• 28/10/2015: Question Without Notice, Dolphin Marine Magic

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON:  My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. On 16 September in answer to my question about the welfare of dolphins at Dolphin Marine Magic, the Minister stated that the department had conducted compliance activities. Did this review include specific investigations and analysis by a cetacean expert observing the dolphins for stereotypic aberrant behaviours and abnormalities associated with inbreeding? If not, will he direct the department to conduct such a review, to be undertaken by a scientist with expertise in cetacean behaviour and make that report available to the House?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the member for his question. As he alluded to in his question, I have answered questions on this matter previously. I inform the House of some details of which I am aware. I have been advised that the exhibition of animals at Dolphin Marine Magic is regulated by the Department of Primary Industries under the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986. An animal welfare organisation has made a formal complaint previously to the department about that facility, alleging that Dolphin Marine Magic is non-compliant with the standards for dolphin management. It also has been reported in the media.

    The incident has been investigated and the department has been working with Dolphin Marine Magic on the issue. It has informed me that after a number of independent surveys the pool used to house the six dolphins exceeds the 1,700 cubic metres required as set out in the relevant standards. I have been advised that the relevant standards have been met at Dolphin Marine Magic and the department continues to have ongoing conversations with organisations such as Dolphin Marine Magic. The Department of Primary Industries keeps in regular contact with organisations that are regulated by the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986. If there are any updates under that Act, I am sure that I will be advised in due course and I can then inform the House.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer on the specifics of the question, not the volume of water per dolphin, but the aberrant stereotypic behaviours of the dolphins and also abnormalities associated with inbreeding?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: In my answer I was directly referring to the standards of the Department of Primary Industries by which the facility is regulated. I am happy to take the question on notice and return with an answer.

    Hansard link – HERE

    No answer has yet been provided.

  • 22/10/2015: Question Without Notice, Animal Welfare Advisory Committee

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. The Animal Welfare Advisory Committee [AWAC] was established more than 20 years ago by the Minister for Agriculture of the time, the Hon. Ian Armstrong. It was established to ensure input into primary industry practices by a broad range of animal protection groups. Since its inception AWAC membership has included representation from the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League and the Animal Societies Federation. I ask, first, can the Minister confirm that his predecessor did not advise the Animal Societies Federation to nominate for a position on AWAC when the previous committee term expired more than 12 months ago? Second, given that the Animal Societies Federation represents the majority of animal protection groups in New South Wales, can the Minister advise— [Time expired.]

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Obviously it is difficult to answer an incomplete question. The Animal Welfare Advisory Council [AWAC] is an important tool that this Government appreciates. Since becoming Minister I have taken the necessary steps through my department to reconstitute that committee. I look forward to the meetings of the newly formed AWAC about the types of issues it will be challenging and about which it will provide advice to me and the Government in the future.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister seek nomination from the Animal Societies Federation (New South Wales) for the Animal Welfare Advisory Council?
    The Hon. Rick Colless: Point of order: I submit that that is a completely new question. Therefore, it is out of order.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! It is necessary for members to seek an elucidation of an answer given in their supplementary questions. As I was distracted by another matter and did not hear the whole question, I will give the member the benefit of the doubt on this occasion only.


    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: The Animal Welfare Advisory Council has been reconstituted. As Minister I have confidence that the members of the council are able to provide the right advice to me and bring expertise from the different stakeholder groups on issues of animal welfare. I look forward to their advice on particular issues. I will continue to do what is prudent and monitor the make-up of that council to make sure that it is reflective and responsive to the issues that it looks into. I will keep a watching eye over the council. If issues need to be tackled I am sure the council members who are representative of the relevant organisations are more than capable of doing so.

    Hansard link – HERE

  • 20/10/2015: Question Without Notice, Mental Health Funding

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water, representing the Minister for Mental Health. As raised in my discussions with the Minister for Health at a recent budget estimates hearing, I was advised that in its strategic plan for mental health, called Living Well, the Government made a commitment to fund early intervention, community-focused health and social support services. Such services will assist people who suffer from mental illness to return to living in the community sooner but in a supported way. Examples include the Professor Marie Bashir Centre at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the new community mental health facilities at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital. Will the Minister advise the House of the timetable for the rollout of such community-based, early intervention mental health services across New South Wales?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I know that the Hon. Mark Pearson has a particular interest in mental health. The question asks for details and time lines. I will refer the question to the relevant Minister and come back with a detailed response.

    Hansard link – HERE

    No answer has yet been provided.

