• NSW DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES VISIT MY FARM INITIATIVE

    16th November 2017

    Questions without notice.

    DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES VISIT MY FARM INITIATIVE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:43): My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries. The Minister recently spoke glowingly about the department’s new “Visit My Farm” initiative, which will invite the public, including families with young children, to experience the realities of animal farming. After following the necessary biosecurity precautions, will these visits include observation of sows in farrowing crates and stalls, hens in battery cages, artificial insemination, routine mutilations without analgesia such as eyeteeth removal and tail docking of piglets, de-beaking of layer chicks, and sheds where 22,000 or more broiler chickens are packed in and are routinely suffering from hip dysplasia and pulmonary cardiovascular failure?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:44): I thank the member for his question. These visits will show the next generation where their food and fibre comes from. They will show the hardworking people who have chosen agriculture or horticulture that this is not just a job but a vocation and part of their lifestyle. They will show the vital role that our New South Wales primary producers play not just for this economy but for the social fabric of New South Wales. These visits will show all of our farming systems, which are legal and vital in supplying food and fibre not just for our domestic consumption but for consumption overseas and for other domestic markets.

    We want to highlight to the next generation the great job our farmers do. We want families to learn where their food comes from and to understand more about the production systems involved in that. That is why I am proud to stand up in this House and promote programs like this. That may be not what the member wants. I know he disagrees with some of the production systems that are legal in this State. The member disagrees with some of the production systems that our regional communities rely upon. He disagrees with some of the production systems that our farmers utilise. However, that does not mean that because it is not what he wants, everyone else should follow. It is important to show family members and children who have never been exposed to some of these operations where their food and fibre comes from, to help them understand production systems so that they do not get spooked by some scare campaigns, get the wrong end of the stick or have misunderstandings about production systems.

    That is why these farms are opening the gates and inviting people in. Without our farmers we could not spend the time doing what we are doing here; we would have to worry about where our next meal comes from. We can all get on and do what we want with our lives because of our farmers. We can follow other vocations because we do not have to worry about where our next meal will come from. Instead of talking down the production systems, through this program we have chosen to educate, inform and enhance the role of our farms in the minds of those who have not been exposed to them previously. We are proud of this. We have nothing to hide and it is something that should be encouraged.

    The member disagrees with some of these production systems and he listed a range of areas that he believes should be outlawed. Some aspects of those production systems give no credit to the industries that are looking at those systems themselves and in some cases, as with the sow stalls, are phasing them out themselves. Primary producers and industries in this State also understand the concerns of consumers and are responding to them. Where there are animal welfare issues they are looking at other production systems and meeting those issues head on. They do not need us to dictate to them. We should provide consumers with a choice of product, allow farmers to provide that choice and get on with the production systems. We support our farmers.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:48): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer as to how the families and young children will be educated and informed about the intensive methods of production that I outlined in my original question?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:48): I refer the member to the publicly available details in relation to the program.

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    Although the Minister speaks glowingly of the department’s new industry backed scheme, a quick visit to the website reveals not a single intensive farm is on the list of farms to visit. 

  • The Hon. Niall Blair MLC

    1080 POISONING OF INTRODUCED WILDLIFE

    2nd May 2017

    Questions without notice.

    1080 poisoning.

    FERAL ANIMAL CONTROL

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:30): My question without notice is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries. During question time on 5 April the Minister stated support for the widespread use of 1080 poison to kill introduced animals such as wild dogs and foxes. Given that the welfare of all animals in New South Wales is his ministerial responsibility, irrespective of the category status imposed by humans, will the Minister advise whether his department has considered humane or non-lethal alternatives to 1080 baiting? If not, does the Minister accept the scientific evidence that so-called “pest” species are capable of experiencing pain and suffering, and the ingestion of 1080 poison causes immense suffering to baited animals irrespective of which animals they are?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:31): I thank the honourable member for his question—my favourite part‑time vegan. I stand by the comments I made in relation to pest animals and 1080 poison. I know my department, along with other agencies, looks at alternatives to poisoning for some pest animals. For example, a good bullet in the head would be appropriate for a wild dog that attacked poor defenceless lambs or left some of the sheep they attacked with their guts hanging out and suffering. As I have said previously, 1080 is licensed for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. It is a Federal issue.

