• SOW STALLS

    11th August 2015

    Questions without notice.

    SOW STALLS

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. Given that members of the Australian pork industry are committed to phasing out sow stalls—a metal cage in which gestating sows can take only one step forward or back and not turn around—by 2017, will the Government legislate to outlaw the use of sow stalls so that all piggeries in New South Wales are mandated sow stall free?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Gestation stalls, also known as sow stalls, are a form of accommodation used to confine sows during their pregnancy. The industry has recognised that the use of these stalls is no longer supported by the community, and in November 2010 it voluntarily committed to pursue a phase-out by 2017, which is exactly what the member acknowledged in his question. This is a world first initiative. For producers, implementation of this industry-led initiative involves expensive and complex modifications to their farms and practices. Producers deserve support for making these changes and their efforts need to be recognised. I am advised that 70 per cent of the industry has completed the phase-out of sow stalls and the industry is confident that by 2017 the vision of a gestation stall free industry will be realised.

    It is unfair to perpetuate the myth that industry continues to support the use of sow stalls and that they remain standard practice. It completely ignores and devalues what the industry has achieved. Rather, we need to support the industry and continue to work with it through this voluntary reform. I commend Australian Pork Limited in particular for its efforts in this space. This is a clear example of an industry working with its members, understanding community concerns and putting into practice an initiative which, as I outlined, is expensive in some cases to implement. The industry should be commended for such an initiative. We do not always need to jump in and legislate when an industry already understands the issue and is working with consumer groups to get the desired outcome. That is what working with industry can achieve.

    Again, I commend Australian Pork Limited for the efforts it has made with its members. As I said, up to 70 per cent of the industry has already completed the phasing out of sow stalls. If we were to legislate, as suggested by the Hon. Mark Pearson, by the time such legislation was drafted and put through the House the industry probably would have got there ahead of us. We need to recognise that sometimes the answer lies with those who work with the animals. Sometimes the answer lies with industry groups that are looking at what is happening around the world and saying that they can have a sensible discussion about animal welfare and put practices and plans in place to ensure that their businesses are viable. That is a win-win situation.

    We do not have to come in with the heavy stick. We can listen to what the consumer is saying, and we can work with the industry in a way that allows businesses that want to do the right thing, that are legitimately employing people—many of them are in regional communities—to continue to be productive. The industry is saying that it has got this. It does not need someone telling it how it should do this. The industry has the answers. It is working with its members and with consumers. The industry needs to be commended for that.

  • THE INAUGURAL SPEECH OF MARK PEARSON

    6th May 2015

    I felt truly privileged to give a voice for the voiceless in parliament. Many dear friends and supporters joined me in the public gallery for the history making moment.  I contemplated the significance of this speech and for the foundation it will set for my work in NSW parliament.

    INAUGURAL SPEECH OF THE HONOURABLE MARK PEARSON

    The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Trevor Khan): I call the Hon. Mark Pearson. I
    remind members that this is the honourable member’s inaugural speech. I ask them to extend
    to him the usual courtesies for such a speech.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON [4.31 p.m.] (Inaugural Speech): I support the motion by the
    Leader of the Government to adopt the Speech yesterday by the Governor of New South
    Wales. It is indeed a privilege and honour to be the first member of Parliament elected by the
    people of New South Wales on the platform of animal protection, animal wellbeing and
    animal welfare. This is the second country in the world that has elected a member of
    Parliament on this platform. The first country was Holland where, four years ago, Marianne
    Thieme of the Dutch Party for the Animals was elected to the Dutch Parliament. Since then,
    two others have joined her. New South Wales is the third jurisdiction in the world to have
    elected people to Parliament on the basis of animal protection and animal wellbeing. Last
    year the European Union elected two people, one from Germany and one from Holland, to
    the European Parliament on the platform of animal protection and wellbeing.

    I am extremely privileged and honoured that Australia, together with those other countries, is
    leading the world in electing somebody to the halls of Parliament to be a voice for the
    wellbeing of vulnerable and voiceless beings who cannot request help themselves. On three
    occasions yesterday the Governor referred to this as being an important function and a
    necessity for a government to embrace. There are political parties relating to animal welfare
    in 12 other countries of the world. As well as in Australia, they exist in Holland, Britain,
    Portugal, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Cyprus, Turkey, France, the United States and, very
    recently, Finland. Moves are afoot to bring animal protection—a shield and a sword for
    animals—to Singapore, Vietnam and China as well as the Middle East where they will soon
    be having their first conference about the protection of animals, supported and arranged by
    Princess Alia of Jordan. This is a new era, a new chapter of a very important, fundamental
    and ethical shift in the consciousness of people about the wellbeing of those who cannot
    speak for themselves.

