20th November 2018
Questions without notice.
The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:13): My question is directed to theMinister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry. As the Minister responsible for animal welfare, what is his response to a Sydney Morning Herald article of 13 November that relied on an Office of Environment and Heritage report, which revealedthat the Government’s plans to raise the height of the Warragamba Dam would have adverse impacts on threatened species, such as the regent honeyeater and eastern brown tree creeper, as well as Sydney’s last emus. Given the Minister’s responsibilities underthe Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, what is his department planning to do to prevent individual animals suffering as a result of the flooding of downstream habitat?
The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:15): I thank the honourable member for his question. I think he is drawing a very long bow in trying to attach this question to my portfolio. The member is suggesting that flooding events somehow should be investigated and potentially prosecuted under the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals Act—POCTA Act—that is administered by my agencies, with the policy work also enforced by the police, the Animal Welfare League and the RSPCA. That is a long bow. It suggests that natural events such as flooding should be investigated by the RSPCA because it may endanger some native animals. That is what the member is saying. It is absolutely ridiculous. The member must have run out of ideas in the last week of Parliament. Surely he has questions about other areas of my portfolio. This a long bow at the very least.
I do not imagine anyone in the agencies that enforce the POCTA Act would take seriously any suggestion that any flooding that happens in the Hawkesbury Valley should warrant an investigation under the POCTA Act. At this stage, I am happy to say that I am not aware of any work that my agency has done in relation to how this impacts on the POCTA side of my portfolio. The member referred to the Office of Environment and Heritage, which is the agency that is possibly responsible for some of the animals in the national park. But when it comes to cruelty to animals, we move to the POCTA Act. I do not think there is anything that my agency could be doing at this stage, particularly as we are only talking about environmental assessments of potential impacts of raising the dam wall. I am quite confident to suggest that, as far as I am aware, no work is being undertaken by my agencies under the POCTA Act.
This is a very long bow. The question may have been better directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment. Possibly the Office of Environment and Heritage has looked at some of the impacts on some of the native wildlife. But the member has asked the question of me and, under the responsibility of the POCTA Act, I say that I am not aware of any work that is being done by my agencies in relation to this matter at this time.
The Hon. MARK PEARSON (16:18): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate how his portfolio of animal protection does not include the impacts upon wild animals when a government makes a decision to cause the flooding of an area that will impact those wild animals?
The Hon. Scott Farlow: Point of order: The supplementary question asked by the Hon. Mark Pearson did not seek an elucidation of the Minister’s answer; it is a new question.
The Hon. Penny Sharpe: To the point of order: I listened very carefully. The Minister’s answer included discussion about whether it was forced flooding or natural flooding. I believe the Hon. Mark Pearson has asked for elucidation in relation to that particular aspect of the Minister’s answer. As such, the question is in order.
The PRESIDENT: I will allow the supplementary question. It is in order. I remind the Minister that he can answer the question in any way he deems fit.
The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry) (16:19): All my answers are fit. When we talk about flooding, whether it is the result of someone’s actions—
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The Clerk will stop the clock. As members are well aware, rulings by past Presidents permit members to read extracts from documents. Those rulings are well regarded. It is also well known that members are not permitted to use props in the Chamber. I advise members that flashing a newspaper page in the air and pointing to something on the page is not deemed to be reading an extract from the paper but is, in my view, using a prop. Members will be called to order if they undertake such actions. The Minister has the call.
The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: Regardless of whether an animal is impacted from flooding as a result of someone’s action or inaction, I do not see the correlation between that and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is like saying that if animals are impacted by an out-of-control fire the RSPCA, under its legislation, should investigate to hold those responsible to account. If the Hon. Mark Pearce has some legal advice that is contrary to my assessment, I would love to see it. I believe the question should have been directed to the Office of Environment and Heritage, which is better placed to look at this issue.
Through the assessment process of this project and the environmental impact statement, I am sure that the impacts on wildlife, Aboriginal cultural heritage and the national park will be looked at. I do not believe it should be investigated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. As I said, if the member has anything that will convince me otherwise, I will be more than happy to look at it. As I stand here, I do not have any indication that his information is any different from my answer. The Hon. Mark Pearce should have directed the question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment.