14th October 2015

    Second read speech.


    The Hon. MARK PEARSON [12.50 p.m.]: The Animal Justice Party will oppose the Transport Administration Amendment (Closure of Railway Line at Newcastle) Bill 2015. The whole argument of the Government in this debate has been that the closure of the railway line is about revitalising the centre of Newcastle. How can one revitalise the centre of Newcastle by taking away its lifeline, its fundamental structure, which has resulted in Newcastle having one of the best transport systems in Australia? Heavy rail legislation is very important. It has been put in place and supported because heavy rail is a lifeline. It is a fundamental structure necessary to connect cities and towns. When there is a crisis or a need to overcome a disaster of any type, a heavy rail line will allow the transport of necessities. That is one of the reasons heavy rail has been put in place.

    A common-sense argument for keeping this heavy rail line is the expense of removing the heavy rail and putting in a light rail line only about 50 metres away. It would make sense to keep transport through the corridor, to use the line that is already there and to build up the structure surrounding the line so that it can carry trams and other light rail vehicles. This would open up the area to public access—which the Government has said is its aim. The rail traffic would be slower and would stop more regularly and people would be able to travel across the line to the foreshore. This is what has happened in many other cities in the world that have developed such infrastructure.

    It is clear that one of the major reasons the Government is supporting this development is the vested interests of developers. Developers want that corridor because it will save them money: as a heavy rail corridor there has been no mining underneath. If developers were to build structures elsewhere—around Hunter Street and so on—they would have to invest a lot of money filling in the underground. I come from Newcastle. It has lost its soul and a sense of community and beauty. But it is possible to revitalise and bring life back to the area by keeping the heavy rail and putting infrastructure around that to make it much more user friendly for the community and to enable members of the community to enjoy the area. Development for accommodation could be built over and above the heavy rail with trams running underneath. The Animal Justice Party will not support this bill.

    The full debate can be read here.


    17th September 2015

    Adjournment speech.

    Water usage in beef production.


    The Hon. MARK PEARSON [3.38 p.m.]: When thinking about water use, our immediate focus is on how much water we use from taps or tanks around the house and garden. Perhaps we think about how much we use at work. Why is it, when we focus on the amount of water used to produce protein or food for human consumption, we conveniently neglect the elephant—or should I say the steer and the cow—in the room? Often a large volume of “embodied water” is associated with many items we use or consume on a daily basis. This is the amount of water used during the growing, transportation and processing of the goods and services we use or consume. However, what is clearly evident—and backed by numerous scientific studies and reports—is that it is animal products that impart huge strains on our water resources and in turn our water security.

    In Victoria animal agriculture is responsible for 51 per cent of the State’s water consumption. The dairy industry alone is responsible for 34 per cent of that consumption. The size and characteristics of the water footprint vary across animal types and production systems. Beef production, which Australia is known for, is by far one of the worst and one that I want to bring to the attention of members today. Per tonne of product, animal products generally have a larger water footprint than plant products. The same is true when we look at the water footprint per calorie. The average water footprint per calorie for beef is 20 times larger than for cereals and roots. For beef, the water footprint per gram of protein is six times larger than for pulses. From a freshwater resource perspective it is more efficient to obtain calories, protein and fat from plants rather than animal products.

    The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: But it is not as tasty.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: As a global average vegetables use 320 litres per kilogram and 26 litres per gram of protein; fruits, 260 litres per kilogram and 180 litres per gram of protein; cereals, 1,645 litres per kilogram and 21 litres per gram of protein; beef, 15,415 litres per kilogram and 112 litres per gram of protein. How does Australia fare in relation to global averages? Professor Wayne Meyer of the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation [CSIRO], and Professor of Natural Resource Science at the University of Adelaide, cites as much as 50,000 to 100,000 litres of water per kilogram of beef. By comparison, he calculated it takes between 1,550 and 2,000 litres to produce a kilogram of rice. Yes, not as tasty perhaps, for some.

