• AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND ANIMAL WELFARE DISASTER AT MENINDEE LAKES

    16th January 2019

    Mismanagement of Minindee Lakes has caused an environmental and animal welfare disaster.  The continual draining of the lakes system has caused immeasurable suffering and damage.  The reason given for draining the lakes is that “the lakes evaporate naturally, so why not just take the water and push it down stream”.  The problem with this scenario is that the environment around the lakes rely on the evaporation to sustain the flora and fauna.  Mark witnessed this first hand in November last (2018), when he travelled to the area to see for himself the hundreds of dead emus around the edge of Cawndilla Lake.  As there was still water in the lake but the emus  had no body weight, it would appear the emus died of starvation.  The lakes also provide sanctuary and safety from the drought for the large fish populations.  If we don’t fix this, large areas around the lakes will become a dust bowl.  If this was to happen, dust storms over the East coast of Australia could become the norm.

    Mark Pearson was recently interviewed on radio station 2GB.

     

  • INQUIRY INTO SUSTAINABILITY OF THE DAIRY INDUSTRY IN NSW

    16th November 2018

    One of Mark Pearson’s responsibilities (and a privilege) is to sit on the Legislative Council’s “Industry and Transport” Committee.  Recently the Committee conducted an inquiry into the sustainability of  dairy in NSW.  This gave Mark the opportunity to ask questions regarding intensive dairies, bobby calves and whether the dairy industry has considered transitioning to plant based milks.

    INQUIRY INTO SUSTAINABILITY OF THE DAIRY INDUSTRY IN NSW

    16 November 2018

     

    Mr Greg McNamara – Acting CEO and Chairman, Norco Cooperative

     

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: If you were to step back and view the dairy industry objectively, its viability and, as you said, the current lack of good leadership, and also climate change and Australia’s environment, has Norco or the dairy industry ever considered moving away from animal-based milk towards plant-based milk using the same properties that are thriving, or not thriving in this case? Have you considered that it might be wise to move towards a plant-based milk industry—although I do not think we can use that term legally? The plant-based market is flourishing.

    Mr McNAMARA: We sell plant-based milks. If a customer wants a plant-based product, we can provide it. We are not opposed to plant-based products, but the definitive answer is that we have not encouraged farmers to plant pecan or almond trees to offer those products.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: We are hearing that the dairy industry is in crisis. Would that be wise advice? Obviously Norco has not turned its mind to that.

    Mr McNAMARA: It is about a diversity of income streams that allows farmers to spot. The reality is that Norco would not survive under that model because not enough consumers have moved down that path. There is an increasing number of people who would prefer to drink a plant-based product, and that is fine. But it is not a big enough industry to support 200 farmers at this time. That evolutionary process may take 10 years to 15 years. Planting trees and harvesting the plant-based material may take a significant amount of time.

     

    Mr Colin Thompson – Vice Dairy Chair, NSW Farmers

     

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Mr Thompson, you were talking about what you did personally, but I think it might be a good example. You packed up from the coast and moved to Cowra and invested in a dairy there, at a time when the dairy industry’s future was in question as being a viable economy for anybody who was investing. Is that a risk that other dairy farmers are taking? How did you assess that risk?

    Mr THOMPSON: Everyone saw deregulation in a different way. I saw it as an opportunity. Under regulation we had a quota system but those quota systems tied up a lot of capital on dairy farms. Under deregulation we had our compensation package. Some farmers chose to take that compensation and exit the industry with dignity. I still saw potential in the dairy industry, and particularly inland New South Wales. And so I chose to relocate to Cowra in the central west and start a new facility, start a completely different style of dairy farming to the traditional pasture-based farming, a free stall dairy.

    Since that time, probably during that time, some of the issues that I came up against were, it took seven years to get approval. There were three court cases in the Land and Environment Court. It really highlighted the lack of planning in New South Wales for dairy farms inland. Since that time, we have developed a completely new system. We regularly have other farmers visiting our system. I had to go offshore. I had to go to the United States to get expertise to learn how to develop this new system. It is a system that has great potential to grow and make our New South Wales industry more sustainable.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Is it an intensive system?

