• AJP Establishes a select committee to inquire into PoCTAA enforcement in NSW

    8th August 2019

    ANIMAL CRUELTY SELECT COMMITTEE

    Establishment

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I move:

    That private members’ business No. 111 outside the order be precedence be considered in a short form format.

    Motion agreed to.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (15:48): I seek leave to amend private members’ business item No. 111 outside the order of precedence for today of which I have given notice by omitting paragraph 2 (c) and inserting instead: “2. (c) three crossbench members, being Mr Banasiak, Ms Boyd and Mr Pearson.”

    Leave granted.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Accordingly, I move:

    1.That a select committee be established to inquire into and report on the effectiveness of arrangements for the administration and enforcement of the laws of New South Wales for the protection of animals from cruelty, and in particular:

    (a)the effectiveness of the charitable organisations currently approved under section 34B of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 [“the Act”] in achieving the objects of the Act, namely:

    (i)to prevent cruelty to animals;

    (ii)to promote the welfare of animals by requiring a person in charge of an animal:

    (a)to provide care for the animal;

    (b)to treat the animal in a humane manner; and

    (c)to ensure the welfare of the animal.

    (b)the ability of the charitable organisations currently approved under section 34B of the Act (“the approved charitable organisations”) to achieve the objects of the Act, including:

    (i)the level of funding provided by government;

    (ii)perpetrator and community education about ensuring animal welfare;

    (iii)any conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest between the investigation and enforcement of the Act, and one or more of the following:

    (a)commercial activities of the approved charitable organisations including corporate sponsorship;

    (b)industrial proxy membership payments or donations; and

    (c)private interests of board members, consultants, and senior staff.

    (c)the adequacy of the standard of care and kill rates for stray, surrendered or seized animals under the control or supervision of the approved charitable organisations;

    (d)whether it is effective and appropriate for non-government charitable organisations to be granted investigative and enforcement powers for criminal prosecutions under the Act, with regard to their:

    (i)capacity to exercise those investigative and enforcement powers;

    (ii)ability to exercise those investigative and enforcement powers in relation to commercial premises and intensive farm operations involving high numbers of animals;

    (iii)ability to conduct cases to test the application of legislative provisions in the Act;

    (iv)accountability to government and the community;

    (v)exemption from the provisions of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009; and

    (vi)exemption from administrative review under the Administrative Decisions Review Act 1997.

    (e)whether any limitations and deficiencies of the administration and enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 are common to other national or international jurisdictions which use similar models;

    (f)whether the Government should establish a specialist unit to investigate animal cruelty complaints and enforce animal protection laws, either as part of the NSW Police Force or as a separate statutory enforcement agency; and

    (g)any other related matter.

    2.That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the standing orders, the committee consist of seven members comprising:

    (a)three Government members;

    (b)two Opposition members, and

    (c) three crossbench members, being Mr Banasiak, Ms Boyd and Mr Pearson.

    3.That the chair of the committee be Mr Pearson.

    4.That, unless the committee decides otherwise:

    (a)submissions to inquiries are to be published, subject to the committee clerk checking for confidentiality and adverse mention and, where those issues arise, bringing them to the attention of the committee for consideration;

    (b)the chair’s proposed witness list is to be circulated to provide members with an opportunity to amend the list, with the witness list agreed to by email, unless a member requests the chair to convene a meeting to resolve any disagreement;

    (c)the sequence of questions to be asked at hearings alternate between Opposition, crossbench and Government members, in that order, with equal time allocated to each;

    (d)transcripts of evidence taken at public hearings are to be published;

    (e)the chair may make arrangements for the committee to visit and inspect sites relevant to the work of the committee, provided that the owner and/or occupier of the site, as the case requires, has given any necessary permission;

    (f)supplementary questions are to be lodged with the committee clerk within two days, excluding Saturday and Sunday, following the receipt of the hearing transcript, with witnesses requested to return answers to questions on notice and supplementary questions within 21 calendar days of the date on which questions are forwarded to the witness; and

    (g)answers to questions on notice and supplementary questions are to be published, subject to the committee clerk checking for confidentiality and adverse mention and, where those issues arise, bringing them to the attention of the committee for consideration.

