License article

Conflict-of-interest claims as Victorian hunter gets $626 licence for a buck

The government body that regulates hunting in Victoria stands accused of having serious conflict-of-interest issues after one of its staff members was given a $626 commercial wildlife licence for $1 with no inspections of his proposed game farm.

An external investigation found the Department of Environment and Primary Industries did not follow standard operating procedures when it granted staffer Rodney Carter a commercial wildlife licence for his quail hunting business last year.

Documents released to Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws show that - unlike the requirement for members of the public who apply for such licences - Mr Carter's property was not inspected. Also, a departmental officer noted in the paperwork that the application had been checked by an inspector who had left the department several years ago.

It seems Mr Carter was granted the licence for $1 because of his indigenous-run company called Luculent.

Emails obtained by Fairfax Media show department staff were concerned about the granting of the licence. ''There is considerable public scrutiny on Game Victoria regarding conflict of [interest] at the moment and I am concerned that, as always, we ensure proper processes take place,'' one staffer wrote to his colleagues.

Game Victoria has been criticised by animal rights activists for the number of duck shooters on its staff, many of them in compliance roles. ''This [case] is part of the conflict of interests in Game Victoria and doesn't surprise me at all,'' said veteran anti-duck shooting activist Laurie Levy. ''I had hoped that when the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission was being set up that we could challenge that conflict of interest, but IBAC was watered down so much it is impossible to do.''

A department spokeswoman said an independent organisation reviewed the granting of the licence and found ''no evidence to suggest any DEPI employee involved in issuing the licence benefited''. But it also found ''standard operating procedures were not followed'' and recommended refresher training for staff in the administration of issuing licences.