• 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.

  • NSW DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES VISIT MY FARM INITIATIVE

    16th November 2017

    Questions without notice.

    DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES VISIT MY FARM INITIATIVE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:43): My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries. The Minister recently spoke glowingly about the department’s new “Visit My Farm” initiative, which will invite the public, including families with young children, to experience the realities of animal farming. After following the necessary biosecurity precautions, will these visits include observation of sows in farrowing crates and stalls, hens in battery cages, artificial insemination, routine mutilations without analgesia such as eyeteeth removal and tail docking of piglets, de-beaking of layer chicks, and sheds where 22,000 or more broiler chickens are packed in and are routinely suffering from hip dysplasia and pulmonary cardiovascular failure?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:44): I thank the member for his question. These visits will show the next generation where their food and fibre comes from. They will show the hardworking people who have chosen agriculture or horticulture that this is not just a job but a vocation and part of their lifestyle. They will show the vital role that our New South Wales primary producers play not just for this economy but for the social fabric of New South Wales. These visits will show all of our farming systems, which are legal and vital in supplying food and fibre not just for our domestic consumption but for consumption overseas and for other domestic markets.

    We want to highlight to the next generation the great job our farmers do. We want families to learn where their food comes from and to understand more about the production systems involved in that. That is why I am proud to stand up in this House and promote programs like this. That may be not what the member wants. I know he disagrees with some of the production systems that are legal in this State. The member disagrees with some of the production systems that our regional communities rely upon. He disagrees with some of the production systems that our farmers utilise. However, that does not mean that because it is not what he wants, everyone else should follow. It is important to show family members and children who have never been exposed to some of these operations where their food and fibre comes from, to help them understand production systems so that they do not get spooked by some scare campaigns, get the wrong end of the stick or have misunderstandings about production systems.

    That is why these farms are opening the gates and inviting people in. Without our farmers we could not spend the time doing what we are doing here; we would have to worry about where our next meal comes from. We can all get on and do what we want with our lives because of our farmers. We can follow other vocations because we do not have to worry about where our next meal will come from. Instead of talking down the production systems, through this program we have chosen to educate, inform and enhance the role of our farms in the minds of those who have not been exposed to them previously. We are proud of this. We have nothing to hide and it is something that should be encouraged.

    The member disagrees with some of these production systems and he listed a range of areas that he believes should be outlawed. Some aspects of those production systems give no credit to the industries that are looking at those systems themselves and in some cases, as with the sow stalls, are phasing them out themselves. Primary producers and industries in this State also understand the concerns of consumers and are responding to them. Where there are animal welfare issues they are looking at other production systems and meeting those issues head on. They do not need us to dictate to them. We should provide consumers with a choice of product, allow farmers to provide that choice and get on with the production systems. We support our farmers.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:48): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer as to how the families and young children will be educated and informed about the intensive methods of production that I outlined in my original question?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:48): I refer the member to the publicly available details in relation to the program.

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    Although the Minister speaks glowingly of the department’s new industry backed scheme, a quick visit to the website reveals not a single intensive farm is on the list of farms to visit. 

  • The Hon. Niall Blair MLC

    1080 POISONING OF INTRODUCED WILDLIFE

    2nd May 2017

    Questions without notice.

    1080 poisoning.

    FERAL ANIMAL CONTROL

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:30): My question without notice is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries. During question time on 5 April the Minister stated support for the widespread use of 1080 poison to kill introduced animals such as wild dogs and foxes. Given that the welfare of all animals in New South Wales is his ministerial responsibility, irrespective of the category status imposed by humans, will the Minister advise whether his department has considered humane or non-lethal alternatives to 1080 baiting? If not, does the Minister accept the scientific evidence that so-called “pest” species are capable of experiencing pain and suffering, and the ingestion of 1080 poison causes immense suffering to baited animals irrespective of which animals they are?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:31): I thank the honourable member for his question—my favourite part‑time vegan. I stand by the comments I made in relation to pest animals and 1080 poison. I know my department, along with other agencies, looks at alternatives to poisoning for some pest animals. For example, a good bullet in the head would be appropriate for a wild dog that attacked poor defenceless lambs or left some of the sheep they attacked with their guts hanging out and suffering. As I have said previously, 1080 is licensed for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. It is a Federal issue.

