• The REAL story on NSW Council pounds

     

    For many years I worked at Animal Liberation NSW and it was not unusual for me to receive complaints from distressed individuals about the fate of companion animals held in council pounds. When I was elected to Parliament, amongst the first calls my office received were in regard to the terrible conditions of some council pounds—allegations of outright cruelty and neglect of impounded animals, high kill rates and unacceptably low rehoming rates. For a nation that prides itself on its relationship with “man’s best friend” and the frequently cited observation that companion animals are “part of the family”, we discard tens of thousands of dogs and cats each year. These animals often end up in council pounds and face an uncertain future. That future is dependent upon the resources invested by individual councils to provide decent facilities, caring staff and a commitment to working with rescue groups to rehome as many animals as possible.

    Improvement in reducing kill rates and increasing rehoming rates across New South Wales must be acknowledged as being due to the enormous efforts of volunteer and self-funded rescue and rehoming groups that outperform council pounds and authorised agencies such as RSPCA NSW and the Animal Welfare League. New South Wales statistics collected for the period 2013-14 show that council pounds rehomed 5,549 cats and dogs, and killed 14,641 animals, the vast majority being healthy animals. The RSPCA rehomed 10,718 but killed 12,641, with one-third being killed for failing the behavioural temperament test. Community rescue groups rehomed approximately 8,000 and euthanased fewer than 200, all for genuine illness or severe behavioural problems.

    In my travels to regional areas, I will often meet with carer groups that work hard to improve the lives of impounded animals and do their best to work with councils to rehome cats and dogs. Frustration is evident in pound reform advocates who observe a lack of accountability and transparency in regard to councils discharging their obligations under the Companion Animals Act. Advocates complain about being referred between the Office of Local Government and NSW Department of Primary Industries when complaining about animal welfare in pounds.

    Although councils are required to comply with both the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Code of Practice for Cats and Dogs in Animal Boarding Establishments, many councils are either unaware or fail to comply. Examples include Griffith pound’s failure to provide daily exercise for dogs, pounds such as Singleton where animals are exposed to the extremes of weather, and Wagga pound where cats were placed alive in freezers. Evidence from the McHugh Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry found that Kempsey Shire Council Dog Pound’s record-keeping was so deficient it could not account for the number of greyhounds surrendered. The use of more than 250 millilitres of euthanasia drugs was not recorded

    I note that pounds are still legally allowed to shoot dogs and kill cats by direct needlestick to the heart or peritoneal cavity. These are marked down in reports as “euthanasia”, with some councils dumping bodies at the local tip. The public would be outraged if they knew. The public are generally unaware of the state of pounds, which can be hidden away near council tips and water treatment sites. A number of council pounds are failing to adhere to the requirements to be open for a minimum of four hours per day, making it difficult for people to reunite with their lost cats or dogs. Many pounds also refuse public access, making adoptions and rehoming difficult. I believe that a comprehensive audit undertaken by the Office of Local Government of all New South Wales council pounds, with findings and recommendations, is the only way the public can obtain a truly accurate account of the state of New South Wales pounds and the care that they provide to impounded companion animals.

  • Love is Love – Why I support Marriage Equality

    I fully support the right of each person to marry the partner of their choice, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

    Marriage has changed throughout the ages, reflecting the values and aspirations of each succeeding generation. Up until the 1950s, children could legally marry; brides as young as twelve and grooms fourteen years of age. It is not that long ago that wives pledged to ‘honour and obey’ their husbands and married women were unable to own property or earn an equal wage. Matrimony was once an obligatory life-time commitment, regardless of the breakdown of the marriage, with divorce a rarity until the family law reforms of the 1970s. Reliable contraception, smaller families, changing social attitudes and longer lifespans mean that marriage is no longer primarily about raising children. Our current ideal of a loving marriage between two consenting adults who wish to share their lives together as equals is very much a 21st century concept.

    I consider that our society is well and truly ready for another change; to include same sex couples in the modern definition of marriage. It is in reality a very small step; widening the arc of love and legal commitment to include two adults that are of the same gender. The Netherlands enacted same sex marriage in 2001 and the dykes haven’t collapsed into the sea. Belgium still makes the best chocolate, even vegan chocolate and in Australia any wailing or gnashing of teeth as a consequence of gaining marriage equality, will all be over by morning tea.

    I believe that the public celebration of loving, happy and respectful relationships in all their diversity is a social good. Every Australian should have the same rights under law, including the expression of their sexual love in a State-approved marriage. Marriage equality fosters inclusiveness and acceptance which advances the physical, mental and spiritual health of same-sex attracted people. Surely such an emotionally mature and enriching relationship will provide a strong foundation for a loving family environment in which to raise children. I believe the right to marry is an inalienable and fundamental human right for all consenting adults, regardless of gender.