    Mr THOMPSON: It is an intensive system, absolutely. Yes, there was a risk. I do remember going to four banks to get finance. Three of them said no, and one said, “Yes, I will give it a go.” So I went. Still there.

     

    Mr Scott Hansen – Director General, NSW Dept of Primary Industies

    Mr Alex Russell – Manager Intensive Livestock, NSW Dept of Primary Industries

     

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Mr Hansen, you said that when there have been situations in areas where there has been an oversupply of milk it has had a critical effect on the pricing. But then you said that because of integration it has taken the valve off that particular problem in that area where there is an oversupply. Can you explain how that has happened?

    Mr HANSEN: I guess that that is just a reflection of the fact that, with our hygiene standards, our food transport standards, and the logistics changes that are now in place fresh milk is not as geographically isolated as it once was. It is hence able to be transported to fill holes in other markets if their supply is in some—

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Right. That has clarified it. Mr Russell, at what point does a typical dairy become an intensive dairy, and what factors are brought to bear on a dairy to move in that direction?

    Mr RUSSELL: Thank you for the question. I think it is quite difficult to define a particular dairy as being intensive or otherwise. I guess the thing about dairying is that it requires a really high level of management input. For me that is what defines it as an intensive production system—the fact that it requires that high level of management input. There are different production systems in Australia. Some of those involve what we call a partial mixed ration production system or a total mixed ration production system. That reflects how much time the animals spend on pasture compared to being fed from a trough, say. But, really, I see it as an intensive industry because of that high level of management input that makes it quite challenging.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: It is not because of the amount of space—the stocking density—it is more a matter of the intensity of the work by people. That is how—

    Mr RUSSELL: That is my view. And the inputs that are provided. So the less time the animals spend on pasture the more there is a requirement to cut and conserve forage and bring that to the cattle or to spend money on buying inputs—grain and fodder.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I think there was a period of time—I do not know whether we are still doing it as much—where we were exporting dairy cattle as breeding stock, mainly to Asia and I think perhaps to the Middle East. Is that continuing. If it is, is it having an impact on the economics of the dairy industry in Australia, in terms of our exports of dairy?

    Mr HANSEN: Not at the same rates as in previous years but there continues to be a high-end value dairy heifer air shipment into Asian markets that are looking to grow their own genetics and their own herds. Some of the speakers after us might be better placed to talk on that front. What we are seeing, though, is a significant increase in the integration between dairy operations and the meat operations in terms of the opportunity to supply calves into beef production systems. That is largely because we have seen, exacerbated by the last 12 months, a significant reduction in the national herd whilst there is incredible demand for meat globally, continuing to grow.

    Dairy farmers, while focusing on the purpose of producing milk, obviously have opportunities with the animals they are producing in terms of the meat industry as well as the fodder they are producing in terms of that fodder being a potential source of income if they are able to produce surplus to requirements. In the last 12 months that has not been the case. Dairy farmers are very good at looking at that business integration and looking how they maximise the resources they have available to them to make their businesses as sustainable as possible.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: So, the export of dairy breeding stock is not having a serious impact on the economics of the dairy industry nationally, as opposed to—

    Mr HANSEN: The alternative sources of income into our farm monitor project figures suggest that it is not a significant driver in terms of the profitability. However, that fails to take into account that for certain businesses at certain times that could well have been a defining moment, or an opportunity that has enabled them to earn income that otherwise they would not have been able to. So for individual businesses you can only assume that there are some that are very thankful and have been reliant upon that additional income source, but when you look at it collectively it is a small proportion in terms of farm-gate income.


    The final report can be read here:

    https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/inquiries/2514/Report%20No%2051%20-%20Sustainability%20of%20the%20dairy%20industry%20in%20NSW.pdf

     

  • Greyhound

    REQUEST FOR GREYHOUND RACING INDUSTRY STATISTICS ON REHOMED NUMBERS

    24th October 2018

    Questions without notice.

    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.

  • EXOTIC ANIMALS AND CIRCUSES

    25th October 2018

    Second read speech – Exhibited Animals Protection Amendment (Prohibitions On Exhibition) Bill 2018.

    The “Circus Bill” would ban the use of exotic animals in circuses and retire them to sanctuaries where they can live out their days in peace.  Mark Pearson’s speech references the appalling history of animals being used in circuses.  “Tradition” is no defence for continuing the practice of forcing animals to perform for human entertainment.

