• Greyhound

    REQUEST FOR GREYHOUND RACING INDUSTRY STATISTICS ON REHOMED NUMBERS

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (15:12): My question is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, representing the Hon. Paul Toole, Minister for Racing. The New South Wales Government subsidises the greyhound racing industry to the tune of millions of dollars per year and the industry makes all sorts of promises to improve greyhound welfare. Despite this, I have been unable to locate any statistics that provide figures on the numbers of retired greyhounds re-homed in the previous 12 months or ascertain what plans the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission has to improve the number of greyhound adoptions going forward. With the Minister provide this information?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (15:13): I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for the question he has asked of me representing the Minister for Racing, the Hon. Paul Toole. It is an important question, particularly when we talk about the rehoming of greyhounds. I have certainly seen plenty of anecdotal evidence on that and I know many people who have rehomed greyhounds as pets. I believe that even some family members of the Acting President, the Hon. Trevor Khan, may have rehomed greyhounds as pets. I know that anyone who has taken in as a pet a greyhound that has been rehomed after finishing its life in the racing industry has been happy with the decision. They are placid dogs that fit easily into many homes. We want to see more and more of that.

    As Minister for Primary Industries and the Minister responsible for the prevention of cruelty to animals legislation in this State, I want to make sure that we have as many greyhounds as possible enjoying a life of comfort and love in people’s homes. Their welfare is something that we are definitely concerned about and I believe it was adequately addressed in the Government’s response to the issues highlighted when the greyhound issue surfaced. The member has asked for data. Obviously I do not have that information here today but I am happy to take the question on notice, refer it to the Minister and come back to the member with a detailed answer in due course.

     

    To date we have received no reply from the Minister’s Department.

     

  • WARRAGAMBA DAM WALL RAISING – EFFECTS ON WILDLIFE BY PURPOSELY FLOODING PARTS THE NATIONAL PARK

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:13): My question is directed to theMinister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry. As the Minister responsible for animal welfare, what is his response to a Sydney Morning Herald article of 13 November that relied on an Office of Environment and Heritage report, which revealedthat the Government’s plans to raise the height of the Warragamba Dam would have adverse impacts on threatened species, such as the regent honeyeater and eastern brown tree creeper, as well as Sydney’s last emus. Given the Minister’s responsibilities underthe Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, what is his department planning to do to prevent individual animals suffering as a result of the flooding of downstream habitat?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:15): I thank the honourable member for his question. I think he is drawing a very long bow in trying to attach this question to my portfolio. The member is suggesting that flooding events somehow should be investigated and potentially prosecuted under the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals Act—POCTA Act—that is administered by my agencies, with the policy work also enforced by the police, the Animal Welfare League and the RSPCA. That is a long bow. It suggests that natural events such as flooding should be investigated by the RSPCA because it may endanger some native animals. That is what the member is saying. It is absolutely ridiculous. The member must have run out of ideas in the last week of Parliament. Surely he has questions about other areas of my portfolio. This a long bow at the very least.

    I do not imagine anyone in the agencies that enforce the POCTA Act would take seriously any suggestion that any flooding that happens in the Hawkesbury Valley should warrant an investigation under the POCTA Act. At this stage, I am happy to say that I am not aware of any work that my agency has done in relation to how this impacts on the POCTA side of my portfolio. The member referred to the Office of Environment and Heritage, which is the agency that is possibly responsible for some of the animals in the national park. But when it comes to cruelty to animals, we move to the POCTA Act. I do not think there is anything that my agency could be doing at this stage, particularly as we are only talking about environmental assessments of potential impacts of raising the dam wall. I am quite confident to suggest that, as far as I am aware, no work is being undertaken by my agencies under the POCTA Act.

    This is a very long bow. The question may have been better directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment. Possibly the Office of Environment and Heritage has looked at some of the impacts on some of the native wildlife. But the member has asked the question of me and, under the responsibility of the POCTA Act, I say that I am not aware of any work that is being done by my agencies in relation to this matter at this time.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:18): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate how his portfolio of animal protection does not include the impacts upon wild animals when a government makes a decision to cause the flooding of an area that will impact those wild animals?

    The Hon. Scott Farlow: Point of order: The supplementary question asked by the Hon. Mark Pearson did not seek an elucidation of the Minister’s answer; it is a new question.

    The Hon. Penny Sharpe: To the point of order: I listened very carefully. The Minister’s answer included discussion about whether it was forced flooding or natural flooding. I believe the Hon. Mark Pearson has asked for elucidation in relation to that particular aspect of the Minister’s answer. As such, the question is in order.

    The PRESIDENT: I will allow the supplementary question. It is in order. I remind the Minister that he can answer the question in any way he deems fit.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:19): All my answers are fit. When we talk about flooding, whether it is the result of someone’s actions—

    The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The Clerk will stop the clock. As members are well aware, rulings by past Presidents permit members to read extracts from documents. Those rulings are well regarded. It is also well known that members are not permitted to use props in the Chamber. I advise members that flashing a newspaper page in the air and pointing to something on the page is not deemed to be reading an extract from the paper but is, in my view, using a prop. Members will be called to order if they undertake such actions. The Minister has the call.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Regardless of whether an animal is impacted from flooding as a result of someone’s action or inaction, I do not see the correlation between that and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is like saying that if animals are impacted by an out-of-control fire the RSPCA, under its legislation, should investigate to hold those responsible to account. If the Hon. Mark Pearce has some legal advice that is contrary to my assessment, I would love to see it. I believe the question should have been directed to the Office of Environment and Heritage, which is better placed to look at this issue.