    5.That the committee begin its inquiry in the third week of October 2019 and report by 2 April 2020.

    I want members to be aware that I considered seriously concerns that committee staff are overwhelmed by the existing committee workload. Therefore, this inquiry will not begin until the third week of October 2019 and will not report back until 2 April 2020.

    The Hon. DAMIEN TUDEHOPE (Minister for Finance and Small Business) (15:49): On a number of occasions the Government has clearly expressed its position regarding the establishment of select committees. The committee system is a credit to this Chamber. Having come to this place, I appreciate that it is one of the vibrant aspects of the work of this House. A strong system is already in place that is reinforced in many respects by the changes to debates about committees and the way the House operates. Establishing another select committee to conduct an inquiry that could easily be run by an existing portfolio committees strikes me as wasteful. It puts an undue burden on the staff who support the committee system. While I understand the honourable member’s intent, it appears to me that Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Industry or Portfolio Committee No. 7 – Planning and Environment would be perfectly capable of conducting an inquiry of this nature. With those few words, I oppose the establishment of the select committee.

    The Hon. MICK VEITCH (15:51): I lead for the Opposition in debate on the motion to establish a select committee to look into aspects of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is important to recall that, for a range of reasons, the Labor Party went to the State election with a policy of reviewing the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. I understand that within government a body of work is being undertaken on animal welfare and the like, and I expect that to continue. The former Minister is in the Chamber; he may well have some views about that but he may not be able to tell us. The reality is that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act has not been properly reviewed for quite some time. I note the Minister’s comment about the committee structure that we have in this Chamber, which is—as I have said many times—an outstanding feature of this place and which assists us to do our work examining matters in detail. Whether we need another select committee is a matter for the House.

    There is an issue not just with committee staff and Hansard staff who support us in our work, but also with managing our own workloads and making sure that we are not being stretched by having too many committees. I recall the latter days of the last term of this Parliament when there were quite a few committee hearings. Members were passing each other in hallways while racing backwards and forwards to hearings. Trying to keep on top of the submissions and other committee work proved quite daunting for many of us. The Opposition supports the motion. We think it is timely to have a review of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. My only concern is that this review does not go to the extent I would like and does not quite match the policy that the Labor Party announced during the election campaign when we sought a full review of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. However, we will support the motion.

    The Hon. WALT SECORD (15:53): I support the motion as amended moved by Animal Justice Party member the Hon. Mark Pearson. I am part of a group of parliamentarians who are committed to the more humane treatment of animals. I believe this planet was not created just for our benefit; we are here to share this world. I believe all creatures have rights and I do not debate the matter of animal sentience. Every day we witness the capacity of animals to experience feelings such as suffering or pleasure; negative feelings or emotions, including pain, fear, boredom and frustration; and positive feelings, such as joy. Animals enrich our lives, and our engagement with them helps us to become better human beings. They also increase our general wellbeing and longevity. Sadly, animals are the only companions that some people have. Animals teach children empathy and how to care for others. For the record, I have had many spirited debates with my colleagues about puppy farms and the rights of poultry and pigs to be treated humanely. I have also attended Voiceless events in Sydney. On that note, I deeply wish that I could be vegetarian but it is not possible for me yet. But I digress.

    I note that paragraph 1 (b) of the motion canvasses charitable organisations. On that subject, members will be aware that I have a longstanding association with the Cat Protection Society of NSW, which is a charitable organisation based in Newtown. In October 2018 I was delighted to host the society’s sixtieth anniversary celebration here at Parliament House. Members will be aware that I migrated to Australia almost 31 years ago, and I have now lived here longer than I lived in Canada. My entire life on both continents has been connected to animals and enriched by them. As a child in rural Canada, I had many pets: cats, chickens, rabbits, ducks, fish and mice. In Australia I have had several dogs and cats, including a mixed‑breed dog, Sam; a tabby named Gary; and, most recently, an ex-street cat, Brutus. Sadly, they have all passed away. In fact, Brutus passed away several weeks ago and was buried in my North Bondi backyard. He was around 12.

