• 17/11/2015: Question Without Notice, Koala Park Sanctuary

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. Earlier this month the Koala Park Sanctuary in Sydney pleaded guilty to and was convicted of three charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act for failure to provide veterinary treatment to emaciated koalas. The sanctuary had also previously been found to have breached the general standards for exhibited animals. Given this conviction and proven breaches of the standards, why has the departmental secretary not exercised his authority under section 30 (1) (a) of the Exhibited Animals Protection Act to cancel the park’s licence?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the honourable member for his question. Koala Park Sanctuary has entered a plea of guilty to three charges of failing to provide veterinary treatment to five koalas in its care. The charges were laid by the RSPCA under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. The failure to provide veterinary treatment related to the failure to investigate emaciated body condition and eye complaints, and the failure to provide treatment for dehydration and chlamydia infections.

    The matter has been adjourned to 2 February 2016 at Parramatta Local Court for sentence. In addition to the proceedings initiated by the RSPCA under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the Department of Primary Industries has issued the Koala Park Sanctuary with seven directions with regard to koalas and other animals in the park. The directions issued include keeping animals’ records up to date, fixing fences of enclosures, providing adequate shelter, removing debris within enclosures and providing adequate veterinary treatment for the koalas.

    The park has recently been criticised in the Sydney press and in a United Kingdom [UK] media article. The UK article raised several concerns. Some of these relate to the appearance of the facility and the perceived value for money of the entry fee. These are matters for prospective attendees to make up their own mind about. While some of the journalist’s conclusions about the state of the animals clearly are not an expert’s opinion, the article and supporting photographs suggest some animals are not in good condition and that a number of management standards are not being followed. The department will continue to work with the Koala Park Sanctuary to ensure compliance. It should be noted that a conviction under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is a ground for suspension or cancellation of an exhibitor’s authority, and the department is mindful of this in its dealings with Koala Park Sanctuary.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate as to why the mindfulness has not moved to the cancellation of the Koala Park Sanctuary’s licence?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: As I said, the matter has been adjourned until 2 February 2016 at Parramatta Local Court for sentence. The department will continue to work with the park to ensure compliance. Also as I noted, a conviction under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is grounds for suspension or cancellation. I suspect that we will know more about this matter once it has returned to court.

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    Hansard link – https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LC20151117039?open&refNavID=HA8_1

  • 10/11/2015: Question Without Notice, Impounded Dogs

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question is directed to the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, representing the Minister for Local Government. In 2013-14 more than 20,000 impounded dogs and cats were killed by local councils and the RSPCA. Given that section 64(5) of the Companion Animals Act states that councils have a duty to consider alternatives to killing, by what accountability mechanism does the Minister satisfy himself that councils are responsibly exercising that duty? And given that the Office of Local Government figures show that approved rescue groups under section 16(d) rehomed close to 8,000 animals rescued from death row last year, will the Minister explain why these organisations receive no funding from government?

    The Hon. DUNCAN GAY: I thank the honourable member for his question. It is a question of great detail which I will refer to my colleague the Minister for Local Government. I do remember, however, recently he asked me why we had not done something about the NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service [WIRES] signs and when I checked, they were not our signs, they were WIRES’ signs. We need to check on this and I will take the question in good faith and pass it on to the Minister for a detailed answer.

    Hansard link – HERE

    No answer has yet been provided.

  • 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.

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