    EXHIBITED ANIMALS PROTECTION AMENDMENT (PROHIBITIONS ON EXHIBITION) BILL 2018

    First Reading

    Bill introduced, and read a first time and ordered to be printed on motion by the Hon. Mark Pearson.

    Second Reading Speech

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (11:04): I move:

    That this bill be now read a second time.

    The Exhibited Animals Protection Amendment (Prohibitions on Exhibition) Bill 2018 prohibits circuses from exhibiting exotic animals. Exotic animals are defined as any animal other than a stock animal within the meaning of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, or a companion animal within the meaning of the Companion Animals Act”. This bill makes it an offence for a person to exhibit an exotic animal at a circus, and to breed, keep, train or transport an exotic animal for the purpose of exhibiting the animal at a circus, whether or not the circus is located in New South Wales. Exotic animals currently exhibited at circuses must be rehomed in an animal display establishment or wildlife sanctuary approved by the secretary within 12 months. If such a placement is not reasonably practicable, the owner must keep the exotic animal in accordance with standards currently prescribed under the principal Act.

    Established science tells us that the welfare and wellbeing of exotic animals is severely compromised by being held captive in travelling circuses. The circus business model is predicated on forcing animals to live in barren, cramped conditions, including stressful travel in trucks known as beast wagons for thousands of kilometres each year. The animals have little in the way of enrichment or stimulation while confined, nor can they engage in many of their natural behaviours. Animal Circuses have their origins in the Roman Empire. Their purpose was not just to entertain the masses but also to reinforce the myth of human superiority over mere beasts. Many thousands of exotic animals were tortured, butchered and killed during performances at the Colosseum in Rome.

    Australia’s first travelling animal circuses were established in the 1850s, but there is no fine tradition to celebrate. Caged lions and tigers, brutalised for the public’s amusement, were exhibited alongside freak shows with exhibits such as the bearded lady, conjoined twins, or the world’s smallest woman. Horrifyingly, a group of Aboriginal people from the Wulguru clan on Palm Island were taken abroad by Barnum and Bailey’s Circus to be displayed alongside other Indigenous people from around the globe. The Wulguru people were promoted as “Australian cannibals” and forced to dance, sing and throw boomerangs to the audience while performing alongside an elephant. Within a year many in the group had succumbed to illness and some died, with the body of an Aboriginal man called Tambo being embalmed and put on permanent display. His remains were finally returned to his country after many approaches by his people.

    There is not a shred of credibility to the often stated argument that circuses stimulate people’s interest in conserving exotic animals or respect foranimals’ capability and skill. How can watching a lion balance on a small table possibly have any relevance to understanding the place of the lion on the African savannah? In 2018 there are so many more authoritative ways that people can learn about animals. Animal circuses have never been about education as they now proclaim; rather, they are about human voyeurism, watching animals humiliated and degraded by the manner in which they are forced to perform and be displayed. They become parodies of themselves. Noone with a modicum of empathy could possibly enjoy watching a subjugated animal being forced to perform tricks against their own natural instincts.

    Circuses may have moved on from forcing lions and tigers to jump through burning hoops or—the ultimate in voyeurism—the staged death by electrocution of Topsy the elephant at a Coney Island amusement park in 1903, but the reality is still animal suffering and misery. As a society we have become more concerned about animal welfare. In recognition of this change, Australian circus culture underwent a revolution in the late 1970s with the emergence of animal-free alternatives such as Circus Oz, the Flying Fruit Fly Circus and the internationally acclaimed Cirque du Soleil. Fast‑forward to the twenty‑first century and in New South Wales only Lennon Bros Circus, Stardust Circus and Circus Royale continue to use exotic animals such as lions, monkeys and camels. They are left to tour on the fringes of the entertainment circuit and on the outskirts of country towns. Often they are met with animal rights protesters objecting to the circus’s presence in their town.

