• Naree Pon

    COMPANION ANIMALS DESERVE CONSIDERATION IN RESIDENTIAL RENTAL AGREEMENTS

    17th October 2018

    RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES AMENDMENT (REVIEW) BILL 2018

    Mark Pearson moved an amendment to the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018. The amendment would ensure that companion animals would be given consideration in residential tenancies for renters.  The amendment was supported by the Greens but not by the Government or Opposition.

    The CHAIR (The Hon. Trevor Khan): There being no objection, the bill will be taken as a whole. I have three sets of amendments: the Animal Justice Party amendment on sheet C2018-119A, the Opposition set of amendments on sheet C2018-123 and The Greens amendments on sheet C2018-122.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (11:50): I move the Animal Justice Party amendment No. 1 on sheet 2018-119A:

    No. 1Companion animals

    Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 24:

    [2]Section 19 Prohibited terms

    Insert after section 19 (2) (e):

    (f)that a companion animal of a person who is lawfully residing on the residential premises is not permitted to be kept on the premises. This amendment is a double negative and relates to companion animals:

    No. 1Companion animals

    Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 24:

    [2]Section 19 Prohibited terms

    Insert after section 19 (2) (e):

    (f)that a companion animal of a person who is lawfully residing on the residential premises is not permitted to be kept on the premises.

    The 2016 Census figures show that more than 30 per cent of households in Australia rely on rental accommodation for their housing needs. Combine that figure with the fact that 62 per cent of households have companion animals and we have a significant social problem with the lack of legal protections for tenants with companion animals. This problem is escalating as housing affordability causes many people to remain tenants, often for life. In Europe, where renting is the norm, there is legal recognition that tenants should not be unfairly restricted from experiences such as living with pets.

    A landlord may own a property to derive income and capital gains and it is obviously not unreasonable for them to want to protect that asset. As a society we recognise the benefit that private landlords bring to the housing sector for people who cannot afford to buy their own homes or who are not eligible for social housing. However, we must also acknowledge that the landlord’s asset is also the tenant’s home. I believe that it is entirely reasonable for tenants to be able to enjoy the same benefits of living with companion animals as do home owners. It also helps to address a terrible tragedy, that is, the increasing number of tenants who are forced to surrender their animals to pounds and shelters.

    RSPCA statistics show that 15 per cent of the dogs and cats that are surrendered are because people are moving house and cannot not find accommodation that allows companion animals. As a society we intervene in the operations of many commercial enterprises on the understanding that it is for the public good. We legislate to ensure that retailers must sell food that is not adulterated, that a motel owner cannot refuse to book a room for a gay couple, and that property developers must comply with building standards to ensure public safety. We do this because we believe that public health, welfare and fairness is important and that the “market” is unlikely to provide those protections if left to its own devices.

    Landlords are currently free to refuse tenants and the consequences are such that most landlords choose the easy option of not allowing any pets, without any consideration of the social, physical and psychological benefits that companion animals have in the lives of humans. We live in a society where single and older person households are on the rise. These two groups are at risk of social isolation. For older persons the isolation may be due to physical disabilities or illness. Both groups may struggle with the lack of social interaction leading to anxiety and depression. Psychiatrists at the University of Rochester Medical Center undertook research which found that those living with pets were 36 per cent less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness. We know that human beings are social animals and that loneliness is a killer. Older adults who report feelings of loneliness are at an increased risk of many serious physical and mental health conditions, including death.

    There have been many research studies undertaken that show a raft of health benefits from living with companion animals. Human-animal relationship lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and people recovering from heart attacks recover more quickly and survive longer when there is a pet in the home. For people living alone, a companion animal may be the only affectionate touch they experience through their day. Petting an animal is known to release oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress as well as boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which promote alertness and a sense of wellbeing. According to beyondblue, it is estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime and that in any one year approximately one million Australian adults will experience depression and more than two million will have anxiety.

    According to depression research, being responsible for the care of an animal promotes mental health. Self-esteem is improved when people realise they are capable of caring for another sentient being. For people debilitated by depression, living with a companion animal brings a structure to the day and may be the only reason that they are able to get out of bed. Feeding, caring and exercising a beloved animal provides positive feedback and helps with healing from depression. I note that the Victorian Government has recently amended its residential tenancy legislation to allow pets in rental accommodation and that the Queensland Government has a similar provision before its Parliament. If our sister States are able to recognise the case in favour of companion animals, then surely we can join them in that compassionate approach. Allowing tenants to have companion animals will not only significantly improve the wellbeing of people but also quite simply save lives, both human and animal. I commend the amendment.

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK (11:56): The Animal Justice Party amendment is not supported by the Government. Companion animals are not defined under the Companion Animals Act 1998 as a dog or cat. Properties vary greatly and different types of pets may not be suitable for some properties. The landlord and tenant are best placed to negotiate on whether a particular pet would be appropriate for a property. The Residential Tenancies Act leaves the issue of whether a tenant can keep a pet—but not an assistance animal—to be negotiated between a landlord and tenant, and the Government considers that that is appropriate.