    There has been much discussion about whether a dry country such as Australia should be growing rice or other plant products and yet there is no public outcry about the heavy toll taken by supplying millions of litres of water to cattle for meat production. The CSIRO figures cannot be ignored. I cite some comparative water usage figures from Professor Meyer: beef, 50,000 to 100,000 litres per kilogram; rice, 2,385 litres per kilogram; and wheat, 110 litres per kilogram. This is an important matter because it is about looking after our agriculture, agribusiness, and providing food and nourishment for our children and their children in the world. Moving towards a plant-based diet can save households 35 per cent of their total water usage. Moving towards a plant-based diet means the grain that is grown and transported to feed the billions of cattle that are kept in feedlots could be used to save the starving people in this world. We will not save them and we may not save our own children’s children if we do not.


    16th September 2015

    Second reading speech.

    Child protection legislation amendment bill 2015.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON [5.16 p.m.]: The Animal Justice Party supports the Child Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, with one slight concern, which I will go to. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that vulnerable children are overrepresented in out-of-home care. Children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, children in residential care, children with a disability and children with sexualised behaviour or a history of sexual abuse are at an increased risk of abuse. It is apparent that perpetrators are more likely to offend when an institution lacks the appropriate culture and is not managed with the protection of children as a high priority.

    I have experience of working in the mental health sector. The percentage of people with a mental illness who are perpetrators of child abuse is the same as the percentage of people who do not have a mental illness, because it is a criminal activity. I worked with psychologists who were responsible for following up on offenders who had been released from prison. It became clear that only 15 per cent of people who had committed a serious sexual offence against a child gained the insight to see that they had committed a criminal offence. The number is alarmingly small. It influenced one of the main principles underpinning the recommendations in the report of the royal commission, which prompted this amendment bill. The Parliament and the Government are galvanised to protect vulnerable children.

    There is evidence that it deters registered offenders from applying for positions that involve working with children if they know that they will be detected. When balancing the interests of adult carers and vulnerable children, the interests of children must be at the forefront when determining whether to authorise a person as a carer. When there are any doubts about the suitability of carers, authorities should rightly be charged with the duty to act in the best interests of ensuring the child’s safety and err on the side of caution. This is done more easily when there is no pre-existing relationship with the child and the carer is merely seeking entry to or ongoing employment in the child protection sector.

    What is important about this bill is that for a person who has already been convicted of a serious or very serious offence or aggravated offence against a child, there is a blaring and concerning question if that same person seeks employment working with children. It would seem logical and sensible that that person would avoid seeking work in any area that concerns the care of children. The Animal Justice Party has a concern in relation to new section 26C, where a person whose application for a Working With Children Check clearance has been refused wholly or partly on the grounds that proceedings have been commenced against the person for an offence specified in schedule 2 and the proceedings have not been finally determined. Even though that cannot be rectified, the concern of the Animal Justice Party is that if the person who has been charged or is facing proceedings is not convicted, it should then reflect on the selection committee that is considering the person for the position.

    The Animal Justice Party overwhelmingly supports the bill; we think it is long overdue. It upholds the very principles we uphold every day when we sit in Parliament and say that we are responsible for the welfare of the people of New South Wales and Australia. The welfare of the most vulnerable—children—should be closest to our hearts.

    The full debate can be read here.


    8th September 2015

    Adjournment speech.



    The Hon. MARK PEARSON [9.06 p.m.]: Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison is a Yuin elder connected to his tribal lands of the South Coast of New South Wales—extending from the Snowy River in the south, to the escarpment of Wollongong in the north, and west to the Southern Highlands. As a young man he was chosen for initiation into tribal lore. He learnt the ancient wisdoms and spent many years learning about caring for country. Uncle Max stresses the importance of learning gleaned from watching, listening and seeing. He says, “If we don’t follow these three principles then we don’t learn anything.”

    For more than 30 years, Uncle Max has been passionate about educating people from a variety of backgrounds. He has taken people to his country, showed them sacred places and taught them about the importance of reconnecting with the land. With his family, he provides cultural training and education via their Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness consultancy. Indeed, he led the opening traditional ceremony for the 2011 and 2012 Australia Day celebrations at Sydney in recognition of his standing in the community. He has been invited to speak about the importance of maintaining traditional wisdom in Japan, Finland, France, the United States of America and across Australia. In 2009 he published a book titled My People’s Dreaming “to raise awareness of Aboriginal spirituality and to explain how we connect to the land”.

