• mulesing

    Restrictions on Stock Animal Procedures Bill 2019

  • Digger the Australian war hero dog

    Digger receives the Blue Cross Award for bravery in WW1

    22nd August 2019

    BLUE CROSS AWARD

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (15:00): Established in 1897, the Blue Cross Award is given to animals and people who have demonstrated bravery or heroism. Digger, the World War I dog, was awarded the Blue Cross Medal on 29 June 2019 in Australia. Digger is the first dog to be awarded the medal in Australia. He was the bravest dog in Australia. He was a boxer cross, and served 3½ years in one of the bloodiest World War I battles in Gallipoli and the Western Front. He was injured on the front because he went over the top—that is, up and out over the bunkers. The medical report stated that “he bears the marks of his wounds”: a hole in the lower jaw, three teeth gone, blind in the right eye, deaf in the left ear, he had to be put under chloroform to have the bullets extracted and he also suffered other permanent injuries from gassing—but he made it back to Australia. This is a poem by Dr Edmund Vance Cooke, who was in the First World War, calledRags:

    We called him Rags. He was just a cur,

    But twice, on the Western Line,

    That little old bunch of faithful fur

    Had offered his life for mine.

    And all that he got was bones and bread,

    Or the leavings of soldier grub,

    But he’d give his heart for a pat on the head,

    Or a friendly tickle and rub

    And Rags got home with the regiment,

    And then, in the breaking away—

    Well, whether they stole him, or whether he went,

    I am not prepared to say.

    But we mustered out, some to beer and gruel

    And some to sherry and shad,

    And I went back to the Sawbones School,

    Where I still was an undergrad.

    One day they took us budding MDs

    To one of those institutes

    Where they demonstrate every new disease

    By means of bisected brutes.

    They had one animal tacked and tied

    And slit like a full-dressed fish,

    With his vitals pumping away inside

    As pleasant as one might wish.

    I stopped to look like the rest, of course,

    And the beast’s eyes levelled mine;

    His short tail thumped with a feeble force,

    And he uttered a tender whine.

    It was Rags, yes, Rags! who was martyred there,

    Who was quartered and crucified,

    And he whined that whine which is doggish prayer

    And he licked my hand and died.

    And I was no better in part nor whole

    Than the gang I was found among,

    And his innocent blood was on the soul

    Which he blessed with his dying tongue.

    Well I’ve seen men go to courageous death

    In the air, on sea, on land!

    But only a dog would spend his breath

    In a kiss for his murderer’s hand.

  • Suffragette Movement

    Support for the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019

    21st August 2019

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:48): I speak in support of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 and commend my Animal Justice Party colleague, the Hon. Emma Hurst, for co-sponsoring this much‑needed bill. The Animal Justice Party stands for kindness, empathy, rationality and non-violence and I believe the bill delivers on all these values for the women of New South Wales and their treating doctors.

    It is just over two years ago since I stood here in this Chamber speaking in support of the Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016. Since the failure of that bill to secure a majority vote New South Wales has become the only State in Australia where women and doctors can be jailed for terminating pregnancies. The only reason this has not caused public outrage is that the New South Wales public is generally unaware that abortion is a illegal. It is only by virtue of the 1971 landmark judgement inRegina v Ward that women who have undergone abortions and doctors who have performed them have not occupied all the jail cells available in New South Wales. The Levine ruling, named after the judge, defined an unlawful abortion as one where there was no “economic, social or medical ground or reason” upon which a doctor could have an honest and reasonable belief that an abortion was required to avoid a serious danger to the pregnant woman’s life or to her physical or mental health. That is a humane and rational defence for abortion whilst it remains a crime, but it is not the basis on which to operate a modern twenty-first century reproductive healthcare program.

    Many in this Chamber are undoubtedly keen to leave the law as it stands, believing that abortion should remain a punishable crime but they lack the courage of their convictions to say so. They know that any broadscale attempt to enforce these laws in 2019 would lead to a significant electoral backlash. With an Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated 20,000-plus abortions in New South Wales each year, it would also lead to our jails overflowing with women and fertility control clinics being emptied of medical staff. And so we muddle along with an unacceptable compromise of women and doctors arranging terminations in the twilight zone of legality.