  • Notice of Motion – Threatened Species Children’s Art Competition

    THREATENED SPECIES CHILDREN’S ART COMPETITION 2017

    On Threatened Species Day 2017, I was privileged to host the Threatened Species Day Children’s Art Competition. This is an amazing event which has grown by 250% since last year. It is exciting to see the connection children have with individual animals and their right to a free life in this world. Interestingly, ever piece of art I saw showed animals in the natural habitat, free from the bars of zoos and cages of captivity. To commend the event and congratulate the winners and organisers I gave a Notice of Motion to the House which was unanimously agreed to.

    Children have an inspiring connection with animals and this is a trait that must be nurtured into adulthood so that we can have a better life for ALL.

    1. That this House commends Forestmedia Network Incorporated for facilitating the 2017 Threatened Species Children’s Art Competition, which helps children unleash their artistic creativity while learning about the extinction crisis facing our native plants and animals; and which aims to encourage the next generation of environmental leaders.
    2. That this House acknowledges that with more than 1,000 species now threatened in New South Wales alone, environmental leaders have never been more needed.
    3. That this House congratulates the organisers of the event held on Threatened Species Day at Parliament House: Lorraine Bower, Susie Russell, Lindie Ward, Penny Walton, Stephanie Knox, Jenny Ellyard, Jenny Symons and Bri gid Dowsett.
    4. That this House thanks the Hon. Gabrielle Upton, MP, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage , and Minister for Local Government, and Dr Mehreen Faruqi, MLC, for their attendance and contributions to the discussion.
    5. That this House notes:
      1. entries to the 2017 competition have grown by 250 per cent, with more than 1,600 children entering, involving 68 schools and 14 other programs;
      2. the quality of the artistic work was inspiring and it is a testament to the future environmental leaders concerns for the future of our unique threatened species of flora and fauna—a future where they may never be able to see their chosen species in the wild, or see it at all;
      3. two exhibitions are being held—one at Surry Hills from 9 to 23 September 2017 and one in the open space at the Botanic Garden from 15 to 29 September 2017; and
      4. that the following schools and children’s programs participated in the competition: Alma Public, Beecroft Public, Ben Venue Public, Blue Mountains Steiner, Booligal Public, Broadwater Public, Brighton Le Sands Public, Burraneer Bay Public, Canley Vale Public, Capa Marks Point Public, Castle Cove Public, Cessnock West Public, Corndale Public, Jerrabomberra Public, John Colet School Belrose, Lawson Public, Lane Cove West Public, Largs Public, Larnook Public, Maribyrnong Primary, Middle Dural Public, Molong Central, Mother Teresa School, Mount Keira Demonstration School, Mullion Creek Public, Murray Farm Public, Murwillumbah public, Neville Bonner Primary; North Wagga Public, Ocean Shores Public, Oxley Park Public, Parramatta North Public, Paxton Public, Peterborough School [SSP], Plunkett Street School, Point Clare Public; Quakers Hill Public, RED inc—In school support, Roseville College, Sherwood Grange Public, St Clair Public, St Mark’s Catholic Primary, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary, St Patrick’s Primary, Sydney Children’s Hospital School, Sylvania Heights Public, Tamworth Public, Telopea Park Public, Tambelin Independent School, The Channon Public, Thomas Acres Public, Waitara Public, Weethalle Public, Westdale Public, West Ryde Public, Young Public, Ultimo children’s program, King George V children’s program The Rocks, Pyrmont children’s program, Crown Street children’s program, Redfern children’s program, Woolloomooloo children’s program, Girls and Boys Brigade holiday program Surry Hills, Girls and Boys Brigade after school program Surry Hills, Naidoc Festival, Art Box Workshops, Class Artz at Woollahra, Clovelly, Paddington, Kensington, Waverley and Randwick school s, Young Artists, and Art Zone- Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery.
    6. That the House thanks the following supporting organisations and individuals for their considerable contribution to the event and subsequent exhibitions: the Animal Justice Party; the City of Sydney Matching Grants program; Sophie Daniel, Team Leader, Community and Education Programs—Botanic Garden, and Mary Bell, Education Coordinator, School Programs—Botanic Garden ; Bren Weatherstone and the ACT Chapter of the Australian Association of Environmental Educators; Victoria Johnstone, Creative Director, Surry Hills Festival; Cassie Tilbrook, Gillian Elliott and the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre; Trish, Robyn, Georgia and the Byles Creek Valley Association; Donna Upton and the Capertee Valley Association; Jill; Helen and STEP Inc; Taronga Zoo; Featherdale Wildlife Park; Hoyts; the National Parks Association NSW; the Wilderness Society Sydney; Nature Conservation Trust; WIRES; Humane Society International; Nature Conservation Council NSW; Australian Forests and Climate Alliance; Animals Australia; North Coast Environment Council; South East Coast Regional Council; Nambucca Valley Conservation Association; and Caldera Environment Centre.
    7. That this House congratulates all the entrants in the competition and makes special note of the 2017 award winners:
      1. Kevin Yeh, (6)—first place in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      2. Emily Nees, (6)— second place in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      3. Amelia Gutwenger, (6)— highly commended in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      4. Jasper Hartmann, (8)—first place in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      5. Anneliese Gutwenger, (10)—second place in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      6. Jaccob Trevisan, (10)— highly commended in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      7. Natalie Barclay, (9)— highly commended in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      8. Claire Camilleri, (11)—first place in the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      9. Sarah Chen, (11)—second place i n the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      10. Sonia Pillai, (11)— highly commended in the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      11. Michelle Ciu, (9)—first place in the category of Most Unusual Entry;
      12. Mahli Barnes, (9)—second place in the category of Most Unusual Entry;
      13. Buraneer Bay [Skeleton]—First place in the category of Group Work;
      14. Art Box Workshops [Lepidopteras] —second place in the category of Group Work [equal];
      15. Oxley Art Group [Fragile Beauty]—second place in the category of Group Work [equal];
      16. Art Box Workshops [Rosenberg’s Goanna]— highly commended in the category of Group Work;
      17. Forrest Public School [Golden Sun Moths]— highly commended in the category of Group Work;
      18. Jake Fergusen, (11)—first place in the category of Best Written Explanation;
      19. Alyssa Sim, (8)—second place in the category of Best Written Explanation; and
      20. Kieren Kelly, (9)— highly commended in the category of Written Expression.
  • Marks Impassioned speech opposing the bill to remove homeless people from Martin Place