    I delayed getting a cat after Gary died because our bond was so deep that I did not think I could ever replicate it. Luckily, I was wrong: I found Brutus. I had observed and admired the work of the Cat Protection Society of NSW for almost 25 years, so in January 2014 when I was looking for a pet I approached the society. After a rigorous screening process, I adopted Brutus. We bonded and had a deep relationship; we were well suited each other. My point is that it was a successful adoption, and I thank the Cat Protection Society staff for matching us. It was done with the care, concern and compassion that the Cat Protection Society is rightly known for. My experience with the Cat Protection Society is a testament to the value of charitable organisations in the field of animal protection. I commend the motion.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (15:56): My life is now complete knowing that the Hon. Walt Secord had a cat called Gary—hopefully after Nathan “Garry” Lyon, the great bowler. The committee proposed by this motion would duplicate, to a certain degree, what the Government is doing. The Government has agreed that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act needs to be updated; that is why it initiated the Animal Welfare Action Plan. The action plan contains six points: first, modernise the policy and legislative framework, which includes reforming all three animal welfare Acts in New South Wales and corresponding regulations, codes and standards; secondly, implement companion animal breeding practice reforms and communicate changes about new rules that apply to advertisements for the sale of dogs and cats; thirdly, improve the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement efforts, which includes reviewing animal welfare related penalties and enforcement tools; fourthly, ensure that sound research and scientific practices are used to develop policy and legislation by investing in research activities to help better understand animals and their welfare; fifthly, engage with key stakeholders and ensure that all views are respected and considered in developing policy and legislation; and, sixthly, invest in our systems and processes.

    We know that the legislation is quite outdated. We know that there is a lot that probably could be reviewed and consolidated, and that we need to look at the agencies that are responsible under the Act for the enforcement of animal welfare legislation. The Government has also said that we need to review the penalties associated with animal cruelty and, where necessary, improve them. When I said that the Government is already doing what this committee intends to do, the Hon. Mark Pearson disagreed. He is right: The Government is not doing what he wants this committee to do. We all know that the Hon. Mark Pearson wants this committee to beat up the RSPCA because he has a longstanding disagreement with that organisation about a number of animal welfare enforcement matters in this State. That is why the motion consistently mentions the charitable agencies—it is targeted directly at the RSPCA.

    We know that because when I was the responsible Minister the Hon. Mark Pearson said constantly that he wanted New South Wales police to play a greater role. I know the committee will consider the Government being an investigative agency under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. At the moment, the Government sets policy and has at arm’s length the organisations authorised under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty. This motion is nothing more than the Hon. Mark Pearson’s attempt to get back at the RSPCA. It will take up the time of the people who are seeking to overhaul the whole system. The Government agrees that something needs to be done, but it opposes the motion because staff should be getting on with the changes that are needed in New South Wales.

    Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (15:59): The Greens support this motion. I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for moving it. It is clear that the administration and enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is not meeting community expectations. I agree that members of this Chamber have a lot of committee work but I understand that efforts have been made to delay the start of this particular inquiry. I look forward to sitting in the committee inquiry and listening to experts and stakeholders tell us of their experiences about the administration and enforcement of the Act. I appreciate that a review by the Government is about to get underway. I view this inquiry as being quite useful for that process and I hope that the Government—including the Government members on the committee—use the information we gather for the purposes of that review. I welcome us getting ahead of the game when it comes to what will hopefully be some legislative reform.

    The Hon. BEN FRANKLIN (16:00): The New South Wales Government takes the issue of animal welfare very seriously. The Government has made it very clear that any act of animal cruelty is directly opposed to the values that it and the New South Wales community holds. The welfare of animals is in everybody’s interest, and the Government is ensuring the right framework is in place to support best practice. This includes standing beside our animal welfare enforcement agencies to make sure they are empowered to take action when needed.