    Mr JUSTIN FIELD (11:57): The Greens support the amendment moved by the Hon. Mark Pearson on behalf of the Animal Justice Party. The Greens had a similar amendment to ensure that those living with companion animals are not unfairly impacted by these changes and that the Residential Tenancy Act supports them to continue to live with their pets. There are more people living in rental properties than ever before. Many of them have pets and these pets are an important part of their family. Certainly I have had that experience living in rental accommodation. I have been fortunate to find rental accommodation where it has been possible for my family to have our pets. I know how important our pets are to my young son. It is important that we keep families together, including the non-human parts of our families. The Greens support the amendments moved by the Animal Justice Party.

    The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE (11:58): The Opposition appreciates the intent of the amendment moved by the Animal Justice Party. We are concerned about the need to ensure that there are not unintended consequences. The best way of doing that is to have consulted fully with all stakeholders involved to ensure that the outcome is both fair and balanced and that there are no negative impacts that we are aware of. While we appreciate the intent, for the reasons I have outlined at this stage the Opposition does not support the amendment.

    The CHAIR (The Hon. Trevor Khan): The Hon. Mark Pearson has moved Animal Justice Party amendment No. 1 on sheet C2018-119A. The question is that the amendment be agreed to.

    Amendment negatived.

  • THE FUTURE OF NSW ANIMAL AGRICULTURE

    26th September 2018

    Questions without notice.

    The Hon. Niall Blair on the future viability of NSW animal agriculture.

    Rural media is reporting that farmers are having serious difficulty sourcing hay for their sheep and cattle due to the ongoing drought. In one instance a farmer accidentally killed his sheep by feeding them excessive amounts of grain in an attempt to make up for the lack of pasture. Alternative feed such as watermelons and potatoes are being offered to feed hungry animals, with serious concerns about nutritional deficiencies, and animal health and welfare. Given that there is no end in sight for this drought, and with climate change indicating more frequent and prolonged droughts, is the Minister’s department preparing a strategy for farmers who will need to abandon animal farming in areas where it will no longer be environmentally or economically viable?

  • baby chicks

    CHILDREN AND THE NATURAL WORLD

    25th September 2018

    Adjournment speech.

    Mark Pearson on children and their natural empathy for animals.

    As adults we cannot fail to observe a child’s innocent delight in interactions with animals. On a more prosaic note, science tells us that a child’s amygdala, the most ancient part of the human brain, is hardwired to respond to other animals.  When measuring brain activity, scientists found that neurons in the amygdala became extremely active when the subject was shown pictures of animals. The right hemisphere of the amygdala is the storage space where young brains respond to emotional stimuli, creating categories of animals such as prey, play or predator.

    E.O. Wilson, a biologist, coined the term “biophilia” to describe the biologically determined affinity of humans with the natural world, including the inherent empathy humans have for other living beings. It explains the emotional desire to protect creatures that are small and vulnerable.

    Very young children are drawn to animals, especially baby animals. Babies are more likely to smile at, talk to and touch live animals rather than mechanical animal toys. Studies of the dreams of pre-school children reveal that as many as 90% of their dreams are about animals. There is also considerable evidence that children derive emotional sustenance from their companion animals, often talking to their pets when lonely, afraid or sad.

    Early childhood educators have recognised that children thrive when they spend time in natural settings that include opportunities for interactions with animals. .   Unlike adults who have been socialised into a transnational view of animals; what they can provide in the way of food, clothing or entertainment, children recognise the intrinsic value of animals; that simply because they are living creatures, they are important. Children innately understand that they are part of and not separate to, nature.

    As social media videos show, children have the openness and capacity to bond with any kind of animal. A chance encounter with an orphaned magpie can trigger a lifelong passion for native birds. When children are introduced to wild animals, a whole new world opens before them.  Even endemic wild creatures such as ducks, possums and lizards can absorb a child’s full attention

    The fictional wall that human society has built to delineate between human and animal is invisible to children. Children are curious to know about all the different ways of being an animal. As any story teller knows, a child is endlessly fascinated about animals live. They love to hear the sounds animal make, the homes they build, what and how they eat.  Children are amazed by the ability of animals to fly, swim through the water and climb high in the trees, or seem to disappear through camouflage.

    Introducing children to the natural environment and wild animals can help children develop empathy for animals.  Research also reveals that when children are encouraged to care for companion animals, they tend to be more sensitive and caring toward other people as well. A growing body of evidence shows that children who are supported in their care for animals tend to generalise that love to other living things.  Developing caring relationships with animal can lead to deeper feelings of empathy in young children, more positive peer relationships, and social-emotional development.

    As children have experiences with animals, they learn about differences and similarities, needs (such as for food, shelter, water and space), and compassion and empathy can grow and deepen.

    Conversely, if children are not exposed to the natural world in a positive way, their developing amygdala may only learn the fear response to animals and the natural world.  Their innate sense of connection to nature can be overridden by adult role modelling.  At worst, children may develop biophobia, an aversion to nature. Children may learn to become fearful of insects and animals not found in highly urbanised environments. These children are at risk of growing up to undervalue the environment and to have little regard for animals as sentient beings.

