• WALLY’S PIGGERY INVESTIGATION

    15th October 2015

    Questions without notice.

    WALLY’S PIGGERY

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. In response to a budget estimates question, the Government advised that the Minister is not privy to legal advice detailing the reasons for the withdrawal of cruelty charges in the Wally’s Piggery case. Will the Minister confirm that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is the only criminal legislation that gives prosecutorial authority to a charitable body such as the RSPCA? Will he advise what accountability mechanisms are in place to ensure that the RSPCA competently fulfils prosecutorial duties in this case? Given the ongoing public concern about the RSPCA’s carriage of this prosecution, will he affirm his confidence in the RSPCA and its ability to competently conduct criminal prosecution cases?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. In the first part of his question he alluded to this topic being explored briefly during a budget estimates hearing earlier this year before General Purpose Standing Committee No. 5. From memory, the member also raised this matter with me on previous occasions during question time. On a number of occasions I have said that when it comes to animal welfare, the Government takes the matter seriously. I know that staff of the Department of Primary Industries do an outstanding job in relation to animal welfare. They proactively work with producers, stakeholder groups and agencies to help them understand and fulfil their responsibilities when it comes to animal welfare.

    I can confidently speak on behalf of the majority of New South Wales citizens when I refer to the RSPCA’s role in this area in New South Wales. I will deal in more detail later with the specifics of the prosecution, which I acknowledge is part of the member’s question. When it comes to an agency that is responsible for animal welfare under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, I can confidently say that the New South Wales branch of the RSPCA is an outstanding organisation. During the election campaign earlier this year the Government made further commitments relating to funding of its facility in Sydney. I have faith in the agencies, including the police, the Animal Welfare League and the RSPCA to carry out their functions diligently under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

    As for the specifics of the prosecution, I am advised that in August 2012 Animal Liberation released video footage showing the alleged mistreatment of pigs and illegal slaughter at a piggery in the southern tablelands of New South Wales. RSPCA NSW investigated the allegations relating to the treatment and management of the pigs, and laid charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act against Wally’s Piggery in July 2013. On 17 November 2014, RSPCA NSW withdrew the prosecution after consultation with independent counsel based on matters relating to legal evidence. The piggery has since been destocked and is no longer in operation.

    Animal welfare is a concern to everyone in the community and, as I said, the New South Wales Government takes it seriously. New South Wales has a robust system in place to address animal cruelty. RSPCA NSW is one of three enforcement organisations under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act; the other two enforcement agencies are the Animal Welfare League NSW and NSW Police. RSPCA NSW operates under its own constitution and governance structure, independent of the New South Wales Government.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer? Does he have confidence that the RSPCA, as a charitable organisation, can administer a criminal Act although he is not privy to the legal advice detailing the reasons for the withdrawal? He would have been privy to the advice if it were the police.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: As I said, I have confidence in the operations of the RSPCA. However, I must make it clear that RSPCA NSW withdrew the prosecution after consultation with independent counsel based on matters relating to legal evidence. That was the basis on which the RSPCA made that decision. As I said earlier, I have confidence in the RSPCA to fulfil its obligations under the Act. In this case RSPCA NSW has acted under the guidance of independent legal counsel. That is all we can ask.

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