AUSTRALIA's Governor-General, Bill Hayden, has admitted an unusual fondness for the kangaroo and the emu: he eats them. That is not an admission Mr Hayden, a former Labor Party leader, makes with any hint of embarrassment. In fact, he positively licked his lips as he told a national television audience he had not only ''eaten both parts of the national emblem'', but he thoroughly enjoyed them. Mr Hayden's culinary confessions follow the launch of a campaign by animal lovers against plans to reduce the 120-strong kangaroo population that roams the lawns of his official Canberra residence, Yarralumla, by shooting the females and sterilising the males. The Australian Capital Territory Parks and Conservation Service says it is the most humane way to cull what began as a handful of kangaroos in the early 1980s. Setting them free in the bush near Canberra would mean many faced the wild for the first time, competing with wild roos and dogs for food, dodging traffic and possibly being shot by farmers. Better just to shoot them now, the service's manager, Don Fletcher says. The Governor-General, who featured pictures of those very kangaroos on his Christmas card last year, heartily agrees. In fact, he says, why stop at the females. ''If I was to prevail in what was to be done we'd be shooting them,'' he says. That admission followed a flood of complaining letters from animal lovers, but Mr Hayden says the writers care more about roos than people. ''It's going to be very expensive to vasectomise the males,'' he says. ''I'd rather give the money to the City Mission to feed human beings who are having it tough at the present time, than spending it on vasectomising kangaroos that have become a pest in the property.'' Mr Hayden, who apparently applies Cecil B. de Mille's attitude to children to the Vice-regal kangaroos - he likes them cooked - says none of the critics has ever written to him about the plight of people. However, although he's said he is keen to have a kangaroo meat ''feast'' at his residence some night - ''we'll invite some of the media over after a shoot-out in the bottom paddock'' - he concedes he'll probably lose the argument to shoot the females too. A former police officer, Mr Hayden, has complained that giving the male kangaroos vasectomies could cost A$40,000 (HK$220,000), but says it is not just a matter of money. He understands what they'll be going through - he's had the same operation. And, though he makes no such personal admissions, he notes that vasectomy is not always successful. Mr Hayden admits that his lack of confidence in his chances of winning the roo wars is partly because his official secretary, Doug Sturkey, has lined up against his boss. He has joked that he will get Mr Sturkey, a former diplomat, to perform the operations himself. But though Mr Sturkey says that's just his Vice-regal boss ''trying to stir the pot a bit'', he admits he has become rather an expert on kangaroo habits. He has taken advice from three separate authorities, all of whom agree that castration is out (too damaging to the male roo libido) as is shooting (the herd's stability depends on a tribal structure with dominant males), so vasectomy is the answer. Mr Hayden retires later this year to his new farm at Gatton, west of his former Queensland electorate of Ipswich. There'll be no park officers and official secretaries there to engage in to-shoot-or-not-to-shoot debates with him, so the fate of any excess kangaroos is likely to be solved with a shotgun. Ironically, the great roo debate erupted as Mr Hayden revealed to a retiring Press gallery of journalists his new hobby, photography. But not just any photography - pictures of the birds in the grounds of Yarralumla, where he says watching the wildlife is a source of great pleasure. Undeterred, he's set out in pursuit of another member of Australia's flora - albeit an introduced one, this time. Launching Australia's first national ''rabbit action'' conference before Easter when local shops were bursting with cute toy and chocolate bunnies, Mr Hayden called for the eradication of a pest that costs the economy A$90 million a year in crops. His preferred rabbit recipe is not known.