    The member should not think for one second that he can enter this Chamber and have me start feeling sorry for introduced species that inflict pain and suffering upon livestock and, importantly, to many native animals. Native animals, including birds, suffer attack by feral dogs, foxes and feral cats. I will not change my mind. The member is wasting parliamentary question time. The 1080 poison is registered for use. The producers and agencies must stay within the protocols of that registration. The agencies that make those decisions do not report to me. That is my answer.

    It is one thing to say that members should be concerned about animal welfare that is governed by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979; it is another matter to suggest that these introduced pest animals are in the same class. They inflict damage upon the economy and environment of this State. I will not for one second apologise for the fact that our agencies and farmers are using 1080 to eradicate those pests. The damage they do far outweighs any other consideration. My answer stands and I will not apologise for it. As long as those responsible for the control of the pest animals adhere to the requirements and protocols attached to the products I will help producers to gain access to 1080 poison that eliminates feral animals.

    I have stood with farmers while Local Land Services handed out chicken heads injected with 1080 for use on their properties to control foxes. I will accept criticism that I am not doing enough in this space and I will go back to the agencies and say, “Let’s do more”, but I will never say in this Chamber that we should do less. I do not accept the member’s hypocritical view. We joke in this place about media reports concerning the member, but he walks in here with leather on his feet, wool in his suit and fish in his belly and attempts to impose his ideology on us. The member has been caught out as a hypocrite. The question is hypocritical. The member should stand up for our native animals. If the member spent more time on that area, I might take the question seriously.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:35): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate upon his answer as to what is the research that the department is doing into humane and non-lethal methods for “pest” control?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:35): As I have previously stated, the department looks at other methods for control of these animals, including a bullet in the head or chest of some of the feral animals.

  • PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION FINAL REPORT INTO AUSTRALIAN AGRICULTURE

    30th March 2017

    Last week the Productivity Commission publicly released its Final Report into Australian Agriculture Regulations.  Among other industry concerns regarding land, water and natural resources use, food labelling, and GMO, the Report also gave a thorough overview of the state of play when it comes to farmed animal welfare in Australia.  It was heartening to see such articulate and professional submissions made on behalf of farmed animals and the unnecessary suffering they endure each and everyday.

    The Animal Justice Party submitted a detailed response to the draft report highlighting the Party’s views on an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, live export and state based animal cruelty legislation.  In addition many other organisations such as Animals Australia, PETA Australia, Vegan Australia, Animal Liberation, World Animal Protection, Voiceless and Animal Defenders Office echoed the need for a drastic overhaul of how the community expects farms animals should be treated.  However, it is still disappointing to note that most of the environmental groups seem to be still in denial about the massive adverse impacts animal agriculture is having on our climate, biodiversity and emissions.

    live-export-cattle-australia-1

    Given the overwhelming consistency within the submissions in regards community expectations concerning farmed animal welfare, it is pleasing to see the Final Report note these concerns and make recommendations in-line with the general public.  For too long industry has had the political advantage of drafting its own rules, regulations and responsibilities with the main focus being on boosting profit.  Below is a brief overview of some of the Final Report recommendations for animal welfare.

    • Animal welfare regulations are to be reformed so as to achieve welfare outcomes that (among other things) meet community expectations.  However, the current process for setting standards for farmed animal welfare does not adequately value the benefits of animal welfare to the community.
    • The process for setting standards would be improved through the creation of a statutory agency responsible for developing national farmed animal welfare standards using rigorous science and evidence of community values for farmed animal welfare.
    • Conflict of interest is an issue — the main concerns were disproportionate industry influence and perceptions of conflicts of interests of agriculture departments (that are responsible for farmed animal welfare policy).
    • After closely considering submissions and evidence from hearings on this matter, the Commission maintains the view that the most effective approach would be to establish an independent statutory agency — the Australian Commission for Animal Welfare (ACAW) — with responsibility for developing the national standards — the standards would be implemented and enforced by state and territory governments.

    A copy of the Final Report can be found HERE, go straight to Section 5 for Animal Welfare. It is important to note that much of what has been documented in the report is still a far cry from what is expected by the majority of the public, however, it is a positive sign that the voice for animals grows stronger by the day and will get even stronger with more Animal Justice Party elected representatives.