    It is interesting that 193 years ago, in 1822 in England, the first legislation for animal
    protection came about through the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act. Richard Martin fought for
    five years in the House of Lords—over and over and over again—to bring this first
    legislation in the world to protect animals. They coined the name “Humanity Dick” for
    Richard Martin but he fought very hard. It is interesting that the legislation that was brought
    in was not about cute fluffy dogs or the majestic and wonderful whales of the world, but
    about cattle. One of the reasons Richard Martin fought so vigorously was because of the
    horrors he experienced in seeing horses flogged to death in the streets of London; the horrors
    of bear-baiting—and baiting has become well-known to us in this State and this country just
    recently—and because of dog fighting. These were the issues in his heart and on his mind and
    about which he was concerned.

    It is helpful and constructive for us to understand that Richard Martin finally succeeded in
    getting the legislation through with the help of a wonderful philosopher, Jeremy Bentham.
    Bentham was ahead of his time. The argument he used was: It is not a matter as to whether an
    animal can think or reason; it is a matter of whether an animal can suffer. This compelling
    argument is what achieved the majority vote in the first parliament in the world to protect
    animals. In 1824, two years later, Richard Martin helped to form the first prevention of
    cruelty to animals organisation, which was soon thereafter sanctioned by the Queen and
    named the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Richard Martin drew
    upon the principles of slavery, claiming similar rights for animals in relation to wellbeing,
    liberty and their freedom from being kept in a situation where they were at one’s mercy and
    subject to one’s beck and call or cruelty. Those principles helped bring prevention of cruelty
    to animals forward.

    It is interesting to note that the legislation to protect animals was endorsed and enacted before
    legislation to protect children. It was drawn upon by the House of Lords in order to say that if
    there was legislation to protect animals, it was only right and proper to extrapolate that to the
    protection of children. It is of note that Queen Victoria, I think every year, was given the
    opportunity to pardon a prisoner. It is of particular import that where the prisoner presented
    had committed heinous acts of cruelty to animals, Queen Victoria never pardoned the
    prisoner. She struck the chord, set the tone of the profound importance of protecting those
    who are vulnerable, those who cannot protect themselves from us when they at our mercy. I
    may be incorrect, but I think I am the first person to be elected a member of Parliament in
    New South Wales, under the sovereignty of the Queen, who has as his or her principal
    platform the protection of animals. I think that is quite historic and I enjoy being part of that
    historic movement.

    Why did the Animal Justice Party form? It was because it became clear that thousands of
    people were outraged by what was happening to our live export animals. We saw thousands
    and thousands of people gather on the streets of Sydney, as well as in all of the capital cities
    and smaller cities across Australia, after they witnessed the horrendous treatment of our live
    export animals—both during their transport on ships and in their handling and slaughter.
    What compelled us to consider a party for animals was that the people who came together on
    the street to protest about live exports were cattle producers standing beside butchers,
    standing beside lawyers, standing beside clergy, standing beside poor and animal rights
    people in their dreadlocks. These people were standing together, outraged by what was
    happening to our exported animals. Importantly, we are not talking about cats and dogs and
    beautiful, majestic whales, which also are important and must be protected; we are talking
    about sheep, the animals upon which the economy of Australia was built, and cattle. These
    are farm animals, often not looked upon in the same way as are dogs and cats.

    In the Australian Capital Territory many people witnessed the killing of thousands of
    kangaroos. From where the kangaroos were being herded up and goaded, tranquillised and
    then shot, one could see in the distance the coat of arms of the Federal Government of
    Australia. On that coat of arms, as in this Chamber, is the kangaroo. Yet in the Australian
    Capital Territory, 300 or 400 metres away, kangaroos—including their joeys—were being
    rounded up, tranquillised and killed. This caused enormous trauma to a lot of people who
    were trying to protect them. So it was those two major events—the treatment of live export
    animals and the trauma that many, many people in the Australian Capital Territory felt—that
    caused the first meeting here in Sydney to consider the forming of a political party for
    animals, the Animal Justice Party.