    His teachings cover the Yuin people’s creation dreaming, bush lore, foods, healing, laws and punishment, spirituality and the significance of our relationship to land and to animals. Uncle Max is greatly concerned about proper respect for the environment and the animals that share country with us—we all are bound together by a spiritual connection. He sees the land very clearly. But rather than using European ways to describe the landscape, he encourages people to go step-by-step and be a part of it. Instead of classifying a tree and objectifying it, he asks people to look at the tree, to experience how it sits in the landscape and grows, as well as the plants that grow around it and its purpose in that place. He notes:

    People are saying what are we going to do about climate change, what are we going to do about the ozone layer? They are looking up there at the ozone layer. It is not up there that’s the problem, it’s down here. And this is what I am trying to show people and teach them.

    That deep connection with land includes a proper relationship with animals. At certain times of the year, Uncle Max will perform ceremonies to ensure that the whales are sent on their way to protect the fish and to look after the food and medicines in the ocean. He describes when he was three years old watching his father and uncles slapping the water to bring in the dolphins. He said:

    These old men were masters of communicating and getting in touch with the spirit of the dolphins.

    Uncle Max is also an expert adviser to The Think Tank for Kangaroos [THINKK] and has raised a number of concerns about the killing of kangaroos for commercial and non-commercial purposes. He has expressed concern that the mass killing of kangaroos is damaging dreaming tracks across Australia. At the conclusion of his book he says:

    Mother Earth births everything for us. Father Sky carries the water and oxygen for us to breathe. Grandfather Sun warms the planet, warms our body, gives us light so we can see, raises the food that the Mother births and raises most of our relations, all our plants and trees. Grandmother Moon moves the water and gives us the woman-time and our birthing.

    Uncle Max recently said to Chinese officials, “Please don’t eat our kangaroos and I would never eat your pandas.”


    26th August 2015

    Second read speech.

    Ag Gag Bill 2015.


    The Hon. MARK PEARSON [8.15 p.m.]: The Animal Justice Party is in a difficult position because biosecurity is important for the welfare of human beings and animals, the health of food and the protection of the environment. The Animal Justice Party agrees with the principle that biosecurity in New South Wales is everybody’s responsibility but, as the bill currently exists, we cannot support it for three reasons. Firstly, the Executive Government is insisting on exercising excessive power, let alone its refusal to give that administration to the police and the judiciary. That strikes at the fundamental principle of the Westminster system, which is held in high esteem and based on fundamental democracy. The Westminster system has evolved over almost 1,000 years. Secondly, the Executive Government is insisting on excessively punitive penalties. Thirdly, as has been trumpeted from the rooftops by the Government, the Government is claiming that this bill is crucial to protecting the activities of agribusiness that include intensive farming or factory farming of poultry, pigs and cattle by cracking down on activists who document cruelty to animals. That is what they do: they document cruelty to animals—nothing else—and therein lies the rub.

    There is absolutely no evidence—zilch, nil evidence—that activists have brought any disease onto any farm property in New South Wales. The person standing in this Chamber at the microphone is the person who trained most of the activists to adhere strictly to the biosecurity regulations in the Federal national legislation from the Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan [AUSVETPLAN]. They strictly adhere to those regulations and requirements and document that adherence. The material has been used in numerous courts to show a magistrate or a judge that these people have acted responsibly, reasonably and have taken all possible measures to prevent any disease being brought to the animals or to the farm. Interestingly, agribusiness itself is the source, cause and culprit of all the outbreaks of diseases across New South Wales and the rest of Australia.. The culprits are workers coming and going from farms, saleyards, and animals, such as bobby calves, that have all been picked up and loaded into the same truck to be taken from dairy farm to dairy farm, and then are taken to one saleyard where they are all mixed with or next to each other. These have been the petri dishes or the cesspools where diseases such as swine flu, bird flu and others have occurred.

    Those diseases have occurred because they have been introduced by the industry itself, not by activists. For example, the clear culprit in the outbreak of swine flu in the Hunter Valley were workers who were coming to that property from other piggeries when they had not abided by practices that activists abide by—making sure they had not been near an abattoir or another pig farm over the previous 14 days. The World Health Organization has made very clear its grave concern about the outbreak of bird flu in its airborne form. It has made clear its serious concern about the connection between intensive poultry sheds and the disease bird flu, or H5N1 influenza. Those sheds can accommodate an average of 22,000 birds, which means there are 44,000 blood-enriched lungs that are flushing away and into which bird flu, as it is now, can lodge. An intensive shed is a perfect environment for this virus to mutate into an airborne form. That is the risk; that is the problem, because 53 per cent of people infected by bird flu, H5N1, die.