    At this point I acknowledge the “#Arrest Us” campaign on Facebook and Twitter, started by Emily Mayo, where dozens of women have confessed to having committed the crime of abortion and are prepared to be arrested. To my knowledge no police officer is knocking down any door. That is not to say that there have notbeen prosecutions in the modern era. Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reveals that12 people have been prosecuted under the New South Wales Crimes Act for abortion offences in the past 25 years. A 2018 survey by researchers at the University of Sydney and James Cook University found that 76 per cent of respondents did not know that abortion was a criminal offence in New South Wales. Once this information was provided, 73 per cent of those who were surveyed thought abortion should be decriminalised and regulated as a healthcare service, which is exactly what this bill proposes. With three-quarters of the population saying abortion should not be a crime and should be dealt with by healthcare professionals, legislators should feel very confident in having the support of the vast majority of New South Wales residents when voting to pass this bill.

    So how did New South Wales women come to be so ill-served by their elected representatives that they could be imprisoned for exercising agency over their own bodies? The Crimes Act containing the abortion provisions was proclaimed nearly 120 years ago, at a time when women, and in particular married women, were not afforded the same rights and privileges as men. I know it will upset the Hon. Mark Latham but I should clarify that statement as “white, heterosexual men” because Indigenous people, non-white migrants and gay men were not afforded the same range of rights and privileges as the straight man. In 1900 women’s lives were controlled by their guardians, either young women by their parents or older women by their husbands, and indeed even seen as being in service to the State to ensure the production of the next generation of citizens. Politicians such as Billy Hughes demanded that Australians “populate or perish” and by that he meant white Australians.

    The shameful White Australia Policy, which restricted the immigration of non-Europeans, put pressure on white Australian women to populate the country with large families. Contraception was neither reliable nor easily available. Girls were married off in their teens and wives could not refuse to have sex with their husbands. The idea of women having control over their fertility was seen as an existential threat to the British Empire and Australia’s place within it. The bodily autonomy of individual women was not a consideration. In the early 1900s, the New South Wales Government established the Royal Commission on the Decline of the Birth-Rate and on the Mortality of Infants in New South Wales. It was the first inquiry of its kind in the world. The findings linked the use of contraception and abortion to the deterioration of the nation.

    In particular, the all-male commissioners condemned women as selfish in attempting to reduce the number of pregnancies that they would have to endure—a remarkable statement given that this was at a time when infant and maternal mortality rates during birth were still common. To understand the misogyny of the times,one cannot go past the quote from the then President of the Victorian Branch of the British Medical Association,Dr Michael O’Sullivan. He believed that the main cause of ill health amongst Australian women was:

    … because, living in luxurious indolence, they cannot allow the duties of maternity to disturb their social pleasures; or perhaps, weighed down by shiftless poverty, they dread the devastating crowd of unwanted children.

    It was from these racist and sexist beginnings that we inherited the restrictive abortion laws that are still with us today, at least in New South Wales anyhow. As I have acknowledged previously in this House, as a gay man I may not have directly experienced the risks and challenges of unplanned pregnancies, but I do know what it is like for the State to have an unwarranted intrusion into my private life. Feminism has long stated that the personal is political. There is nothing more deeply personal and political than the State legislating what you can and can’t do with your own body. Humans are sexual beings. We crave intimacy and the expression of our sexuality has profoundly informed our music, painting, dance, literature, and indeed our entire culture. It is the puritans and the inquisitors, those obsessed with the control of sex, sexuality and gender, who will fight hardest against women gaining control over their own bodies and what they do with them.