    The member should not think for one second that he can enter this Chamber and have me start feeling sorry for introduced species that inflict pain and suffering upon livestock and, importantly, to many native animals. Native animals, including birds, suffer attack by feral dogs, foxes and feral cats. I will not change my mind. The member is wasting parliamentary question time. The 1080 poison is registered for use. The producers and agencies must stay within the protocols of that registration. The agencies that make those decisions do not report to me. That is my answer.

    It is one thing to say that members should be concerned about animal welfare that is governed by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979; it is another matter to suggest that these introduced pest animals are in the same class. They inflict damage upon the economy and environment of this State. I will not for one second apologise for the fact that our agencies and farmers are using 1080 to eradicate those pests. The damage they do far outweighs any other consideration. My answer stands and I will not apologise for it. As long as those responsible for the control of the pest animals adhere to the requirements and protocols attached to the products I will help producers to gain access to 1080 poison that eliminates feral animals.

    I have stood with farmers while Local Land Services handed out chicken heads injected with 1080 for use on their properties to control foxes. I will accept criticism that I am not doing enough in this space and I will go back to the agencies and say, “Let’s do more”, but I will never say in this Chamber that we should do less. I do not accept the member’s hypocritical view. We joke in this place about media reports concerning the member, but he walks in here with leather on his feet, wool in his suit and fish in his belly and attempts to impose his ideology on us. The member has been caught out as a hypocrite. The question is hypocritical. The member should stand up for our native animals. If the member spent more time on that area, I might take the question seriously.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:35): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate upon his answer as to what is the research that the department is doing into humane and non-lethal methods for “pest” control?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:35): As I have previously stated, the department looks at other methods for control of these animals, including a bullet in the head or chest of some of the feral animals.

  • 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.

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    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.

  • CLIMATE CHANGE INCREASING HEAT STRESS IN CATTLE

    21st February 2017

    Questions without notice.

    Heat stress in cattle.

    ANIMAL WELFARE

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:31): My question is directed to the Hon. Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry. Given that the New South Wales Government recognises that climate change means that farmers will need to adjust to prolonged periods of high temperatures during the summer months, what steps is the Minister’s department taking to ensure that the recent prolonged suffering and death from heat stress of 40 dairy cattle at Shoalhaven does not become a regular occurrence in our paddocks and cattle and sheep feedlots, in particular where this occurred due to the failure to provide adequate shelter?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:32): I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I am sure that he had a good holiday, like the rest of us. He had plenty of time to fly his drone, no doubt. I hope he is well rested. I hear that he has not yet finished. I thank him for his question. I know that issues in relation to how stock handle extremes of temperature, including heat stress, is something that is managed by a lot of private businesses in our primary industries. In relation to the dairy that the Hon. Mark Pearson spoke about, I will take the question on notice and come back to him with a detailed answer. Given the nature of the question and given the timelines he spoke about, I am sure that there will be ongoing investigation. It would not be helpful for me to make comments while an investigation is being undertaken so I will take the question on notice and come back to him.