    Acknowledging the growing public disquiet, more than 40 councils in Australia banned exotic animal circuses from performing on council‑owned and controlled land. In New South Wales, such councils included Parramatta, Lismore, Wingecarribee, Newcastle, Blue Mountains, Warringah, Woollahra, Hornsby, Pittwater, Manly, Randwick, Ku-ring-gai, Lake Macquarie, Liverpool and Camden councils. A number of other New South Wales councils are currently being petitioned to ban animal circuses on council land. In 1992, the Australian Capital Territory Government passed legislation prohibiting bears, elephants, giraffes, primates or felines—other than domestic cats—from being exhibited in circuses.

    Animals have not been the only victims of circuses. Between 1863 and 2001, there were 131 incidents in Australia in which members of the public or circus workers were harmed. The individuals most likely to suffer injuries or death were animal handlers during performances and training and circus hands feeding animals or cleaning cages. Many of the accidents involving patrons happened because people stood too close to the cages in which animals were housed. Members of the public were mauled by lions, trampled by elephants and lacerated by monkeys. The animals most prone to instigating attacks were lions, followed by tigers and elephants. Elephants killed more often than any other circus animal.

    Some circuses were so notorious for the injuries caused that it became a matter of some concern to public safety, but it was not until 1943 that the New South Wales Government finally intervened by cancelling the licence of a particularly negligent circus. Injuries to the public and circus workers continued right up until circuses began closing down due to lack of financial viability. By the early 2000s, only Stardust, Ashton and Lennon Bros circuses exhibited dangerous exotic animals such as lions, tigers and elephants. In 2001 a lion tamer was attacked by three lions at a Lennon Bros Circus performance in Penrith. In 2004 a toddler at Ashton Circus tragically lost his arms after he stuck them through the bars of a cage containing two tigons.

    The most recent case stems from a time when I was with Animal Liberation NSW. Until 1996, Stardust Circus had two performing elephants called Arna and Bambi. They had spent their entire lives in captivity, much of it together. Arna witnessed Bambi’s death from anaesthesia complications after treatment for an injured foot. Bambi fell and suffocated to death as a consequence of the treating veterinarian and staff failing to place her in a supportive sling for the surgery.

    Elephants are highly social animals and in recognition of that, the circus animal welfare standards require that elephants should not be solitary unless there are compelling reasons. In 2000 Animal Liberation NSW campaigned to have Arna transferred to the Western Plains Zoo given that she had been a solitary elephant for six years and this was causing her significant distress. Imagine a life alone and bound by foot shackles except when performing. Animal Liberation wrote to the then Director General of the Department of Agriculture, stating that if the annual permit was to be issued for Stardust Circus to keep Arna—therefore meaning she would be kept as a solitary elephant—then it would challenge that decision in the New South Wales Supreme Court. This was confirmed and Animal Liberation took Stardust Circus to the Supreme Court, arguing that Arna suffered psychologically as a consequence of her imposed solitude. I sought to have Arna—then in her mid-40s—paired with Gigi, a retired elephant from Ashton Circus. Animal Liberation lost the case but in 2001 Stardust Circus arranged for Gigi to join it.

    But the psychological damage had been done. In 2008, for reasons apparently unknown, Arna struck out against her handler. His injuries included a broken back and a ruptured aorta and were found to be the result of a “severe blunt trauma”, with the cause of death being a direct result of Arna crushing his upper back with her foot as he lay on the ground. However, I was informed by a trapeze artist at the circus that Arna’s and Gigi’s handler had beaten Gigi with a piece of 4 by 2 timber before approaching Arna.

    As I stated at the time, it has been proven that elephants who kill once will frequently kill again. Ashton Circus elephant Abu killed three workers: in 1974, 1983 and again in 1987. His partner at the time had been Gigi, who was later bought by Stardust Circus as the new companion for Arna. In response to public concern and a directive from the Department of Primary Industries, Stardust retired 53‑year‑old Arna and her companion elephant Gigi, 50, to the Western Plains Zoo, where they lived out their years free of shackles, long hours in the back of beast wagons, and the glare and noise of the circus ring. This tragic episode ended the sorry history of performing elephants in circuses.

    This brings me to the ongoing suffering of the remaining exotic animals in travelling circuses in New South Wales. Lions, camels and rhesus macaque monkeys are still exhibited and forced to perform for human entertainment. Animal circus owners tell us that because their lions have been bred for multiple generations in captivity and their macaques have been bred or sourced from zoos, and because the animals are shown affection as if they were companion animals and are extensively trained, they do not suffer from stress or boredom.

