14th November 2018
The Hon. MARK PEARSON (00:20): As a member of the Legislative Council Select Committee on Landowner Protection from Unauthorised Filming or Surveillance, I thank the secretariat staff for their excellent work in identifying the pertinent evidence that assisted the committee to develop the recommendations set out its report. I also thank my colleagues on the committee for their open-minded approach to a very complex issue concerning the balancing of landholders’ rights and the public interest in preventing animal cruelty. When I was voted on to the committee The Greens were at pains to suggest that it was not in the best interests of animals for me to participate and that I would end up being a patsy for intensive farming industries intent on increasing penalties for animal activists engaged in covert surveillance. It was suggested that to participate would be to give legitimacy to the cruel but routine practices involved in intensive agriculture industries and at the same time risk demonising animal activists as domestic terrorists.
The Greens said they would “cut me down”. That certainly did not happen. I was confident that the evidence would demonstrate that our existing animal welfare protections are so poorly enforced that animal activists feel compelled to break the law by trespassing and engaging in covert surveillance to expose cruel and illegal practices. I have been vindicated in my belief by the published recommendations of the report. The Greens criticism of my membership of the committee conveniently ignored the fact that the inquiry was going to proceed with or without input from the Animal Justice Party. I had the overwhelming support of members from the Government, Labor, the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to be appointed to the committee. The truth is that The Greens would have happily taken the opportunity to be on the committee but it did not have the support of the other parties to do so. To save face with its supporters, it became necessary to denigrate my participation on this committee.
As the only member in the Chamber with more than 25 years experience in animal activism, it seems obvious to me and no doubt to those members who voted for me that I would have a unique and important insight into the terms of reference and, in particular, to the motivations of animal activists who seek to obtain covert evidence of animal cruelty. Indeed, my presence on the committee ensured that relevant animal activist representatives were called to give evidence. Further, my questions helped to draw out information that led to the committee’s first three recommendations, which, if adopted by the Government, will significantly improve animal welfare outcomes. In particular, recommendation one, which states:
That the NSW Government review the resources and powers of the RSPCA in regard to the monitoring and enforcement of animal welfare measures, and consider means by which the RSPCA and the NSW Police can work together more effectively to protect animals from mistreatment.
Animal activists and advocates have long identified the need to improve the way in which animal protection is monitored and, in particular, improving the resources available for investigative and enforcement agencies. I have spent the past four years detailing the ongoing and systemic failures of our animal protection systems.
Recommendation 2, that the New South Wales Government encourage animal industries to be proactive in engaging with the community and collaborate with animal industries to investigate schemes to increase transparency about food production and animal husbandry practices. I referred to the previous speeches in Hansard where I questioned whether animal industries have a licence to operate at all. Greater transparency of their operations will certainly give the public the opportunity to decide whether the industry’s treatment of farmed animals is deserving of a social licence. But most importantly, recommendation 3, that the New South Wales Government review the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 to consider whether to insert a public interest exemption for unauthorised filming or surveillance. Finally, I thank members for voting me on to the committee and by doing so acknowledging the valuable input the Animal Justice Party would bring to this vexed and contentious area of public policy.