    September 16, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Well,well,well after all this time a Government Minister finally has the decency and the courage to come out and admit what we all knew but some would/will never admit.

    Over the years I have been vilified,threatened,ridiculed and even called a nutter.

    I was hauled before a PAC Inquiry and gave evidence under oath that was never acted upon.

    It would seem now that I was always right and you were wrong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top