    The criminalisation of abortion is about ultimately punishing women for exercising the expression of their sexuality and their agency; that women should not be allowed to “‘get away with sex without consequences”. We know that no contraception is 100 per cent effective. The World Health Organization estimates that if contraception were used perfectly in every instance, there would still be six million unplanned pregnancies each year worldwide. So realistically, a woman who is heterosexually active over the decades of her fertile years will always have a small risk of pregnancy, even when contraception is used. I cannot comprehend how anyone can seriously consider that it is ethical or humane to force a woman to continue with an unwanted pregnancy. I absolutely understand those who, for religious, cultural or personal reasons, decide to continue with a pregnancy even when there may be something to fear or it be inconvenient, life-threatening or terminal for either the mother or child. Unlike some so-called “right to lifers”, my support does not end at the birth of the child. I support alsogovernment assistance for infant, post-natal care, income support for carers of children, affordable housing for families, family-friendly employment laws, subsidised health care and free universal education. To me that is a humane society that cares for its most vulnerable members. To those who ask, “What about the humane treatment of fetuses?”, I state that a fetus cannot take precedence over a person who is already born and fully realised as a human being. A fetus is incapable of an independent existence outside of the woman’s uterus and no woman should be treated as an incubator, gestating against her will.

    I repeat my comments from 2017. As a representative of the Animal Justice Party I am most definitely concerned about the potential for sentience and therefore the risk of conscious suffering of the fetus. But, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 94.6 per cent of abortions occur under 13 weeks and only 0.7 per cent of abortions occur at more than 20 weeks. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that a fetus has sentience before 20 weeks gestation, which is actually five months and equal to 22 weeks. Of those 0.7 per cent of abortions performed after 20 weeks, the vast majority were as a result of severe fetal abnormality or continuation of a pregnancy that would cause serious life-threatening consequences for the mother, according to figures from a Women’s Health Victoria report in 2007.

    I strongly consider that this bill strikes the right balance by removing abortion from the Crimes Act and placing it into health care legislation. I trust women to know what is best for themselves and for doctors to properly assess the circumstances under which they would give approval for abortions over 22 weeks—a discussion that the woman and her doctor have together and they decide together. No-one is suggesting that abortions over 20 weeks are not fraught with ethical dilemmas as fetuses get closer to term, but I have seen no evidence that any woman aborts at such a late stage in pregnancy without there being compelling reasons for such a termination. Any suggestion that women capriciously change their minds about their impending motherhood is both offensive to women in general and is without a shred of evidence. I am sure that other matters such as sex selection, informed consent and disability discrimination may be raised in amendments to this bill, which I will address if and when they are debated.

    I apologise to the women of New South Wales for 119 years of state control over their right to choose whether to continue their pregnancies and to all the doctors and medical staff that have provided abortion health care services in a legally ambiguous environment whereby they could be imprisoned or lose their right to practise their profession. I commend this bill to the House.

  • broiler shed

    Animal agriculture reaching crisis point

    8th August 2019

    ANIMAL AGRICULTURE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (22:31): Animal agriculture is reaching a crisis point in Australia. There are multiple challenges ahead for Australia’s farmers from the impacts of the climate emergency, overexploitation of land and water and how farmed, wild and introduced animals are treated. Farmers cannot continue to do what they have always done because it no longer works; in fact, it never did. The environment and animals have always suffered as a consequence of farming. The consequences of that harm are now unavoidable. The leaked report on land use by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] makes it clear that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is also a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land. The IPCC proposes a major shift to plant-based diets in order to reduce agricultural land use, freeing land to be returned to habitat and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    The Government needs to speak honestly with our farmers and help them with funding to adjust to a new world, including changes in social attitudes about who and how we farm. I say “who” we farm because animal activists are making it clear that the recognition of individual animal sentience demands change. The very raison d’être of farming animals for food is in question. These concerns can no longer be brushed aside as the rantings of a few individuals given that two million Australians are now following a predominately plant-based diet. Barely a week goes by without yet another expose of animal cruelty. Last fortnight has seen reports of eye gouging and breaking the tales of cows at a large Tasmanian dairy, cruelty charges finally laid against Emanuel Exports for its horrific treatment of sheep frying to death on the Awassi Express, and the illegal Victorian abattoir where sheep suffered agonising and prolonged deaths. The findings of a report commissioned by the Federal Government entitledAustralia’s Shifting Mindset on Farm Animal Welfare should be a wake-up call to all animal farmers. Some 95 per cent of people want to see improvements in animal welfare. The report states:

    … the major driver of this shift is an increased focus on animals’ level of sentience and related capabilities …

    This report indicates:

    … a fundamental community belief that animals are entitled to the protection of relevant rights and freedoms, closely aligning with activist sentiment.