    Recently we have seen footage of the live baiting of greyhound. It was extraordinary that
    across Australia many, many people were outraged by this practice. Very interestingly, the
    outrage was not only about the cruelty, torment and torture of the animals used in live baiting,
    but also about the presumption of regularity. The presumption of regularity is often referred
    to in the courts of Australia when the actions or proposed actions of a government are
    brought before the court. The court says that we must get over the bar of the presumption of
    regularity—that the government of the day is looking after the matter and ensuring that the
    right thing is being done for animals.

    The outrage and concern of the public was that people assumed they had elected a
    government that would look out for the welfare of the animals and ensure that the acts that
    caused this outrage and concern do not happen. As was exposed through Four Corners, the
    investigations of police and colleagues of mine established that live baiting is a practice that
    is systemic, that is criminal, that is ongoing and that many who knew about it turned a blind
    eye to. This expose struck at the trust and assumption in the community that proper regulation
    and enforcement was in place to ensure against these practices.

    It is very interesting that police at very high levels are now taking the issue of animal cruelty
    very seriously indeed. It is called the cycle of violence—that wherever harm is inflicted on
    animals, whether in a home or other situation, it is likely, and very often the case, that there
    will be, if not at the time, domestic abuse, child abuse and maybe worse. From a study of the
    history of serial killers, it is clear that they started with harming, tormenting and torturing
    animals. So the police are taking very seriously indications that animal abuse is a marker for
    human abuse. It is important that we grasp and understand this; and it is very important that,
    now the people of New South Wales have voted into Parliament somebody to press this issue,
    we need to address animal suffering as a clear measure of the civilisation of our society.

    There is before the Parliament various legislation, I think called biosecurity legislation, that is
    similar to legislation proposed in South Australia. One term for it is “ag-gag” legislation. It is
    currently before a Federal committee of inquiry. Many parts of that legislation are about
    restraining and stopping whistleblowers—people who have gone to properties, or worked in
    places, and have documented evidence of animal cruelty. Rather than legislation being put in
    place to try to find the perpetrators of cruelty, or install mandatory CCTV cameras, et cetera,
    to document cruelty to animals and address this cruelty in a proactive and positive way, those
    pieces of legislation—one before the Federal Parliament and one which will soon be before
    this Parliament—are about punishing, and punishing very severely, the people who have had
    the courage, on many occasions risking their personal liberties, to document and record what
    is often systemic cruelty to animals in abattoirs, factory farms or intensive farms, et cetera.
    This legislation is draconian and extremely serious, and we need to grapple with it in an
    ethical and sensible way. Recently we saw and were outraged by the cruelty to several
    species as a result of live baiting being used with greyhounds. If this legislation is passed,
    rather than the perpetrators being properly dealt with according to law, it would be
    informants, such as the people who put in place the cameras for surveillance, and programs
    such as ABC’s Four Corners and those involved would face charges and possible
    imprisonment. This is an extraordinary situation. This Government must turn its mind to how
    this sits with freedom of speech, the principles of prevention of cruelty to animals, and the
    principles of the rights of people to document what might be considered to be cruelty to
    animals.

    I have a colourful background and many of my colleagues here have shared that colourful
    background with me. I draw the attention of the House to the Prevention of Cruelty to
    Animals Act. In 1995 we tried hard to stop the tethering of sows in Parkville piggery, which
    belonged to Paul Keating. Pregnant sows had metal collars around their necks and they were
    tethered to iron cages. They were confined for most of their lives until they were sent out to
    slaughter, which would have been the first time they felt the sun on their backs or saw the
    grass of the fields.

    What happened in that place is a result of section 9 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
    Act. This legislation is about preventing cruelty to animals. Section 9 is about exercise. A
    person in charge of an animal must provide that animal with exercise. Section 9 (1) says that
    person is not guilty of an offence if that animal is of a class of stock animal, or an animal
    which is usually kept in captivity by means of a cage. This section imposes a positive duty
    upon a person in charge of an animal to provide it with exercise, yet an exemption is put in
    place when dealing with thousands or tens of thousands of animals in one place, which is
    called factory farming.

    That day I, with many of my colleagues, went to Parkville piggery and we chained ourselves
    next to these sows. Despite numerous complaints from people who were working in the
    piggery and people who were slaughtering the animals in the abattoir, nothing was being
    done for these animals. As an activist, I participated in this campaign by going to the piggery
    and chaining myself next to the sows. Something interesting happened that day. As we were
    being arrested and processed at the police station—and they were the days when one had to
    put one’s finger on ink—the Minister for Agriculture, Richard Amery, announced on the front
    steps of Parliament House that as of 1996, the next year, the tethering of sows in piggeries
    would be a specific offence under law.