  • Australia's gentle icon with nowhere safe to hide

    KANGAROO SLAUGHTERFEST IN NSW

    19th September 2018

    Notice of motion.

    Mark Pearson tabled a motion condemning the NSW Government over its treatment of kangaroos.

    I give notice that on the next sitting day I will move:

    1. That this House condemns the government’s decision to amend the licencing provisions under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 to allow the almost unrestricted slaughter of kangaroos by      landholders and their agents.

    2. That this House notes that the ongoing drought has caused kangaroos to move in from their native habitats into rural landholdings, in the search for food and water.

    3. That this House notes that it is scientifically impossible for kangaroos to breed up into plague proportions given their low rates of reproduction and high juvenile mortality due to predation.

    4. That this House notes with extreme distress that as a result of the government’s licencing amendments, there is a genocide being committed against kangaroos in country New South Wales.

    5. That this House recognises the extreme stress caused to wildlife carer groups by having to:
    (a) witness the gruesome impact of the virtually unfettered slaughter of kangaroos and
    (b) care for an overwhelming number of injured and orphaned kangaroos as a direct consequence of the loosening of the licencing provisions.

    6. The House calls upon the Minister for Primary Industries to
    (a) facilitate an observational visit to those rural areas where kangaroos are claimed to be in plague proportions and
    (b) invite all members to participate in order to identify areas where kangaroos are
    i. in such numbers that they are at risk of starvation or
    ii. causing irreparable damage to rural landholdings or
    iii. causing the death of cattle and sheep through competition for the available food supply.
    (c) arrange food drops to any areas where kangaroos are found to be starving.

  • 68 NORTH COAST KOALAS KILLED ON THE PACIFIC HIGHWAY SINCE 2013

    14th August 2018

    Questions without notice.

    Graphic footage has emerged of a truck driver who ignored flashing warning signs set up by Roads and Maritime Services workers who were attempting to rescue an injured koala trapped on the Pacific highway.  68 North Coast koalas have been killed on the Pacific Highway since 2013.  We understand that the truck driver has been charged.

    KOALA PROTECTION

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:22): My question is directed to the Hon. Don Harwin representing the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. An ABC Government Information (Public Access) Act request revealed that 68 North Coast koalas have been killed on the Pacific Highway since 2013. Fatalities include a koala killed by a truck driver who ignored flashing warning signs set up by Roads and Maritime Services [RMS] workers who were attempting to rescue the koala trapped on the highway. Noting that koalas are endangered on the North Coast, what is the Government doing to improve koala protections on the Pacific Highway? And will the Minister advise whether the truck driver has been charged with killing an animal and contravening RMS traffic directives?

    The Hon. Don Harwin: As the matter is more properly within the portfolio of the roads Minister, my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Government will answer the Hon. Mark Pearson.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:23): I thank the House for its indulgence. The member asked a question that should have been directed to the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight rather than the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. I am advised that as part of the strategy to increase koala habitat and connect existing habitat, 80,000 koala habitat trees have been planted on 110 hectares of previously cleared land with another 10,000 trees to be planted on 20 hectares when construction on the Pacific Highway is complete.

    So far, more than 7,000 workers have been trained through a koala zero harm induction program to identify koala habitat, key threat mitigation strategies and how to implement strict rescue procedures. When complete, the highway will provide a closed system of fauna fencing with 26 bridges and large culverts to allow local wildlife and koalas to safely cross, which is about one crossing every 500 metres. I can advise members that 23 kilometres of temporary fencing and 16 kilometres of permanent fencing has been installed on the existing Pacific Highway at Wardell Road. All project sites and access roads have been protected with temporary koala fencing and speed zones have been reduced in known koala areas. Six vehicle activated koala signs and seven static safety signs have been installed on local roads in consultation with Ballina Shire Council and Friends of the Koala to increase driver awareness about koalas in the area. RMS continues to work with stakeholders to ensure the best outcome for koalas and is keeping the community informed of progress. A progress update on the Koala Management Plan was released in February 2018. An independent ecological contractor has started a monitoring program that will be in place for up to 15 years. This will help to measure the effectiveness of the mitigation strategies.

    I saw the ABC story about the incident in the tunnel to which the Hon. Mark Pearson is referring. The images were quite confronting to view. I am advised that RMS staff took all reasonable steps to prevent this incident, including reducing traffic to one lane, reducing the speed limit, alerting motorists to the koala in the tunnel and calling the koala rescue group Friends of the Koala to help rescue the animal. Despite the best efforts of RMS staff, the koala was struck after a motorist failed to observe the warnings. Since the 2017 incident, RMS have reviewed fencing in the area. Following the incident, an additional 120 metres of fauna fencing was installed north of the tunnel. RMS is not aware of any other koalas being hit by traffic on this section of the highway since the incident. In addition to the recent announcement by the Minister for the Environment, the Government has some measures that will be installed in areas such as Appin Road to address its area of concern. I hope that provides the Hon. Mark Pearson with a bit of information as to what RMS has been doing. I thank the House and the member for allowing me to provide that information, although the original question was asked to the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure.

Page 3 of 2112345...1020...Last »