    These beliefs are spread across States and Territories and between capital cities, regional towns and rural areas. You would expect that New South Wales industry leaders and the Berejiklian Government would be chastened by these existential threats to animal agriculture. Sadly, they have only paid attention to the spin doctors and pandered to the fearmongers. As one example of spin without substance, the NSW Farmers delegates at its annual conference last week passed a motion that animal industries use the term “processing” in lieu of, and to the complete exclusion of, the term “slaughter”. Do they think that the public will not notice that animals are still transported to slaughter?

    We have seen the Berejiklian Government’s response to animal activism and community concerns about farmed animal cruelty. Instead of overhauling the investigation and enforcement of animal welfare laws or funding research into the emerging industries of alternative proteins, we have the “right to farm” dogma and the draconian penalties for farm trespass under the fig leaf of biosecurity. We need to re-imagine the Australian landscape with farms that grow plant proteins, integrate into the environment and take less water from our rivers—where our wild animals are once again able to share in our boundless landscape.

  • AJP Establishes a select committee to inquire into PoCTAA enforcement in NSW

    8th August 2019

    ANIMAL CRUELTY SELECT COMMITTEE

    Establishment

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I move:

    That private members’ business No. 111 outside the order be precedence be considered in a short form format.

    Motion agreed to.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (15:48): I seek leave to amend private members’ business item No. 111 outside the order of precedence for today of which I have given notice by omitting paragraph 2 (c) and inserting instead: “2. (c) three crossbench members, being Mr Banasiak, Ms Boyd and Mr Pearson.”

    Leave granted.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Accordingly, I move:

    1.That a select committee be established to inquire into and report on the effectiveness of arrangements for the administration and enforcement of the laws of New South Wales for the protection of animals from cruelty, and in particular:

    (a)the effectiveness of the charitable organisations currently approved under section 34B of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 [“the Act”] in achieving the objects of the Act, namely:

    (i)to prevent cruelty to animals;

    (ii)to promote the welfare of animals by requiring a person in charge of an animal:

    (a)to provide care for the animal;

    (b)to treat the animal in a humane manner; and

    (c)to ensure the welfare of the animal.

    (b)the ability of the charitable organisations currently approved under section 34B of the Act (“the approved charitable organisations”) to achieve the objects of the Act, including:

    (i)the level of funding provided by government;

    (ii)perpetrator and community education about ensuring animal welfare;

    (iii)any conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest between the investigation and enforcement of the Act, and one or more of the following:

    (a)commercial activities of the approved charitable organisations including corporate sponsorship;

    (b)industrial proxy membership payments or donations; and

    (c)private interests of board members, consultants, and senior staff.

    (c)the adequacy of the standard of care and kill rates for stray, surrendered or seized animals under the control or supervision of the approved charitable organisations;

    (d)whether it is effective and appropriate for non-government charitable organisations to be granted investigative and enforcement powers for criminal prosecutions under the Act, with regard to their:

    (i)capacity to exercise those investigative and enforcement powers;

    (ii)ability to exercise those investigative and enforcement powers in relation to commercial premises and intensive farm operations involving high numbers of animals;

    (iii)ability to conduct cases to test the application of legislative provisions in the Act;

    (iv)accountability to government and the community;

    (v)exemption from the provisions of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009; and

    (vi)exemption from administrative review under the Administrative Decisions Review Act 1997.

    (e)whether any limitations and deficiencies of the administration and enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 are common to other national or international jurisdictions which use similar models;

    (f)whether the Government should establish a specialist unit to investigate animal cruelty complaints and enforce animal protection laws, either as part of the NSW Police Force or as a separate statutory enforcement agency; and

    (g)any other related matter.

    2.That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the standing orders, the committee consist of seven members comprising:

    (a)three Government members;

    (b)two Opposition members, and

    (c) three crossbench members, being Mr Banasiak, Ms Boyd and Mr Pearson.

    3.That the chair of the committee be Mr Pearson.