    That is the reason for my colourful past and I have now taken on another colour in this
    House. It is important that we work hard for these animals because they cannot speak for
    themselves. I hope to bring to this House a question as to whether it is appropriate that the
    portfolio of animal welfare or animal protection belongs to the Minister for Primary
    Industries. The Department of Primary Industries protects primary industries and many of
    them have animals, and the Minister for Primary Industries has the responsibility to protect
    those industries. It is not appropriate to have animal welfare and animal protection in such a
    portfolio. That portfolio should be placed in a ministry that is completely neutral towards an
    industry’s interests in using animals. I hope that at some stage we can have a debate as to
    whether the portfolio of animal protection should be moved to the police, who have more
    powers than the Royalty Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [RSPCA]. They
    have powers to obtain warrants and to install surveillance to document cruelty to animals.
    There are hundreds of dogs and cats at this very moment in pounds and shelters across this
    State. They are completely healthy animals. They are quite adoptable, but they are unwanted.
    If they are not adopted within seven days, they are killed. They are healthy animals, capable
    of being rehabilitated if they have problems. They are not animals that are vicious or
    dangerous or so diseased and sick that they need to be euthanased. At 5.00 p.m. this Friday
    veterinarians will go to these pounds and they will kill the cats and dogs.

    At the same time, as was exposed by Oscar’s law in the paper last Sunday, we have sheds all
    over this State with thousands of animals that are breeding machines. They are breeding
    cosmetic, pretty-looking dogs. The bitches in these puppy farms are impregnated and deliver
    litters over and over again. After several years their bodies are broken. They are rendered
    worthless and then killed. These animals are being sold in pet shops and, at the same time, we
    have healthy unwanted animals waiting for adoption that are being killed because we have an
    industry that is breeding animals. I will ask this House to address this—as the Victorian
    Government is doing—and whether the puppy farms should be banned, phased out and
    consigned to the scrap heap of history. It is unconscionable to have animals bred like this
    because it causes a lot of suffering.

    The other important issue is that the RSPCA is a charitable organisation. It receives minimal
    Government funds and relies on legacies and donations to survive. Yet it has been given the
    main prosecutorial and investigative powers under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
    The Act is about criminal activity. We would not want childcare centres in every community
    to be the administrative instrument for the Childcare Protection Act; that would be uncalled
    for. The RSPCA has a long history of respect and support, and it has a function, but it is time
    to call into question whether the RSPCA should be the main administrator of the Prevention
    of Cruelty to Animals Act.

    The people of New South Wales have elected me because the protection of animals is
    important to many, and that importance is continuing to grow nationally and internationally.
    The Animal Justice Party can be seen as a single issue party—I thought that when I was
    participating in its formation. Rather, it is a single purpose party with multiple issues.
    Interestingly, the Party for the Animals in Holland has found that about 80 per cent of issues
    that come before this House have some impact one way or another on the lives of animals.
    But even if the issues brought before this House are not directly or indirectly related to
    animals, the Animal Justice Party will apply the principles of compassion and consideration
    to any legislation being considered. Our relationship with animals throughout time is
    extremely important and complex. It is very much a part of our humanity—for example, I
    refer to those homeless, broken people in their dirty and torn clothes that we often see in
    Hyde Park feeding crusts to the pigeons. Clearly they enjoy that experience of interaction.
    Many men and women have fallen in war. Messenger pigeons that can brilliantly read the
    magnetic field around this earth have delivered messages which have stopped the sinking of
    ships and the killing of thousands of soldiers. Some 130,000 Australian horses were sent to
    the First World War, not one returned. Not one program was implemented to return even one
    horse. Yesterday both the Governor and the President spoke about the importance of
    mateship in war. Many have written about their mate being a horse, a dog or a donkey. The
    animals with which we share the land, air and water of this country are deeply interwoven
    with our sense of ethics and culture; we are indebted to them.