    In 2009, a University of Bristol study found that circus animals spend most of their days confined, with between 1 per cent and 9 per cent of each day taken up with performing or training and the remaining time spent in so‑called exercise pens. In other words, for at least 90 per cent of each day, the animals are in small, barren, temporary pens that are set up on the featureless, dusty or muddy back paddocks of New South Wales. Monkeys fare even worse, stuck in sterile cages that would be an animal welfare scandal if used in zoos.

    Exercise pens are significantly smaller than minimum zoo requirements for outdoor enclosures. Given that there is no difference between the needs of a lion in a zoo and the needs of a circus lion, what is the explanation or justification for that? The reality is that a profitable travelling circus could not have pens the size of zoo enclosures. The circus animal standards therefore allow for this anomaly based on a commercial imperative. The science, however, is very clear that wild animals such as lions cannot flourish in domesticated settings regardless of how long they have been bred in captivity. According to Price in 1999, the conditions of captivity:

    … constrain an animal’s behaviours and restricts appropriate, or allows inappropriate, social interactions, both intra- and inter‑specifically …

    According to Mason et al in 2001:

    Wild animals that have been bred for tens of generations in captivity still show extremely high motivation to perform certain activities seen in their wild counterparts … Be under no illusion that exotic circus animals are anything other than wild animals forced to adapt to and submit themselves to humans. They may have been hand reared, which makes them less fearful towards humans, and they may be described by their handlers as “tamed”, but they can never be considered domesticated. Indeed, in order to tame them, infant animals in circuses are regularly separated from their mother and hand reared. Studies by Dettling in 2002, McEwen in 2007 and Reimers et al in 2007 have shown that this increases stress‑related behaviour and can cause an elevated and prolonged stress response. These increased stress sensitivity effects can last into adulthood.

    Circus owners may speak of generationally breeding lions into docility but no studies have been undertaken to establish that selective reproduction has taken place. Genetically speaking, exotic animals in circuses are identical to their wild counterparts. They express similarly high motivation to perform their species‑specific behaviours and their instincts are unaffected. As a result, allegedly tamed exotic animals in captivity are often unpredictable and under stressful circumstances are likely to become aggressive. The University of Bristol study that I referenced earlier examined behaviour, health, living and travelling conditions and compared the conditions of non-domesticated animals in circuses with their counterparts kept in zoos. The study found:

    Circus animals spent a great amount of time performing stereotypies, such as head-waving, pacing and repetitive abnormal behaviours, especially when shackled or confined in beast wagons.

    Stereotypies are caused by a captive animal’s repeated attempts to adapt to its environment or by a dysfunction of the central nervous system. Locomotory stereotypies include pacing and similar behaviours. Oral stereotypies include repetitive movements with the tongue or repeatedly biting an object. An animal may also perform repetitive movements of the whole body without moving from one place to another, such as swaying. The category would include, for example, a stereotypy sometimes shown by primates that consists of the animal moving its body backwards and forwards while seated. Other stereotypies include excessive grooming, leading sometimes to hair loss and dermatitis.

    The motivation for locomotory stereotypies of carnivores is not known with certainty and is likely to result from the combination of several factors. Some studies suggest that lack of space is important, while others point to the inability to perform the normal behaviour of the species as the main cause. In carnivores, pacing is more common in those species that usually travel long distances in the wild. Regardless of how many generations have been born into captivity, all confined exotic animals are at risk of developing stereotypies due to confinement, boredom and the stress caused by the inability to perform normal behaviours. Stereotypic behaviour is particularly associated with performances in circus elephants and, in short, they are driven mad.

    The presence of stereotypies is indicative of poor welfare in circus animals. Inadequate diet and housing conditions, and the effects of repeated performances, can also lead to significant health problems. Circus animals travel frequently and the associated forced movement, human handling, noise, wagon movement and confinement are important stressors. Available evidence suggests that performing near spectators may cause severe stress to wild animals. This can be exacerbated by restricted movement options, harsh lighting, exposure to loud or aversive sounds, strange odours and extreme temperatures. For example, stereotypies increase when the music starts just before a performance. I have witnessed that myself.