    4.That, unless the committee decides otherwise:

    (a)submissions to inquiries are to be published, subject to the committee clerk checking for confidentiality and adverse mention and, where those issues arise, bringing them to the attention of the committee for consideration;

    (b)the chair’s proposed witness list is to be circulated to provide members with an opportunity to amend the list, with the witness list agreed to by email, unless a member requests the chair to convene a meeting to resolve any disagreement;

    (c)the sequence of questions to be asked at hearings alternate between Opposition, crossbench and Government members, in that order, with equal time allocated to each;

    (d)transcripts of evidence taken at public hearings are to be published;

    (e)the chair may make arrangements for the committee to visit and inspect sites relevant to the work of the committee, provided that the owner and/or occupier of the site, as the case requires, has given any necessary permission;

    (f)supplementary questions are to be lodged with the committee clerk within two days, excluding Saturday and Sunday, following the receipt of the hearing transcript, with witnesses requested to return answers to questions on notice and supplementary questions within 21 calendar days of the date on which questions are forwarded to the witness; and

    (g)answers to questions on notice and supplementary questions are to be published, subject to the committee clerk checking for confidentiality and adverse mention and, where those issues arise, bringing them to the attention of the committee for consideration.

    5.That the committee begin its inquiry in the third week of October 2019 and report by 2 April 2020.

    I want members to be aware that I considered seriously concerns that committee staff are overwhelmed by the existing committee workload. Therefore, this inquiry will not begin until the third week of October 2019 and will not report back until 2 April 2020.

    The Hon. DAMIEN TUDEHOPE (Minister for Finance and Small Business) (15:49): On a number of occasions the Government has clearly expressed its position regarding the establishment of select committees. The committee system is a credit to this Chamber. Having come to this place, I appreciate that it is one of the vibrant aspects of the work of this House. A strong system is already in place that is reinforced in many respects by the changes to debates about committees and the way the House operates. Establishing another select committee to conduct an inquiry that could easily be run by an existing portfolio committees strikes me as wasteful. It puts an undue burden on the staff who support the committee system. While I understand the honourable member’s intent, it appears to me that Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Industry or Portfolio Committee No. 7 – Planning and Environment would be perfectly capable of conducting an inquiry of this nature. With those few words, I oppose the establishment of the select committee.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH (15:51): I lead for the Opposition in debate on the motion to establish a select committee to look into aspects of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is important to recall that, for a range of reasons, the Labor Party went to the State election with a policy of reviewing the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. I understand that within government a body of work is being undertaken on animal welfare and the like, and I expect that to continue. The former Minister is in the Chamber; he may well have some views about that but he may not be able to tell us. The reality is that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act has not been properly reviewed for quite some time. I note the Minister’s comment about the committee structure that we have in this Chamber, which is—as I have said many times—an outstanding feature of this place and which assists us to do our work examining matters in detail. Whether we need another select committee is a matter for the House.

    There is an issue not just with committee staff and Hansard staff who support us in our work, but also with managing our own workloads and making sure that we are not being stretched by having too many committees. I recall the latter days of the last term of this Parliament when there were quite a few committee hearings. Members were passing each other in hallways while racing backwards and forwards to hearings. Trying to keep on top of the submissions and other committee work proved quite daunting for many of us. The Opposition supports the motion. We think it is timely to have a review of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. My only concern is that this review does not go to the extent I would like and does not quite match the policy that the Labor Party announced during the election campaign when we sought a full review of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. However, we will support the motion.

    The Hon. WALT SECORD (15:53): I support the motion as amended moved by Animal Justice Party member the Hon. Mark Pearson. I am part of a group of parliamentarians who are committed to the more humane treatment of animals. I believe this planet was not created just for our benefit; we are here to share this world. I believe all creatures have rights and I do not debate the matter of animal sentience. Every day we witness the capacity of animals to experience feelings such as suffering or pleasure; negative feelings or emotions, including pain, fear, boredom and frustration; and positive feelings, such as joy. Animals enrich our lives, and our engagement with them helps us to become better human beings. They also increase our general wellbeing and longevity. Sadly, animals are the only companions that some people have. Animals teach children empathy and how to care for others. For the record, I have had many spirited debates with my colleagues about puppy farms and the rights of poultry and pigs to be treated humanely. I have also attended Voiceless events in Sydney. On that note, I deeply wish that I could be vegetarian but it is not possible for me yet. But I digress.