  • 15/10/2015: Question Without Notice, Wally’s Piggery

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. In response to a budget estimates question, the Government advised that the Minister is not privy to legal advice detailing the reasons for the withdrawal of cruelty charges in the Wally’s Piggery case. Will the Minister confirm that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is the only criminal legislation that gives prosecutorial authority to a charitable body such as the RSPCA? Will he advise what accountability mechanisms are in place to ensure that the RSPCA competently fulfils prosecutorial duties in this case? Given the ongoing public concern about the RSPCA’s carriage of this prosecution, will he affirm his confidence in the RSPCA and its ability to competently conduct criminal prosecution cases?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. In the first part of his question he alluded to this topic being explored briefly during a budget estimates hearing earlier this year before General Purpose Standing Committee No. 5. From memory, the member also raised this matter with me on previous occasions during question time. On a number of occasions I have said that when it comes to animal welfare, the Government takes the matter seriously. I know that staff of the Department of Primary Industries do an outstanding job in relation to animal welfare. They proactively work with producers, stakeholder groups and agencies to help them understand and fulfil their responsibilities when it comes to animal welfare.

    I can confidently speak on behalf of the majority of New South Wales citizens when I refer to the RSPCA’s role in this area in New South Wales. I will deal in more detail later with the specifics of the prosecution, which I acknowledge is part of the member’s question. When it comes to an agency that is responsible for animal welfare under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, I can confidently say that the New South Wales branch of the RSPCA is an outstanding organisation. During the election campaign earlier this year the Government made further commitments relating to funding of its facility in Sydney. I have faith in the agencies, including the police, the Animal Welfare League and the RSPCA to carry out their functions diligently under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

    As for the specifics of the prosecution, I am advised that in August 2012 Animal Liberation released video footage showing the alleged mistreatment of pigs and illegal slaughter at a piggery in the southern tablelands of New South Wales. RSPCA NSW investigated the allegations relating to the treatment and management of the pigs, and laid charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act against Wally’s Piggery in July 2013. On 17 November 2014, RSPCA NSW withdrew the prosecution after consultation with independent counsel based on matters relating to legal evidence. The piggery has since been destocked and is no longer in operation.

    Animal welfare is a concern to everyone in the community and, as I said, the New South Wales Government takes it seriously. New South Wales has a robust system in place to address animal cruelty. RSPCA NSW is one of three enforcement organisations under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act; the other two enforcement agencies are the Animal Welfare League NSW and NSW Police. RSPCA NSW operates under its own constitution and governance structure, independent of the New South Wales Government.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer? Does he have confidence that the RSPCA, as a charitable organisation, can administer a criminal Act although he is not privy to the legal advice detailing the reasons for the withdrawal? He would have been privy to the advice if it were the police.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: As I said, I have confidence in the operations of the RSPCA. However, I must make it clear that RSPCA NSW withdrew the prosecution after consultation with independent counsel based on matters relating to legal evidence. That was the basis on which the RSPCA made that decision. As I said earlier, I have confidence in the RSPCA to fulfil its obligations under the Act. In this case RSPCA NSW has acted under the guidance of independent legal counsel. That is all we can ask.

    Hansard link – HERE

    Watch the video below.

  • 13/10/2015: Question Without Notice, Injured Wildlife Signs

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight. On my recent travels around regional New South Wales I met with the Wildlife Information and Rescue Service [WIRES], the wildlife carers, which advised me that while it receives a high volume of calls regarding wildlife injured on our roads, many animals are left to suffer because of outdated road signage advertising local numbers that are no longer in use. For some time WIRES has been asking Roads and Maritime Services to update roadside signs to advertise the statewide 1300 helpline number, but to date this has not occurred. Will the Minister direct Roads and Maritime Services immediately to update its injured wildlife road signs to include this statewide phone number for reporting injured and orphaned wildlife?

    The Hon. DUNCAN GAY: I thank the member for what I believe is his first question directed to me. I have been waiting and waiting and I have had a folder with me in anticipation of a question from him. It is a good and important question that I will take on notice. I will consult with my department to find out what is happening. If the member is correct—I have no reason to assume that he is not—as soon as we properly can we will put in train appropriate changes in that area.

    Hansard link – HERE

    17/11/2015

    The Hon. DUNCAN GAY: On 13 October 2015 the Hon. Mark Pearson asked me a question about injured wildlife road signs. I provide the following response:

    I am advised:

    WIRES is responsible for making and installing WIRES road signs. Roads and Maritime Services assesses sign design and provides approval of new signs on the State’s road network. Roads and Maritime is working with WIRES to identify which signs require updating.

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