    The Government has committed to reforming the animal welfare legislation in this State—a process referred to by the former Minister the Hon. Niall Blair—which we are trying to get on with, instead of undertaking yet another inquiry into the very same thing. As the Hon. Mark Pearson is aware, a key component of our legislative reform will be looking at compliance and enforcement. The motion before the House to establish this committee will duplicate the work that this Government is already on track to do. Once again, it will pull resources away from the Government getting on with the job. I have spoken before about this kind of thing happening again and again. Matters of this kind should be examined by portfolio committees; that is what they are for. A select committee will take resources away from the Government, which is already acting on this issue.

    There is no denying that people who do the wrong thing should be punished and face fines under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. That is why we encourage members of the public to report suspected animal cruelty to one of the enforcement agencies. That is because we value the good work that our animal welfare enforcement agencies do. Inspectors from RSPCA NSW and Animal Welfare League NSW have the power to lawfully investigate acts of animal cruelty and to rightly take action against people who mistreat animals.

    The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides inspectors with a range of powers to address animal cruelty. This includes seizing an animal if the inspector suspects, on reasonable grounds, that the animal is in distress or if an offence against the Act or regulation is being or is about to be committed. RSPCA NSW and Animal Welfare League NSW have been mainstays in the community and play a key role in promoting optimal animal welfare and responsible pet ownership. This Government will continue working with RSPCA NSW and Animal Welfare League NSW in their important work in enforcing the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

    A memorandum of understanding has been developed between the New South Wales Government, the RSPCA NSW and the Animal Welfare League of NSW. It came into effect in January 2016 and addresses how the enforcement agencies maintain appropriate separation of their general advocacy functions and their enforcement functions. As charitable organisations, the RSPCA NSW and the Animal Welfare League are also required to report through the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission reporting framework. This Government supports and will continue to support the role of our animal welfare enforcement agencies. The Government opposes the motion.

    The Hon. EMMA HURST (16:03): I support my colleague the Hon. Mark Pearson moving to establish this long-overdue select committee on the administration and enforcement of New South Wales laws regarding animal cruelty. With horrific stories of animal cruelty and neglect making daily headlines, and the RSPCA reporting an average of 15,000 animal cruelty complaints every year, it is clear our laws are failing animals across New South Wales. Our laws are weak and they are not being forced and cannot be enforced. There is no doubt that this inquiry will make the case for change. In practice, the NSW Police Force, the RSPCA NSW and the Animal Welfare League can enforce the main cruelty legislation in New South Wales—the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. But, in reality, the majority of this enforcement, investigation and prosecution is done by the RSPCA NSW, which is a charitable organisation relying almost entirely on the public for the majority of its income.

    The Hon. Niall Blair: How much from Government?

    The Hon. EMMA HURST: Let me repeat. The criminal legislation that protects animals in New South Wales is enforced by a private, publicly funded charity with extremely little funding from the Government. I am not a regular donor to the RSPCA and I wonder how many members in this House are. But if your neighbour is beating a dog, do you expect the RSPCA to investigate, to house that dog, to give that dog veterinary treatment and to prosecute the person for beating that dog? If so, with what money and with what support? Is this seriously the right framework for protecting animals in New South Wales?

    We have the power in Parliament to make changes and to take action on behalf of all animal lovers across New South Wales to protect animals. I urge members to take the first step forward and support this urgent inquiry. Only then can we find out how badly our system is broken. I wonder if that is what the Government is really afraid of. The system is broken. It is failing animals and we need to find out what we need to do to fix it.

    Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE (16:05): I support the motion to establish this long-overdue review—as it has been called by other members in this debate—of the laws in this State that are meant to prevent cruelty to animals. I commend and endorse the words of my colleague Ms Abigail Boyd, who leads for The Greens on questions relating to the protection of animals. I also endorse and support the words of the Hon. Mark Pearson and the Hon. Emma Hurst in their explanations of why this inquiry is essential.