    Through the assessment process of this project and the environmental impact statement, I am sure that the impacts on wildlife, Aboriginal cultural heritage and the national park will be looked at. I do not believe it should be investigated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. As I said, if the member has anything that will convince me otherwise, I will be more than happy to look at it. As I stand here, I do not have any indication that his information is any different from my answer. The Hon. Mark Pearce should have directed the question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment.

  • LAND CLEARING AND NATIVE ANIMAL HABITAT LOSS

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:47): My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries. As Minister responsible for animal welfare, what is his response to the Sydney Morning Herald article of 7 November, which estimates that in 2017, under his watch, 10 million native animals died directly as a result of habitat destruction due to land clearing allowed under the Government’s changes to the native vegetation protection laws? In particular, how does the Minister manage the conflict of interest between his department’s support for land clearing for agriculture and his responsibilities under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to prevent animal suffering?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:47): The Government would like to see some more information and evidence to justify that claim of those numbers of species. In these couple of reports, they have come up with their own methodology about a square area size and then applied that to come out with this incredible number of animals that they claim have lost their lives as a result of the removal of native vegetation. First, I would like to see more information to justify that claim. Secondly, the Hon. Mark Pearson refers to the conflict of interest that we have in relation to land clearing. The thing that a lot of people on that side of the Chamber—the crossbench and the Opposition—fail to recognise is the habitat that is enhanced or restored under our new biodiversity changes that we put through in this State, not acknowledging at all the fact that in a lot of cases the largest numbers of approvals that we are seeing relate to invasive native species.

    Has the member ever stood in a monoculture forest of an invasive native species and not heard a bird or seen a single piece of groundcover? There is no biodiversity in those areas. These constitute a large number of the approvals that have been given under the Government’s changes. But there has been not one acknowledgement of the trees that have been planted or the sensitive areas that have been set aside. More importantly, those areas have been set aside and managed, not locked up and allowed to fester with feral animals and noxious weeds, which are among the largest threats to native animals in this State.

    So I will not acknowledge the premise of the question—that there is a conflict of interest. In large part, the habitat that has been restored, the set-asides that are being managed, the invasive native species that are being managed and controlled, and a lot of the feral weeds and animals that are being managed, are doing more for the biodiversity of this State than has occurred under previous ways of managing land in this State. I dismiss, firstly, the numbers in relation to the loss of native species. Secondly, I dismiss the claim that the legislation that this Government put through was just about land clearing. It is a matter of cherry-picking one part of the policy and not acknowledging the other parts—especially the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Government has set aside for saving our species, which also went through under the changes to legislation.

    I am not going to accept that there is a conflict, and I am not going to accept the premise of the question. I would like those opposite and on the crossbench to start acknowledging some of the other aspects of this change in the way that we manage biodiversity in this State. We know that the previous way was not working. When those opposite start citing the numbers of species that have gone onto the threatened list, they should acknowledge that that happened under the legislation and the changes that the former Government put through.

    The native vegetation laws in this State were not working, particularly for our native species. To continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result is the definition of insanity. That is why we brought a balanced change into this area, and that is why we will see an increase in biodiversity in this State as a result of those changes.

     

     

  • The Hon. Niall Blair MLC

    “IF EATING MEAT IS WRONG, I DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT”

    16th October 2018. Questions without notice to The Hon. Niall Blair MLC on climate change and meat production:

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:56): My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon. Niall Blair. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirms that reducing meat production is an important strategy in addressing anthropogenic climate change. Despite this, the most recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences data notes that emissions from animal agriculture have increased by 2.1 per cent, driven in part by methane production from increasing beef cattle production. Can the Minister explain what his department is doing to assist farmers to reduce their reliance on animal agriculture in order to prevent catastrophic global warming?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:57): If eating meat is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I want to support our farmers and so does the Department of Primary Industries. The member continually wants us to try to prosecute a case that livestock production is something that we should be moving away from, but that is one of our strengths in this State. There is plenty of research going on around the world looking at, for example, how to reduce the production of methane by our livestock, particularly our cattle. Some people are looking at a whole range of things such as kale and other types of feed products that will reduce the emissions coming out of our cattle. That is the type of research that we would be interested in, not the research that is trying to transition our farmers—the best farmers in the world, right here in New South Wales—away from areas that they do well and that they do in accordance with consumer expectations and any government regulations. We want to support those industries.

    We want to make sure that our farmers continue to have some of the competitive advantages that they have now, particularly as we go through the trying times of drought. The Government is ensuring that we stand by our farmers, particularly our cattle producers, our sheep meat producers and any other producers who are in the business of ensuring that we continue to provide high-quality protein not only to our domestic customers but also to customers around the world. I am not aware of any specific research within the Department of Primary Industries to try to steer farmers in this State away from beef production as the member suggested; I know that we have a lot of research happening across the State into how we can do more with less when it comes to our impact on natural resources, emissions and the environment more broadly.

    That is what we should be doing. We should be saying, “We can do this better as we go forward.” We can do more with less but we are going to continue doing it. We are going to continue producing beef and sheep meat. We are going to continue to ensure that while our customers, domestically and internationally, want to consume these products, we will be there to supply them. The view that the member is prosecuting is a minority view. While we have customers who want the meat and farmers who are willing to farm it, we will continue to support them and ensure that they can do so.

    The Hon. DON HARWIN: The time for questions has expired. If members have further questions I suggest they place them on notice.

  • THE FUTURE OF NSW ANIMAL AGRICULTURE

    26th September 2018.  Question to 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?

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