    I note that paragraph 1 (b) of the motion canvasses charitable organisations. On that subject, members will be aware that I have a longstanding association with the Cat Protection Society of NSW, which is a charitable organisation based in Newtown. In October 2018 I was delighted to host the society’s sixtieth anniversary celebration here at Parliament House. Members will be aware that I migrated to Australia almost 31 years ago, and I have now lived here longer than I lived in Canada. My entire life on both continents has been connected to animals and enriched by them. As a child in rural Canada, I had many pets: cats, chickens, rabbits, ducks, fish and mice. In Australia I have had several dogs and cats, including a mixed‑breed dog, Sam; a tabby named Gary; and, most recently, an ex-street cat, Brutus. Sadly, they have all passed away. In fact, Brutus passed away several weeks ago and was buried in my North Bondi backyard. He was around 12.

    I delayed getting a cat after Gary died because our bond was so deep that I did not think I could ever replicate it. Luckily, I was wrong: I found Brutus. I had observed and admired the work of the Cat Protection Society of NSW for almost 25 years, so in January 2014 when I was looking for a pet I approached the society. After a rigorous screening process, I adopted Brutus. We bonded and had a deep relationship; we were well suited each other. My point is that it was a successful adoption, and I thank the Cat Protection Society staff for matching us. It was done with the care, concern and compassion that the Cat Protection Society is rightly known for. My experience with the Cat Protection Society is a testament to the value of charitable organisations in the field of animal protection. I commend the motion.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (15:56): My life is now complete knowing that the Hon. Walt Secord had a cat called Gary—hopefully after Nathan “Garry” Lyon, the great bowler. The committee proposed by this motion would duplicate, to a certain degree, what the Government is doing. The Government has agreed that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act needs to be updated; that is why it initiated the Animal Welfare Action Plan. The action plan contains six points: first, modernise the policy and legislative framework, which includes reforming all three animal welfare Acts in New South Wales and corresponding regulations, codes and standards; secondly, implement companion animal breeding practice reforms and communicate changes about new rules that apply to advertisements for the sale of dogs and cats; thirdly, improve the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement efforts, which includes reviewing animal welfare related penalties and enforcement tools; fourthly, ensure that sound research and scientific practices are used to develop policy and legislation by investing in research activities to help better understand animals and their welfare; fifthly, engage with key stakeholders and ensure that all views are respected and considered in developing policy and legislation; and, sixthly, invest in our systems and processes.

    We know that the legislation is quite outdated. We know that there is a lot that probably could be reviewed and consolidated, and that we need to look at the agencies that are responsible under the Act for the enforcement of animal welfare legislation. The Government has also said that we need to review the penalties associated with animal cruelty and, where necessary, improve them. When I said that the Government is already doing what this committee intends to do, the Hon. Mark Pearson disagreed. He is right: The Government is not doing what he wants this committee to do. We all know that the Hon. Mark Pearson wants this committee to beat up the RSPCA because he has a longstanding disagreement with that organisation about a number of animal welfare enforcement matters in this State. That is why the motion consistently mentions the charitable agencies—it is targeted directly at the RSPCA.

    We know that because when I was the responsible Minister the Hon. Mark Pearson said constantly that he wanted New South Wales police to play a greater role. I know the committee will consider the Government being an investigative agency under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. At the moment, the Government sets policy and has at arm’s length the organisations authorised under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty. This motion is nothing more than the Hon. Mark Pearson’s attempt to get back at the RSPCA. It will take up the time of the people who are seeking to overhaul the whole system. The Government agrees that something needs to be done, but it opposes the motion because staff should be getting on with the changes that are needed in New South Wales.

    Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (15:59): The Greens support this motion. I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for moving it. It is clear that the administration and enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is not meeting community expectations. I agree that members of this Chamber have a lot of committee work but I understand that efforts have been made to delay the start of this particular inquiry. I look forward to sitting in the committee inquiry and listening to experts and stakeholders tell us of their experiences about the administration and enforcement of the Act. I appreciate that a review by the Government is about to get underway. I view this inquiry as being quite useful for that process and I hope that the Government—including the Government members on the committee—use the information we gather for the purposes of that review. I welcome us getting ahead of the game when it comes to what will hopefully be some legislative reform.