    Ghandi managed to have the British leave India without any blood being spilt. He said very
    clearly that the measure of the civilisation of a country is how it treats its animals. It is
    important for the vulnerable to be looked after because it also reflects how we look after our
    children, as well as our disabled and homeless people. Those who cannot advocate for
    themselves need us to advocate for them and we need to advocate more for animals. As I said
    before, that is why people of New South Wales have elected me to this Parliament and it is
    my hope that many others will be elected to other national and international Parliaments.
    I thank all those who have supported me over the years. It would take too long to name them
    all and some are not here today. Many have helped me over the past 23 years to grapple with
    a profound understanding of animals and I am still learning about their complexity, beauty
    and majesty. In conclusion, Christine Townend, who founded Animal Liberation Australia,
    once said to me that it is going to be the gradual and growing profound understanding of the
    majesty, beauty and mystery of animals that nourishes the very vest in ourselves and it may
    well save us from the worst in ourselves.

    Thank you.

  • LIVE EXPORT SHAME

    4th June 2015

    Questions without notice.

    LIVE CATTLE EXPORTS

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. Is the Minister aware that the Northern Star newspaper reported yesterday, 3 June 2015, that a proposal is in place to commence live export of cattle to Indonesia through the Port of Yamba? If so, will the Government legislate to prevent the live export of New South Wales cattle because in doing so it would reflect the extreme concern most citizens of New South Wales have for the welfare of these animals while at sea for 12-plus days and during handling and slaughter in Indonesia, over which Australia has no jurisdiction in animal protection?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I am aware of the article that appeared in the Northern Star. I am also aware that there is an unusual alliance that has expressed a concern about the information in that article: the meat workers’ union and animal activists in the area. The issue of live trade is a matter for the Commonwealth Government. Currently there are no live export port-handling facilities in New South Wales. Any such proposal would need to be approved by the Commonwealth Government. The only live export trade from New South Wales is genetic export such as sheep and goats, which leave New South Wales by plane. New South Wales supports the Commonwealth’s tough standards and protocols for live export and works to see these as an important measure in protecting the reputation of our livestock industries.

    Two weeks ago I met with other agriculture Ministers from across Australia and the issue of live export was raised, particularly by the Queensland Minister for Agriculture and the Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries. We cannot underestimate the impact that the kneejerk reaction from the previous Federal Labor Government had not only on the live export trade but also on the cattle industry across Australia. It devastated some of the largest employers of Indigenous Australians in northern Australia and put some of those communities into a serious economic downturn. The cattle market has rebounded.

    The Federal Government has worked tirelessly to not only open up other potential markets for live export but also to make sure that we are at the forefront of animal welfare standards when it comes to live export. If Australia was to step out of that market it would more than likely be filled by another country that does not have as stringent animal welfare standards. Australia has a commitment to assist abattoirs throughout Asia to treat cattle that come from other countries as well as cattle coming from Australia. I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. There is no such proposal that the New South Wales Government is aware of. It is something that is a matter for the Commonwealth Government.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister please elucidate on his answer as to how the New South Wales Government can legislate to prevent live export through New South Wales to overseas countries?

    The Hon. Duncan Gay: The best barrier is the Port of Yamba. You would not get a boat of that size in there.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I acknowledge the response from the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight. He is right, the biggest limiting factor for the Port of Yamba is its physical construction. As to what the New South Wales Government can do to legislate to enable the Commonwealth Government to do something that they are responsible for, if I knew the answer to that I probably would not be standing here.

  • MANDATORY FIRE SUPPRESSION EQUIPMENT FOR FACTORY FARMS

    2nd June 2015

    Questions without notice.

    PIGGERY MANAGEMENT

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industries. What steps is the Government taking to ensure that it is mandatory for all commercial piggeries and all intensive farms to have water sprinkler and remote monitoring systems in place to prevent events such as the burning to death of approximately 400 pigs on 9 April in a fire at Boen Boe Piggery near Bowral and an incident on 23 February at Grong Grong Piggery near Narrandera when 500 pigs died from heat stress due to a malfunctioning ventilation system?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: The piggery fire at Joadja, which is near where I live, occurred early in my time as Minister for Primary Industries. When something like that happens near to where we live we take a particular interest in the investigation and the outcome. I place on the record my thanks to the staff of Local Land Services, Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service who attended the event. As the honourable member said, a large number of pigs perished. About half died as a result of the fire and the other half were euthanased because of respiratory complications and toxicity from smoke inhalation. Cattle were also in the shed, but were released by Rural Fire Service personnel into a nearby paddock, but unfortunately one died.