    The type of training that is used affects the welfare of the animals. While we cannot be sure about the exact nature of training methods, any training procedures that include physical punishment will be stressful for and impose fear on the animals undergoing them. In the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA, has previously exposed the use of bullhooks on elephants in order to obtain their compliance. Although there is no conclusive evidence as to whether animals habituate to travel, confinement in beast wagons for long periods is a definite welfare concern.

    Circuses have a limited ability to make improvements such as providing increased space, environmental enrichment and appropriate social housing that zoos may be able to provide. Given the financial and physical limitations of circuses, social animals are often housed singly, or in groups smaller than the average in the wild, or in unnatural groupings. That prevents establishment of normal social dynamics and has significant consequences for behaviour and welfare. Consequently, the University of Bristol study found that the only non‑domesticated animals suitable for circus life would have low space requirements, simple social structures, low cognitive function, non-specialist ecological requirements and an ability to be transported without adverse welfare effects. None of the commonest species exhibited by circuses, such as elephants and large felids, meet those criteria. They concluded that the species of non-domesticated animals commonly kept in circuses appear the least suited to a circus life.

    Animal circuses are closing all around the world. The most famous in the United States, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey, made the decision to close earlier this year after almost 150  years in the business. They attributed the closure to changing community tastes in entertainment, and the community’s growing concerns regarding animal welfare. Forty-five countries have already banned or are transitioning to ban animal circuses, citing animal welfare concerns as the main reason. May New South Wales join Sweden, Costa Rica, India, Finland, Singapore, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Belgium and other countries in moving to ban animals in circuses.

    The time is up for exotic animal circuses in this State. The circus families themselves know that they are the last generation to crack the whip against the majestic lion and the magnificent tiger. The shackles of countless generations of tortured elephants will never again be used to subjugate these magnificent gentle and intelligent giants. I respectively ask my fellow members to support this bill and give these animals the compassionate response they deserve. May their final years be spent in a sanctuary rather than in the confines of a beast wagon. I commend the bill to the House.

    Debate adjourned.

  • Naree Pon

    COMPANION ANIMALS DESERVE CONSIDERATION IN RESIDENTIAL RENTAL AGREEMENTS

    17th October 2018

    RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES AMENDMENT (REVIEW) BILL 2018

    Mark Pearson moved an amendment to the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018. The amendment would ensure that companion animals would be given consideration in residential tenancies for renters.  The amendment was supported by the Greens but not by the Government or Opposition.

    The CHAIR (The Hon. Trevor Khan): There being no objection, the bill will be taken as a whole. I have three sets of amendments: the Animal Justice Party amendment on sheet C2018-119A, the Opposition set of amendments on sheet C2018-123 and The Greens amendments on sheet C2018-122.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (11:50): I move the Animal Justice Party amendment No. 1 on sheet 2018-119A:

    No. 1Companion animals

    Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 24:

    [2]Section 19 Prohibited terms

    Insert after section 19 (2) (e):

    (f)that a companion animal of a person who is lawfully residing on the residential premises is not permitted to be kept on the premises. This amendment is a double negative and relates to companion animals:

    No. 1Companion animals

    Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 24:

    [2]Section 19 Prohibited terms

    Insert after section 19 (2) (e):

    (f)that a companion animal of a person who is lawfully residing on the residential premises is not permitted to be kept on the premises.

    The 2016 Census figures show that more than 30 per cent of households in Australia rely on rental accommodation for their housing needs. Combine that figure with the fact that 62 per cent of households have companion animals and we have a significant social problem with the lack of legal protections for tenants with companion animals. This problem is escalating as housing affordability causes many people to remain tenants, often for life. In Europe, where renting is the norm, there is legal recognition that tenants should not be unfairly restricted from experiences such as living with pets.

    A landlord may own a property to derive income and capital gains and it is obviously not unreasonable for them to want to protect that asset. As a society we recognise the benefit that private landlords bring to the housing sector for people who cannot afford to buy their own homes or who are not eligible for social housing. However, we must also acknowledge that the landlord’s asset is also the tenant’s home. I believe that it is entirely reasonable for tenants to be able to enjoy the same benefits of living with companion animals as do home owners. It also helps to address a terrible tragedy, that is, the increasing number of tenants who are forced to surrender their animals to pounds and shelters.