    In light of the release of the report, our single AJP MP, Mark Pearson, questioned the NSW DPI Minister on the reports recommendations and how NSW would respond. As the below video and transcript shows, the Minister is still in the hands of industry and not representing the NSW public’s concerns about animal welfare.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries. The recently published recommendation 5.1 of the Productivity Commission final report into Australian agriculture strongly endorsed the establishment of an independent statutory agency which would meet community expectations of accountability, transparency and high animal welfare standards.

    In light of this recommendation and given the Minister’s often stated confidence in the robustness of New South Wales’ animal cruelty laws and enforcement authorities, as well as the Government’s commitment to deliver on community expectations, will the Government establish an independent statutory body for animal welfare in New South Wales, and if not, why not?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. As Minister for Primary Industries, I have stated on many occasions in this House that we take animal welfare seriously. We believe that most of the participants within our industries take animal welfare seriously as well, which is why, quite often, we have allowed most of the system improvements and animal welfare improvements in New South Wales to be led by the industries that know them best. Good animal welfare practice is good farming practice when it comes to our primary industries. The Hon. Mark Pearson made mention of the Productivity Commission’s report. The Productivity Commission made a number of recommendations in areas concerning primary industries.

    The New South Wales Government takes note of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations but at times we can look at those recommendations and see that we have a system that is better suited to New South Wales. One has only to look at the recent decision of the Government to continue rice vesting in New South Wales, although it was contrary to the Productivity Commission’s recommendation when it looked at that issue. Likewise, when it comes to animal welfare we believe the systems and the agencies in New South Wales are adequate. At the moment they are serving their purpose. Because the Productivity Commission has looked at it and said one thing does not mean we have to go down that path. We always look at what is best for business and industry in New South Wales. We have the ability to take the recommendations of the Productivity Commission on board but we also have the ability to review our systems and current measures, and if they are adequate we will continue with those.

    I have faith in our systems in New South Wales. I have faith in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. I also have faith in the agencies under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that are responsible for the enforcement of animal welfare. I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I know he is extremely interested in this area and I know he has a different view from me. He does not have the same faith in those agencies because he has been influenced by his past interactions with them. As I said, we look at what others research and find, and then we look at those issues through the lens of what is best for New South Wales. We did it with rice vesting, and it is what we are doing with animal welfare.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister please elucidate how the New South Wales approach to this report is either the same as or an improvement on the recommendations of the Productivity Commission?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: The New South Wales approach is the best approach for New South Wales.

  • RSPCA STAFFING LEVELS OVER HOLIDAY PERIODS

    23rd February 2017

    Questions without notice.

    RSPCA Staffing levels.

    RSPCA STAFFING LEVELS

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (14:49): My question without notice is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry. Over the summer period there was animal suffering and deaths caused by heat stress, dehydration and starvation in council pounds and boarding kennels. Unlike the NSW Police, which rostered on additional officers during this busy holiday time, the RSPCA reduced the number of inspectors on duty, resulting in delays and animals being left at risk of harm during this critical time. Given that the statutory obligation to investigate and enforce our animal welfare laws is a year-round responsibility and overseen by the Minister, what steps does the Minister’s department take to monitor the availability of RSPCA inspectors to discharge their duties under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (14:50): I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. Obviously, as we have heard many times in this House, the member has a particular interest in the RSPCA and its actions—or, in his view, its lack of action at times. I know he has a particular history with the RSPCA. Nonetheless, the member has asked an important question. It is obviously very much an operational matter as to how the RSPCA schedules the number of officers on duty and when it does that.

    The Hon. Mark Pearson also referred to the role that my agency plays in relation to liaising with the RSPCA, in particular for the parts of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that it is responsible for. In the light of the level of operational detail that the member has asked for in his question, I will refer the question back to my department and I will take it on notice. I will seek an answer, and I may need to liaise with the RSPCA as part of that answer, and come back to the member with a detailed response.

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    30th March 2017

    RSPCA STAFFING LEVELS

    In reply tothe Hon. MARK PEARSON (23 February 2017).

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry)—The Minister provided the following response:

    RSPCA NSW is an independent charitable organisation operating its own constitution and governance structure and is independent of government.

    POCTA is enforced not just by RSPCA NSW, but also by Animal Welfare League NSW and NSW Police.

    I am advised that RSPCA NSW responds to cruelty complaints 365 days a year and receives about 15,000 complaints a year. It prioritises complaint investigation and ensures a timely response to urgent complaints. It does this either by dealing with the complaint directly or referring it to one of the other POCTA enforcement agencies, including the NSW Police Force if required.

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