    The Hon. BEN FRANKLIN (16:00): The New South Wales Government takes the issue of animal welfare very seriously. The Government has made it very clear that any act of animal cruelty is directly opposed to the values that it and the New South Wales community holds. The welfare of animals is in everybody’s interest, and the Government is ensuring the right framework is in place to support best practice. This includes standing beside our animal welfare enforcement agencies to make sure they are empowered to take action when needed.

    The Government has committed to reforming the animal welfare legislation in this State—a process referred to by the former Minister the Hon. Niall Blair—which we are trying to get on with, instead of undertaking yet another inquiry into the very same thing. As the Hon. Mark Pearson is aware, a key component of our legislative reform will be looking at compliance and enforcement. The motion before the House to establish this committee will duplicate the work that this Government is already on track to do. Once again, it will pull resources away from the Government getting on with the job. I have spoken before about this kind of thing happening again and again. Matters of this kind should be examined by portfolio committees; that is what they are for. A select committee will take resources away from the Government, which is already acting on this issue.

    There is no denying that people who do the wrong thing should be punished and face fines under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. That is why we encourage members of the public to report suspected animal cruelty to one of the enforcement agencies. That is because we value the good work that our animal welfare enforcement agencies do. Inspectors from RSPCA NSW and Animal Welfare League NSW have the power to lawfully investigate acts of animal cruelty and to rightly take action against people who mistreat animals.

    The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides inspectors with a range of powers to address animal cruelty. This includes seizing an animal if the inspector suspects, on reasonable grounds, that the animal is in distress or if an offence against the Act or regulation is being or is about to be committed. RSPCA NSW and Animal Welfare League NSW have been mainstays in the community and play a key role in promoting optimal animal welfare and responsible pet ownership. This Government will continue working with RSPCA NSW and Animal Welfare League NSW in their important work in enforcing the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

    A memorandum of understanding has been developed between the New South Wales Government, the RSPCA NSW and the Animal Welfare League of NSW. It came into effect in January 2016 and addresses how the enforcement agencies maintain appropriate separation of their general advocacy functions and their enforcement functions. As charitable organisations, the RSPCA NSW and the Animal Welfare League are also required to report through the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission reporting framework. This Government supports and will continue to support the role of our animal welfare enforcement agencies. The Government opposes the motion.

    The Hon. EMMA HURST (16:03): I support my colleague the Hon. Mark Pearson moving to establish this long-overdue select committee on the administration and enforcement of New South Wales laws regarding animal cruelty. With horrific stories of animal cruelty and neglect making daily headlines, and the RSPCA reporting an average of 15,000 animal cruelty complaints every year, it is clear our laws are failing animals across New South Wales. Our laws are weak and they are not being forced and cannot be enforced. There is no doubt that this inquiry will make the case for change. In practice, the NSW Police Force, the RSPCA NSW and the Animal Welfare League can enforce the main cruelty legislation in New South Wales—the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. But, in reality, the majority of this enforcement, investigation and prosecution is done by the RSPCA NSW, which is a charitable organisation relying almost entirely on the public for the majority of its income.

    The Hon. Niall Blair: How much from Government?

    The Hon. EMMA HURST: Let me repeat. The criminal legislation that protects animals in New South Wales is enforced by a private, publicly funded charity with extremely little funding from the Government. I am not a regular donor to the RSPCA and I wonder how many members in this House are. But if your neighbour is beating a dog, do you expect the RSPCA to investigate, to house that dog, to give that dog veterinary treatment and to prosecute the person for beating that dog? If so, with what money and with what support? Is this seriously the right framework for protecting animals in New South Wales?

    We have the power in Parliament to make changes and to take action on behalf of all animal lovers across New South Wales to protect animals. I urge members to take the first step forward and support this urgent inquiry. Only then can we find out how badly our system is broken. I wonder if that is what the Government is really afraid of. The system is broken. It is failing animals and we need to find out what we need to do to fix it.

    Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE (16:05): I support the motion to establish this long-overdue review—as it has been called by other members in this debate—of the laws in this State that are meant to prevent cruelty to animals. I commend and endorse the words of my colleague Ms Abigail Boyd, who leads for The Greens on questions relating to the protection of animals. I also endorse and support the words of the Hon. Mark Pearson and the Hon. Emma Hurst in their explanations of why this inquiry is essential.

    There have been cries from Government members that there is some funding provided to the RSPCA by the Government. It is a fraction of the RSPCA’s costs. The RSPCA’s website reveals that only a tiny percentage of its funding—some 2 per cent—comes from Government. This select committee will inquire into “whether it is effective and appropriate for non-government charitable organisations to be granted investigative and enforcement powers for criminal prosecutions under the Act”. Surely that is a fair thing for the committee to look at. What other part of our criminal law that deals with cruelty and violence do we contract enforcement out to a charity?

    The reason the Government is satisfied with the existing laws and does not want this inquiry is because it is quite happy for animals to be protected by a charity, not a properly funded, separate Government investigative unit or a properly funded specialist part of the NSW Police Force. The Government is clearly out of touch with the balance of the community. Members of the community cannot believe it when I tell them that our prevention of cruelty to animals law is principally enforced by a charity and not by police. The community values animals and responds far more strongly and far more emotionally—as they should—when they see cruelty being inflicted on animals and when they see the indifference of this Government when it comes to protecting the interests of animals. This committee will also inquire into:

    (f)whether the Government should establish a specialist unit to investigate animal cruelty complaints and enforce animal protection laws, either as part of the NSW Police Force or as a separate statutory enforcement agency,

    Of course the committee should be inquiring about that. Members of this place should inform the community about how weak our animal protection laws are. The community knows that animals are not being protected. People want an organisation that is well-resourced and independent on the beat. The more people know that animal welfare laws are enforced by an underfunded charity, the more they will be appalled at the lack of movement by this Government and the more they will endorse this important inquiry. [Time expired.]

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:09): In reply: The Hon. Niall Blair said “arms-length”. The Government is keeping the protection of animals through criminal legislation at arms-length. Would we want children to be protected by a body that is at arms-length from the Government? Should the agencies responsible for mentally ill or vulnerable people or women subjected to domestic violence be at arms-length from the Government? The answer is no. We should be watching this matter very closely and have a department that is able to administer, investigate and prosecute under our criminal legislation where necessary. No other criminal legislation in New South Wales is administered, investigated and prosecuted at arms-length except for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1979). This is not about wanting to bash up the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League or any other organisation. This is an inquiry as to the efficacy of the administration of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act—nothing more. I welcome every member’s contribution, including the cats Gary and Brutus. I commend the motion to the House.

    The ASSISTANT PRESIDENT (The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane): The question is that the motion as amended be agreed to.

    The House divided.

    Ayes23

    Noes18

    Majority5

    AYES

    Banasiak, Mr M

    Borsak, Mr R

    Boyd, Ms A

    Buttigieg, Mr M (teller)

    D’Adam, Mr A (teller)

    Donnelly, Mr G

    Faehrmann, Ms C

    Field, Mr J

    Graham, Mr J

    Houssos, Mrs C

    Hurst, Ms E

    Jackson, Ms R

    Mookhey, Mr D

    Moriarty, Ms T

    Moselmane, Mr S

    Nile, Revd Mr

    Pearson, Mr M

    Primrose, Mr P

    Searle, Mr A

    Secord, Mr W

    Sharpe, Ms P

    Shoebridge, Mr D

    Veitch, Mr M

     

    NOES

    Amato, Mr L

    Blair, Mr

    Cusack, Ms C

    Fang, Mr W (teller)

    Farlow, Mr S

    Franklin, Mr B

    Harwin, Mr D

    Khan, Mr T

    Latham, Mr M

    Maclaren-Jones, Mrs (teller)

    Mallard, Mr S

    Martin, Mr T

    Mason-Cox, Mr M

    Mitchell, Mrs

    Roberts, Mr R

    Taylor, Mrs

    Tudehope, Mr D

    Ward, Mrs N

    Motion agreed to.

     

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