    RSPCA statistics show that 15 per cent of the dogs and cats that are surrendered are because people are moving house and cannot not find accommodation that allows companion animals. As a society we intervene in the operations of many commercial enterprises on the understanding that it is for the public good. We legislate to ensure that retailers must sell food that is not adulterated, that a motel owner cannot refuse to book a room for a gay couple, and that property developers must comply with building standards to ensure public safety. We do this because we believe that public health, welfare and fairness is important and that the “market” is unlikely to provide those protections if left to its own devices.

    Landlords are currently free to refuse tenants and the consequences are such that most landlords choose the easy option of not allowing any pets, without any consideration of the social, physical and psychological benefits that companion animals have in the lives of humans. We live in a society where single and older person households are on the rise. These two groups are at risk of social isolation. For older persons the isolation may be due to physical disabilities or illness. Both groups may struggle with the lack of social interaction leading to anxiety and depression. Psychiatrists at the University of Rochester Medical Center undertook research which found that those living with pets were 36 per cent less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness. We know that human beings are social animals and that loneliness is a killer. Older adults who report feelings of loneliness are at an increased risk of many serious physical and mental health conditions, including death.

    There have been many research studies undertaken that show a raft of health benefits from living with companion animals. Human-animal relationship lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and people recovering from heart attacks recover more quickly and survive longer when there is a pet in the home. For people living alone, a companion animal may be the only affectionate touch they experience through their day. Petting an animal is known to release oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress as well as boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which promote alertness and a sense of wellbeing. According to beyondblue, it is estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime and that in any one year approximately one million Australian adults will experience depression and more than two million will have anxiety.

    According to depression research, being responsible for the care of an animal promotes mental health. Self-esteem is improved when people realise they are capable of caring for another sentient being. For people debilitated by depression, living with a companion animal brings a structure to the day and may be the only reason that they are able to get out of bed. Feeding, caring and exercising a beloved animal provides positive feedback and helps with healing from depression. I note that the Victorian Government has recently amended its residential tenancy legislation to allow pets in rental accommodation and that the Queensland Government has a similar provision before its Parliament. If our sister States are able to recognise the case in favour of companion animals, then surely we can join them in that compassionate approach. Allowing tenants to have companion animals will not only significantly improve the wellbeing of people but also quite simply save lives, both human and animal. I commend the amendment.

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK (11:56): The Animal Justice Party amendment is not supported by the Government. Companion animals are not defined under the Companion Animals Act 1998 as a dog or cat. Properties vary greatly and different types of pets may not be suitable for some properties. The landlord and tenant are best placed to negotiate on whether a particular pet would be appropriate for a property. The Residential Tenancies Act leaves the issue of whether a tenant can keep a pet—but not an assistance animal—to be negotiated between a landlord and tenant, and the Government considers that that is appropriate.

    Mr JUSTIN FIELD (11:57): The Greens support the amendment moved by the Hon. Mark Pearson on behalf of the Animal Justice Party. The Greens had a similar amendment to ensure that those living with companion animals are not unfairly impacted by these changes and that the Residential Tenancy Act supports them to continue to live with their pets. There are more people living in rental properties than ever before. Many of them have pets and these pets are an important part of their family. Certainly I have had that experience living in rental accommodation. I have been fortunate to find rental accommodation where it has been possible for my family to have our pets. I know how important our pets are to my young son. It is important that we keep families together, including the non-human parts of our families. The Greens support the amendments moved by the Animal Justice Party.

    The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE (11:58): The Opposition appreciates the intent of the amendment moved by the Animal Justice Party. We are concerned about the need to ensure that there are not unintended consequences. The best way of doing that is to have consulted fully with all stakeholders involved to ensure that the outcome is both fair and balanced and that there are no negative impacts that we are aware of. While we appreciate the intent, for the reasons I have outlined at this stage the Opposition does not support the amendment.

    The CHAIR (The Hon. Trevor Khan): The Hon. Mark Pearson has moved Animal Justice Party amendment No. 1 on sheet C2018-119A. The question is that the amendment be agreed to.

    Amendment negatived.

Page 1 of 1212345...10...Last »