    There have been cries from Government members that there is some funding provided to the RSPCA by the Government. It is a fraction of the RSPCA’s costs. The RSPCA’s website reveals that only a tiny percentage of its funding—some 2 per cent—comes from Government. This select committee will inquire into “whether it is effective and appropriate for non-government charitable organisations to be granted investigative and enforcement powers for criminal prosecutions under the Act”. Surely that is a fair thing for the committee to look at. What other part of our criminal law that deals with cruelty and violence do we contract enforcement out to a charity?

    The reason the Government is satisfied with the existing laws and does not want this inquiry is because it is quite happy for animals to be protected by a charity, not a properly funded, separate Government investigative unit or a properly funded specialist part of the NSW Police Force. The Government is clearly out of touch with the balance of the community. Members of the community cannot believe it when I tell them that our prevention of cruelty to animals law is principally enforced by a charity and not by police. The community values animals and responds far more strongly and far more emotionally—as they should—when they see cruelty being inflicted on animals and when they see the indifference of this Government when it comes to protecting the interests of animals. This committee will also inquire into:

    (f)whether the Government should establish a specialist unit to investigate animal cruelty complaints and enforce animal protection laws, either as part of the NSW Police Force or as a separate statutory enforcement agency,

    Of course the committee should be inquiring about that. Members of this place should inform the community about how weak our animal protection laws are. The community knows that animals are not being protected. People want an organisation that is well-resourced and independent on the beat. The more people know that animal welfare laws are enforced by an underfunded charity, the more they will be appalled at the lack of movement by this Government and the more they will endorse this important inquiry. [Time expired.]

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:09): In reply: The Hon. Niall Blair said “arms-length”. The Government is keeping the protection of animals through criminal legislation at arms-length. Would we want children to be protected by a body that is at arms-length from the Government? Should the agencies responsible for mentally ill or vulnerable people or women subjected to domestic violence be at arms-length from the Government? The answer is no. We should be watching this matter very closely and have a department that is able to administer, investigate and prosecute under our criminal legislation where necessary. No other criminal legislation in New South Wales is administered, investigated and prosecuted at arms-length except for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1979). This is not about wanting to bash up the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League or any other organisation. This is an inquiry as to the efficacy of the administration of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act—nothing more. I welcome every member’s contribution, including the cats Gary and Brutus. I commend the motion to the House.

    The ASSISTANT PRESIDENT (The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane): The question is that the motion as amended be agreed to.

    The House divided.

    Ayes23

    Noes18

    Majority5

    AYES

    Banasiak, Mr M

    Borsak, Mr R

    Boyd, Ms A

    Buttigieg, Mr M (teller)

    D’Adam, Mr A (teller)

    Donnelly, Mr G

    Faehrmann, Ms C

    Field, Mr J

    Graham, Mr J

    Houssos, Mrs C

    Hurst, Ms E

    Jackson, Ms R

    Mookhey, Mr D

    Moriarty, Ms T

    Moselmane, Mr S

    Nile, Revd Mr

    Pearson, Mr M

    Primrose, Mr P

    Searle, Mr A

    Secord, Mr W

    Sharpe, Ms P

    Shoebridge, Mr D

    Veitch, Mr M

     

    NOES

    Amato, Mr L

    Blair, Mr

    Cusack, Ms C

    Fang, Mr W (teller)

    Farlow, Mr S

    Franklin, Mr B

    Harwin, Mr D

    Khan, Mr T

    Latham, Mr M

    Maclaren-Jones, Mrs (teller)

    Mallard, Mr S

    Martin, Mr T

    Mason-Cox, Mr M

    Mitchell, Mrs

    Roberts, Mr R

    Taylor, Mrs

    Tudehope, Mr D

    Ward, Mrs N

    Motion agreed to.

     

  • PIG DOGGING IS NOT A SPORT

    9th August 2017

    Adjournment speech.

    Pig dogging.

    PIG DOGGING

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (22:59): Pig dogging, a sport of bloodlust, is a barbaric practice in which specially bred dogs are forced to hunt wild pigs. Pig dogging, or dogging as it is generally known, represents a growing pastime based on the cruellest and most brutal form of hunting in Australia. In fact, it is the only form of legal hunting in Australia that sets one animal against another, resulting in immense suffering and distress to both the dog and the pig. In addition to its barbarity, it also has a range of associated social, biosecurity, human safety, and ecological issues.

