• 12/08/2015: Adjournment speech on animal research in NSW

    Although the Animal Research Act of New South Wales stipulates that all animal research should be based on the three R’s—reduction, replacement and refinement—in theory it aims at minimising the use of animals in research.

    However, animal testing has created a multibillion dollar industry, encompassing the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, and university and government bodies. There is also a significant industry that manufactures cages and restraints. Humane Research Australia has identified that the trend over the past decade has been an increase rather than a decrease in animal testing. In 2013, in New South Wales 2,699,532 animals were used for research including more than 2,000 cats and dogs and 272,000 sheep. Of these, 0.53 per cent were in the “death as end point” category. The aim of experiments in this category requires the animals to die unassisted—that is, not euthanized, as death is “a critical measure of the experimental treatment”

    Read the full speech HERE

  • 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

  • 16/09/2015: Question Without Notice, Coffs Harbour Marine Magic

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. Is the Minister aware of any documentary evidence relied upon by his department to establish that the welfare of the dolphins at the Coffs Harbour-based Dolphin Marine Magic pool is compliant with the dolphin standards under the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986 in that there are no stereotypic aberrant behaviours associated with continual distress and stress, nor are there genetic abnormalities associated with inbreeding?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I am 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 to the department alleging Dolphin Marine Magic is non-compliant with standards relating to dolphin management. The department has conducted compliance activities in response to the complaint. I am advised that the animal display establishment complies with all relevant dolphin requirements.

    Hansard link – HERE

  • 10/09/2015: Question Without Notice, Beekeeping

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries. Modern commercial honey production requires bees to be continuously transported around the country to pollinate our crops and provide honey. Studies around the world have shown that bees naturally forage within only a one- to three-kilometre range and when required to constantly adjust to new environments they exhibit physical stress as they are forced to adapt to new micro-climates, landscapes and floral resources. Is the Minister aware of any investigations or research conducted by his department or elsewhere into the effect of stress on honey bees as a result of these practices? This is an important matter.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: The question contained several components so I will answer them in reverse. I will start with the member’s statement that this is an important matter. I can only take from that statement that the member thinks that I would consider that beekeeping, the condition of the bees and our apiarists in New South Wales are not important matters. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I may have said in the House before, when I was at university studying for my horticultural science degree I failed one subject and I had to pick up six more credit points.

    My third year apiculture course did not have an exam, which is probably why I chose it, and it was the best decision. It was a practical subject with a large theory component, and part of that component included the behaviour and life cycle of bees. It is fascinating to study the way bees communicate in the hive, in the colony. One thing I know is that from time to time the bees in a colony decide that it is necessary to find a new location—perhaps the old queen is exhausted and they decide to select a new queen. A new queen is selected, and she may decide to take part of the hive with her. The bees will swarm when the queen sends them out to find a new location. The queen will send out the bees to find a new home for the colony, and they will come back and do a little figure eight dance. Bees communicate to each other how good the new location is by how vigorously they dance. For example, the Hon. Duncan Gay might go out and come back, and the new location is not bad so he does a slightly subdued dance. Then the Hon. John Ajaka goes out and comes back, and does a vigorous dance saying, “Let’s go this way.” The bees will take in what the Hon. John Ajaka says and they will head off to the new site. Bees naturally adapt to movement.

    However, the Hon. Mark Pearson asked me whether I am aware of any studies about apiarists moving their colonies. I declare to the House that beekeeping is something I am introducing at my house to my son. It is a great pastime to get involved in with kids. People must ensure that their beehives are registered with the Department of Primary Industries. It is fantastic to be involved in beekeeping. In answer to the question, I am not aware of any studies. But I am a great fan of bees and beekeeping, and we should all celebrate that.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister to ensure that the investigation includes the fact that when bees become stressed they become a serious risk to agriculture and cross-pollination. Will the Minister elucidate as to whether that is an eight swing dance or an eighty-eight swing dance?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I think the first part of the supplementary question was really a statement. As to the second part about the bee dance, it depends on how good the new site is.

    Hansard link – HERE

  • 12/08/2015: Question Without Notice, Kangaroo Management Plan

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Ageing, representing the Minister for the Environment. Is the Minister aware of any parliamentary oversight and review in the past 20 years to determine whether the New South Wales kangaroo management plans have provided for the sustainable and humane treatment of kangaroos, including their joeys? If not, will the Minister establish a committee to examine these issues prior to the development of the New South Wales Kangaroo Management Plan to commence in 2016, especially considering that Russia has implemented three consecutive bans on imports over the past seven years based on serious hygiene and welfare concerns, and that there are now four European countries considering bans of kangaroo meat?

    The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I have not been here for the last 20 years, so it is a little difficult. I have been in this Parliament for about eight years. There are parts of the question I will take on notice and refer to the Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, and Assistant Minister for Planning. I am informed that the Commonwealth Department of Health has recorded only one incident of a food-borne illness involving kangaroo. That is based on data collected Australia wide between 2001 and 2012. This one incident affected seven people in the Northern Territory and did not involve commercially harvested product.

    All kangaroo game meat processed, manufactured or sold in New South Wales must comply with the Australian Standard for Hygienic Production of Game Meat for Human Consumption. The New South Wales Food Authority licenses kangaroo harvesters and processors in New South Wales, and those facilities must be able to show traceability of product throughout the chain, from harvest to the plate. Government authorities, including the New South Wales Food Authority, regularly inspect game meat processing facilities, field depots and harvesters. The authority’s audit and inspection program ensures that kangaroo harvesters, chillers and processors comply with the food safety requirements set out in the specific food safety program that each business is required to have. This process provides a comprehensive assessment to ensure the business is operating its food safety program and that the program covers all aspects of food safety.

    I am further informed that the minimum inspection frequency varies for different types of facilities. Harvesters are inspected once every two years, chillers are inspected once per year, processors are inspected once per year, and export processors are inspected once every six months. Despite the differences in inspection frequency, the authority requires all harvesting and processing facilities to consistently meet food safety standards. Additional inspections and appropriate enforcement action are taken in response to any breach, and the authority follows up these results to ensure identified defects have been rectified. In the period November 2013 to November 2014, inspections show that the New South Wales kangaroo industry had a compliance record of 97 per cent, with just two facilities showing an unacceptable result.

    As kangaroos are native fauna, the Office of Environment and Heritage manages the commercial harvesting program to ensure kangaroos are culled humanely and that kangaroo populations are sustainable. Requirements for the humane slaughter of kangaroos are specified in the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos for Commercial Purposes, and this code of practice is prescribed as a condition of licence by the Office of Environment and Heritage.

    Hansard link – HERE

    The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: On 12 August 2015 the Hon. Mark Pearson asked me a question about a kangaroo management plan. The Minister for the Environment has provided the following response:

    I am advised as follows:

    • There have been no parliamentary inquiries on the sustainable and humane treatment of kangaroos in New South Wales in the past 20 years.
    • Sustainability of the kangaroo population is the responsibility of both State and Federal governments. Sustainability is ensured through population monitoring and harvesting quotas.
    • All kangaroos must be harvested in accordance with the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes. The code includes requirements for the humane treatment of joeys.
    • Export of kangaroo products is a matter for the Australian government.

    Hansard link – HERE

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