    It is similar to the Spanish flu, H1N1. When soldiers came home from the trenches after World War I the flu incubated in them because they had lived in dreadful conditions similar to intensive farms. Then H1N1 killed millions of people throughout the world. These environments are cesspits. They are environments of abnormal stress for animals, with abnormal populations and stock densities and an accumulation of faeces and urine, which is a fundamental part of the intensive livestock industry. Several months ago there was an outbreak of golden staphylococcus in a piggery in Young. Golden staphylococcus outbreaks occur in hospitals amongst very sick people who have open wounds or are elderly or infirm; and they must be seriously compromised to attract such an infection.

    So the question is brought to bear: Why did this staphylococcus outbreak occur amongst workers in a piggery, where the pigs did not bring it or carry it? There was an environment as I described of intensive farming where a virus was able to go forth and multiply and become a disease affecting healthy workers in a piggery, not sick or diseased people in hospitals. Another example is the Newcastle disease outbreak on the Central Coast. This raises some important issues. This disease was brought by contaminants from other poultry industries, not activists. This particular outbreak raised serious issues about animal protection and welfare. Orders were made to kill hundreds of thousands of birds. There have been numerous accounts from firefighters, the Army and the police that many birds were not killed humanely. The birds were placed in drums with carbon dioxide gas. As the operation had to move so quickly often other birds were thrown on top of them before they had died and many suffocated.

    There was even a published report that, because it was becoming too expensive to kill the birds with carbon dioxide, one of the main operators on the Central Coast instructed the owner of the property with the sheds to reduce the number of sheds to two, turn up the heat to maximum and shut off the ventilation. The birds cooked to death. This was unlawful because there was no application under the Animal Research Act to perform an experiment and because it caused extreme aggravated cruelty to animals. Whatever committee or authority is established under the Biosecurity Bill, there must be a person with experience in animal protection to ensure that orders are not made to kill animals, which is often the case when a disease is introduced onto a property.

    This kind of cruelty and egregious suffering must not occur to animals that are considered diseased. For some reason, animal activism has been included in the Biosecurity Bill and shrouded behind some quite constructive principles. However, it must be understood that animal activists, who have never brought a disease, would certainly prefer to be doing things other than entering properties in the early hours of a morning or late at night. They would prefer to be at an opera, Beethoven’s seventh symphony or a Coldplay concert. However, out of frustration, because of the failure of authorities to address often large-scale distress and suffering, they enter these places.

    The evidence as to the fruits of their good work is extraordinary. There have been many major interventions, investigations and changes for animals in the interests of the New South Wales community and the Government. Serious interventions were undertaken by the authorities after the evidence was gathered by these activists. A perfect example is Hawkesbury Valley Meats west of Sydney. This abattoir was killing all species of animals except poultry. As the employees were so distressed and frustrated by the fact that no authority was able to detect serious egregious cruelty to animals, cameras were installed by activists, with the help of employees. Those cameras documented 19 days of some of the most extreme brutalities inflicted upon cattle, sheep, goats and calves. It was so egregious that the police and the food authority marched in with orders and closed the abattoir for four months. The only reason they would reopen the abattoir—this is an important factor—is that the abattoir agreed to mandatory closed-circuit television cameras over critical points of animal welfare.

    This happened under the watch of the former Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson. These animals were under her care. The former Minister was responsible for the care of these animals ultimately, as she had responsibility for the portfolio. Yet every time the authorities visited this abattoir on reports of cruelty, as soon as they knocked on the door and said they had arrived the whistle was blown and the acts of violence against the animals stopped as the authorities walked through. The evidence was gathered at this place, where cruelty to animals had been happening undetected for a long time, because of the activists. Another example is live baiting in Queensland and New South Wales. It has become evident from investigations by the police, and the fact that people have been dismissed and stepped down, that live baiting has been systemic and ongoing for a long time. Live baiting is illegal.

    The full debate can be read here.

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