    For the purpose of explanation, many in the House may not be aware of the true reality of pig dogging. In simple terms, pig dogging involves the tracking, bailing, pinning, and mauling of wild pigs by specially blooded pig dogs. Suffering and death is the name of the game and both dog and pig are the victims. Spare a thought for the immeasurable suffering of the pigs. In their struggle to escape, terrified pigs are savaged and may even be mauled to death if not found quickly by the human hunter. The standard method of death is by sticking, which is when a hunter stabs into the stomach or chest to puncture the pig’s heart before leaving it to bleed out.

    The bloodthirsty hunts cover large areas and it is difficult for hunters to maintain contact with their dogs. Pigs are often mauled for long periods and often die a slow lingering death before the humans reach the victim. This is in clear breach of current animal cruelty laws and regulations. It has even been seen that in many cases hunters actually encourage their dogs to maul the pigs. The practice was documented on a special ABC7.30 report in 2012 and is something that even pig doggers themselves admit is commonplace. Members may be aware of my travels across regional and rural areas of New South Wales. These trips are vital in listening to the members of the public who feel they are not being listened to or are too scared to speak up about this rampant animal cruelty in their communities.

    A common concern expressed to me is about the issue of injured and abandoned pig dogs. Dogs that are mauled and mutilated by the defensive acts of terrified pigs are often abandoned or left to suffer due to hunters not wanting to pay the veterinarian bill. Some dogs are merely dumped at pounds because they do not show the killer instinct. The even unluckier ones who do not get dumped or re-homed are brutally killed or used as bait for blooding other dogs. Hunters who use pig dogging claim that they are attempting to control pig populations, despite the fact that hunting is not a successful method of animal control. In addition, there have been many reports of hunters releasing pigs into national parks to increase the geographic spread of pigs for hunting. They also purposely do not take small pigs or sows, thus ensuring sport for future seasons. The fact is that this is about killing animals for sport, not for population control.

    A 2009 critique by the Invasive Species Council of Australia debunked the claim that hunters are conservationists. In reality, hunters have created a sport based on suffering, cruelty, and death. It has also spawned an industry in dog breeding and trading as well as commercial accessories such as GPS trackers, protective collars, jackets, and breastplates. Pig dogging is the worst form of hunting and goes largely unchecked and unregulated. It often involves people who may have criminal records and therefore cannot obtain a gun licence to hunt. It involves a pack‑hunting mentality. I have had many reports to my office of alcohol and drug weekend sprees by pig doggers looking for a cheap thrill at the expense of innocent animals. Furthermore, children are often present on pig dogging hunts, and the lasting effects on them from witnessing this violence firsthand are extremely worrying. What I and many people find most disturbing is that in 2017 pig dogging remains legal in New South Wales. I put to this House that by its very brutal nature it is impossible to participate in this form of hunting without compromising the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.

     

  • WHIPPING OF HORSES IN THE RACING INDUSTRY

    14th July 2017

    Notice of motion.

    Whipping of Horse in the Racing Industry

    1. That this House condemns Racing NSW for permitting the practice of jockeys whipping horses for the purported purpose of increasing the horse’s performance, given that it is an offence under s4 (2) d) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 for animals to be unnecessarily inflicted with pain.
    2. That this House notes the research commissioned in 2012 by the RSPCA and undertaken by Professor Paul McGreevy, Sydney University; “Whip use by jockeys in a sample of Australian Thoroughbred races – an observational study” which
      1. confirmed that repeated striking with a whip (of any type) in the same area of the body has the potential to cause localised trauma and tissue damage, and
      2. identified that the injury will increase with the force of the strike and the number of repetitions.
      3. confirmed that there is unacceptable use of the whip in thoroughbred racing and
      4. the RSPCA recommended that the whip as a performance aid be prohibited.

    Motion was OBJECTED to by the Government.

  • 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.

    ——————————————————————————————————————-

    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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