    The Animal Justice Party is absolutely dumbfounded by the Sydney Public Reserves (Public Safety) Bill 2017. I find it embarrassing that, in 2017, I am speaking to such a draconian, disgraceful, unconscionable piece of legislation.

    When the police arrest these people and pack up their very meagre belongings—as Mr Shoebridge pointed out, even the tiniest things; they could be photographs, locks of hair, a gift given to them by very important people—they are not valued in the way these homeless people value them, but they are going to be wrapped up and taken from them. It is questionable whether they will be returned. When the police arrest them and move them on, where will these people go? Where is their chance? Where is their space?

    It is important to note that one of the safest places—believe it or not—for homeless people to gather is in the city where it is busy and people and police are about, and Parliament and a hospital are nearby. Whether it be Martin Place or wherever they have chosen to gather in the city, they do so because living in a dark corner in Kings Cross or Newtown or any other backstreet is far more dangerous and jeopardises their wellbeing and safety. They come into the city for this sense of safety. But because a particular member of Parliament might find it uncomfortable to look upon these people we now have to remove this distasteful vista and push them away so we can have the space back . We do not know what has happened to them.

    I support the suggestions made by the Hon. Mick Veitch and Mr David Shoebridge. For God’s sake, we are a civilised society. The measure of a civilisation is how we take the vulnerable, the sick, the weak, the needy under our wings whatever the situation is that has caused these people to live in such a way that they are homeless. The notion that they are being belligerent and obstructive and may be choosing to live this way is utter rubbish. Even if some comment that this is the way they want to live, that person has a story to tell about why they have come to that decision. We cannot turn our backs on these people and treat them in this way.

    The aspect of section 7 that astounds me is that the provisions of the bill apply if the police officer believes on reasonable grounds that the person’s occupation of the reserve materially interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of the rights of the public. Using a broader definition of enjoyment, these people are enjoying the relatively safe space here in the city. How could they be considered to be materially interfering with other members of the public? I have seen no complaint, I have heard no claim that another person’s liberty has been materially interfered with by a person who puts a very small, very uncomfortable, cold tent in a street next to another tent where people can walk freely on either side.

    We need to face this problem head-on, not dodge it and not punish people for finding themselves in a terrible situation through no fault of their own. It is time that we turned our minds to understanding compassion and how it relates to civilisation. One of the best measures of human beings is whether they honestly address problems, take responsibility for them, and work proactively together to solve them. We must work with people in this dreadful situation and address homelessness. Not only have they experienced bad luck and terrible situations but this Government has also put in place many mechanisms that obstruct their free access to the liberty of a home.

    The Animal Justice Party absolutely opposes this legislation, which is draconian and an embarrassment to this and the other House. I condemn the bill.

  • Pig Dogging – A “Sport” of Bloodlust

    Pig dogging; the cruel and barbaric practice in which specially bred dogs are forced to hunt wild pigs. Pig dogging or “dogging” as it is generally known, represents a growing pastime based on the cruellest and most brutal form of hunting in Australia. In fact, it is the only form of legal hunting in Australia that sets one animal against another, resulting in immense suffering and distress to both dog and pig. In addition to its barbarity, it is also has a range of associated social, biosecurity, human safety and ecological issues.