    The Rural Fire Service contacted the Department of Primary Industries requesting that a representative attend the site and offer advice and assistance. The department contacted South East Local Land Services, which immediately despatched three staff to offer assistance, including a veterinarian and a senior biosecurity officer. Once the site was declared safe to enter, Local Land Services staff assisted the manager to assess and euthanase stock following a veterinary assessment. Additional Local Land Services staff were called in to assist once the scale of the stock impact was identified. Staff assessed the welfare of the remaining stock and offered support to the owner on the disposal and recovery process.

    The property is within the Sydney Water catchment area. A risk assessment has been completed in conjunction with the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority, which gave approval for the owner to bury the dead animals on the site. Local Land Services staff will continue to support the owner in the recovery phase. As I indicated, I took an interest in the event because it occurred close to where I live. When I saw the communique and noticed that the incident had occurred at Joadja, I took a particular interest. In answer to the honourable member’s question about what will occur in future as a result of this experience, if I have anything further to add I will advise him and the House.


    Related story here.

  • NON MANDATORY ANIMAL WELFARE STANDARDS FOR NSW

    27th May 2015

    Questions without notice.

    ANIMAL WELFARE STANDARDS

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I direct my question without notice to the Minister for Primary Industries. Is the Government aware that it supports, via a memorandum of understanding with the NSW Farmers Association, non-mandatory standards of animal welfare guidelines and standards, unlike any other Australian State or Territory?

    The Hon. Duncan Gay: Point of order: The question contains argument.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I will allow the Hon. Mark Pearson to finish his question. Undoubtedly, the point of order is correct. But if the member concludes his question and the Minister answers the part that is in order, I will allow that on this occasion. The Hon. Mark Pearson will need to be careful not to include argument in his questions in future.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question is complete: Is the Government aware that there is this memorandum of understanding with NSW Farmers in relation to non-mandatory standards for animal welfare in New South Wales?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. To avoid any misapprehension about where the standards are at, it is important that I go through some information in relation to animal welfare standards, the position in New South Wales and how that fits into the national context. The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines are part of a project, under the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy, to convert the existing model codes of practice for the welfare of animals to standards and guidelines. An important element of the strategy is to advance animal welfare by the development of nationally consistent standards for regulation.

    Standards for pig welfare and land transport of livestock have already been mandated in all States. Standards for saleyards, abattoirs and exhibited animals are currently being developed. The sheep and cattle standards have been finalised and their regulatory impact statements approved by the Office of Best Practice Regulation. The documents have been endorsed by the national Animal Welfare Task Group for submission through the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee to the Agriculture Ministers Forum for endorsement. In accordance with a memorandum of understanding with NSW Farmers, the NSW Government intends to adopt the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle and Sheep as prescribed guidelines under section 34A of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. This understanding applies only to the cattle and sheep standards and guidelines, and will mean that they will not be mandatory but can be used as evidence in proceedings under the Act or its regulations.

    The welfare of animals in New South Wales, including farm animals, is protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the prevention of cruelty to animals regulation. There are already mandated requirements for cattle and sheep which focus on unacceptable practices relating to cruelty; transport; failure to provide food, drink and shelter; certain painful procedures and the use of electrical devices. Public consultation submissions have been received on the exhibited animals standards and are currently being analysed. The regulatory impact statement is being redrafted following this consultation. The review of the poultry code and its conversion to standards and guidelines will commence this year.

    The review of the requirements for rodeos is near finalisation, and the review of the requirements for pounds and shelters is underway. I will be requesting that the revitalised Animal Welfare Advisory Council provide me with advice on the review program. I conclude by highlighting for the House that I have every confidence that staff in the Department of Primary Industries take the issue of animal welfare very seriously, as do I. I have every confidence that they and my office are up to speed with what is happening within the sector. Some industry groups are looking towards their own practices and codes. We have been liaising with other States and going through the memorandums, codes and regulations which I have just described. I assure the House that this Government does take seriously the issue of animal welfare, and it has the right people on the job. It will continue to do so every day and to put the welfare of animals at the forefront.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! First, for the general guidance of all members, Standing Order 64 is quite specific about questions put to Ministers. Other members may have questions asked of them relating to any matter connected with the business on the Notice Paper of which that member has charge. Otherwise it is not in order for members to ask other members questions. Secondly, questions should seek information as opposed to opinion. Question time is for seeking information. Finally, questions must relate to matters within the Minister’s responsibility or to any matter of administration for which the Minister is responsible. Questions may be put to Ministers relating to public affairs for which the Minister is officially connected.

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