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: Point of order: The question from the Hon. Mark Pearson clearly mentioned climate change, which is a very serious issue and an issue of interest to people across New South Wales as well as honourable members. So far the Minister has not mentioned climate change in his answer. It is pertinent. It is central to this issue, and I would ask that the President direct the Minister to be relevant to the question that was asked.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! Mr Jeremy Buckingham will resume his seat. That is not a point of order by any stretch of the imagination. Mr Jeremy Buckingham should not use points of order as an opportunity to make debating points. The Minister was being generally relevant, and he will be heard in silence.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Before I take this question on notice and come back to the Hon. Mark Pearson I just make the observation that any person who would use the death of stock like this as some sort of political stunt in this Chamber, as Mr Jeremy Buckingham has just done, is an absolute disgrace. The Hon. Mark Pearson asked about—

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: You’re a disgrace, mate. People are going to the wall and you won’t even say the words “climate change”. You’re a fool.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind Mr Jeremy Buckingham that it was not my intention to call honourable members to order in this first question time. I ask that Mr Jeremy Buckingham allow the Minister to finish his answer in silence. The Minister has the call.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: We all know that the Hon. Mark Pearson is passionate when it comes to animal welfare. He has asked a genuine question. I was showing the member’s question the respect that it deserved, and I was going through it and answering the substantive part of the question. The stunt that Mr Buckingham has just pulled is something that every member of this House should stand up and condemn him for.

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: You pulled the stunt, mate.

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: To use the death of stock and the loss of livelihood of a primary producer for a political stunt on climate change is nothing but a disgrace. If the rest of his colleagues had the respect to come to question time and to actually sit through this then I am sure they would be absolutely disgusted as well. He is a disgrace—using an unrelated topic to make a point like this.

    Mr Jeremy Buckingham: They are disgusted by you, mate. Thousands of farmers are going to the wall. The Minister is an absolute dinosaur and a fool.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I will not tolerate Government Ministers, Government members, Opposition members or crossbench members yelling at each other across the table. It is clearly disorderly. It is not something that I will accept. I ask that the Minister direct his answer through the Chair. Does the Minister have anything further to add?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Getting back to the substantive part of the question, I thank the Hon. Mark Pearson for his question. I will take it on notice and come back to him with as much information as possible in due course.


    28th March 2017

    ANIMAL WELFARE

    In reply tothe Hon. MARK PEARSON (21 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:

    The Department of Primary Industries recognises that climate change has the potential to impact on farming and livestock in particular. Advisory material has been prepared by the department and by industry groups and circulated to farmers on the best ways to avoid this situation.

    The department’s Climate Unit currently produces the NSW Seasonal Conditions Report on a monthly basis which is available publicly through the DPI website or via email subscription.

    The report includes information on rainfall, water storages, crops, livestock and other issues. It can help farmers make informed decisions on how they manage operations and prepare for seasonal conditions including heatwaves.

    The department has a representative on the Feedlot Industry Accreditation Committee—the group which oversees and administers the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme [NFAS], the quality assurance program for the cattle feedlot sector.

    The committee has agreed to a number of requirements for feedlots with respect to heat stress management including the need to:

    •have a Heat Load Action Plan;

    •undertake a specific animal welfare audit every six months (in addition to the annual independent audits of feedlots);

    •undertake regular monitoring of cattle during the summer period; and

    •conduct risk assessments, and to calculate heat stress and accumulated heat load in their cattle for their specific site.

    The committee regularly reviews NFAS, recommends areas for further research and development [R&D] as well as providing advice surrounding the need for industry training and development.

    To this end, the industry has undertaken R&D into the impacts of climate change on the sector and how the industry needs to adapt into the future. Industry has also developed animal welfare specific training and other materials for extension purposes.

    Additionally, the feedlot sector has developed the Katestone forecasting service which enables lot feeders to calculate the heat load risk in their cattle and the accumulated heat load for cattle and the climate specific to their site, several days in advance.

    Katestone enables proactive mitigating measures to be undertaken such as the inclusion of additional water troughs in pens, transferring more heat susceptible cattle to shaded areas and/or changing the ration to reduce metabolic heat generation.

    The dairy industry has also developed a Forecast Service to help dairy operators proactively manage summer heat in their herds. Farmers can register with the Dairy Forecast Service through Dairy Australia, which provides information including temperature, atypical conditions and extended periods of heat load weather.

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