    For the purpose of explanation, many in the House may not be aware of the true reality of pig dogging, in simple terms, pig-dogging involves the tracking, bailing, pinning, and mauling of wild pigs by specially-blooded pig dogs. Suffering and death is the name of the game and both dog and pig are the victims.

    The dogs risk being mauled and gored by pigs fighting for their lives, with Facebook posts often showing human hunters looking on in laughter. Token efforts from some hunters to fit their pig dogs with protective collars and breastplates do little to prevent serious and life ending injuries to their supposedly beloved dogs.

    If this is not cruel enough for people’s palette, then spare a thought for the immeasurable suffering of the pigs. In their struggle to escape, terrified pigs are savaged and may even be mauled to death if not found quickly by the human hunter. The standard method of death is by “sticking” – this is the stabbing of the stomach or chest to puncture the heart – before leaving them to bleed out.

    This is hardly a “humane” death.

    Despite all efforts to kill these sentient beings in this so called ‘humane’ way, this is rarely the reality. These bloodthirsty hunts cover large areas and it’s difficult for hunters to maintain contact with their dogs. Pigs are often mauled for long periods and often die a slow death before the humans reach the victim. This is in clear breach of current animal cruelty laws and regulations. It has even been seen that in many cases, hunters actually encourage their dogs to maul the pigs. A practice which was documented on a special ABC 7:30 Report back in 2012 and something that even pig doggers themselves admit is common place.

    I think it is fair and accurate to say that the majority of the community are probably unaware of this recreational bloodlust. But, once aware, there is no doubt in my mind that any decent person would find this barbaric form of hunting to be shocking and appalling. More so when we factor that this cruelty is actively promoted by Government agencies such as the Department of Primary Industries, the very government agency responsible for the welfare of every animal in this state.

    Members may be aware of my travels across regional and rural areas of NSW. These trips are vital in listening to members of the public who feel they are not being listened too or are too scared to speak up about this rampant animal cruelty in their communities. A common issue expressed to me, is that of injured and abandoned pig dogs. Dogs that are mauled and mutilated by the defensive acts of terrified pigs are often abandoned or left to suffer due to hunters not wanting to pay the vet bill.

    Some dogs are merely dumped at pounds because they don’t show the “killer instinct”. The even unluckier ones who don’t get dumped or re-homed are brutally killed or used as bait for other dogs to be ‘blood’ trained.

    Minister Blair likes to raise the issue of so called ‘pest’ animals and wild dogs, yet instead of blaming the animals maybe he should be looking at the hunting fraternity. It is common knowledge that lost pig dogs in the large rural areas of western NSW contribute to the wild dog population. This also increases the possibility of these highly-aggressive selectively bred hunting dogs interbreeding with dingoes creating a large, super-aggressive canine predator in the Australian landscape.

    Hunters who use pig dogging, claim that they are attempting to control pig populations, despite the fact that hunting is simply not a successful method of animal control. In addition, there have been many reports of hunters releasing pigs into national parks to increase the geographic spread of pigs for hunting. They also purposely do not take small pigs or sows thus ensuring ‘sport’ for future seasons. The fact is that this is about killing animals for sport, not for population control. A 2009 critique by the Invasive Species Council of Australia debunks the claim that hunters are conservationists. In reality, hunters have created a ‘sport’ based on suffering, cruelty and death. It has also spawned an industry in dog breeding and trading as well as commercial accessories such as GPS trackers, protective collars, jackets and breastplates.

    This is an industry they don’t want to see die, but in fact grow. Therefore, why would they actually want to eradicate so called feral animals?

    Pig dogging is the worst form of hunting and goes largely unchecked and unregulated. It often involves people who may have criminal records and therefore cannot obtain a gun licence to hunt. It involves pack hunting mentality and I have had a many report come to my office of alcohol and drug weekends sprees by pig doggers looking for a cheap thrill at the expense of innocent animals.

    Furthermore, children are often present on pig-dogging hunts, and the lasting effects on them of witnessing this violence first-hand are extremely worrying. Teaching children to chase, torture and kill animals is cruel and further ingrains the bloodlust desire inherent in this so called “sport”.

    What I and many people find most disturbing is that in 2017, pig dogging remains legal on NSW. I would put to this House that by its very brutal nature, it is impossible to participate in this form of hunting without compromising the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. Few, apart from its direct supporters, would mourn the end of this industry of bloodlust passing into history. It will then appropriately reside in the dark parts of our history with such other blood sports as bear-baiting, cock-fighting, and greyhound coursing.

    Pig dogging is a blight on our reputation as a humane and developed society, and it must stop.

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