Jenny Leong calls for greater protections against animal cruelty

Greens Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong has called for protections against animal cruelty to be strengthened in NSW.



Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (12:17): I contribute to debate on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill 2021. I add to the contributions that have been made by my colleagues from The Greens in this place, the member for Ballina, Tamara Smith; and the member for Balmain, Jamie Parker. As both of my colleagues have outlined—as have many other members who are interested in the idea of ensuring that animal welfare is a front-and-centre priority for the Government and the community—for close to two decades The Greens have campaigned for animal welfare reform and animal protections. I acknowledge and pay credit to the tireless work of Lee Rhiannon, a former member of the upper House in this place, along with Ms Cate Faehrmann and Ms Mehreen Faruqi.

My Greens colleague in the other place Ms Abigail Boyd is now responsible for the animal welfare portfolio. I note that Ms Abigail Boyd was a member of the recent Select Committee on Animal Cruelty Laws in New South Wales. In effect the bill takes one of the recommendations from that inquiry and puts it into practice. I will go through the bill in more detail, but for those who are not across the select committee it is worth noting that the inquiry made 14 recommendations—and the bill contains one of those recommendations. I appreciate that it has been a stressful and intense time, and it has been lovely to hear Government members talk about their rescue animals and the other furry friends who are a part of the family. But I hope that those members are genuine about moving further towards the protection of animals from cruelty by acting very quickly and by pressuring Minister Adam Marshall, who I note is present in the Chamber, to enact the 13 other recommendations that were made by the Select Committee on Animal Cruelty Laws in New South Wales.

The legislation before the House increases the maximum penalty for cruelty to animals by corporations from 250 penalty units to 2,000. For individuals, the increase is from 50 penalty units, imprisonment for six months, or both to 400 penalty units, imprisonment for one year, or both. It increases the maximum penalties for aggravated cruelty and for the failure to provide an animal with food, drink or shelter. It is important to recognise the context of the legislation. It has come to this place from recommendations in the final report of the Select Committee on Animal Cruelty Laws in New South Wales. I note that the bill enacts recommendation 2, which states:

That the NSW Government, as part of its review of thePrevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, increase penalties for animal cruelty offences.

That is great, but there are a lot of other recommendations in the report that have not been progressed. Right now the Government and the Minister could be acting to consider a review of the current arrangements for body‑worn devices for the purposes of investigations into animal cruelty offences, with a view to permitting such devices to be worn by officers of approved charitable organisations. A key recommendation from the inquiry—one that is absolutely essential—is that the New South Wales Government move responsibility for animal welfare matters out of the Department of Primary Industries. Members might question why that is necessary. It relates to recommendation 14, which states:

That the NSW Government establish an independent statutory body, the Independent Office of Animal Protection, to oversight the animal welfare framework. Further, that the NSW Government consult stakeholders on the appropriate functions of the new body.

When working on the inquiry and delivering the report, a key focus of my Greens colleague in the other place Ms Abigail Boyd was to add the following:

In addition, we are of the view that the Department of Primary Industries views the concept of 'animal welfare' within the context of agricultural industries as being synonymous with 'quality of stock'. The community, however, increasingly views animals as sentient beings, regardless of their use to humans. Given the Department of Primary Industries' role in supporting agricultural industries, the committee is concerned that the Department of Primary Industries risks maintaining a narrow and outdated view of animal welfare matters which is out of step with the broader community.

Members on all sides of the Chamber have talked about the need to reflect community sentiment and community views around the issue of prevention of cruelty to animals. We cannot do that when the Department of Primary Industries has a conflict of interest when it comes to the prevention of animal cruelty. Nothing is clearer than that. We can see the connection between those things. I have never quoted fromSporting Shooter in this place, but we have a situation where agriculture Minister Adam Marshall is reported in that publication as bragging about running over deer. I acknowledge that one of the Labor members in the other place took the Minister to task over that during estimates hearings. I understand the Minister was bragging publicly. Reports have quoted the Minister as saying:

I'm doing my best in my car to knock 'em down four at a time like I did the other night near Emmaville.

The Minister was bragging on social media about knocking over deer. I do not know what the community sentiment is but, asSporting Shooter said, people are suggesting he could face jail or penalties. The Minister who has brought the bill before the Chamber has bragged about doing that. He claimed to step it back once he realised there might be serious problems. That is a clear conflict of interest that demonstrates the Minister responsible for primary industries and agriculture should not be responsible for animal welfare issues in this State. That is very, very clear.

As my colleague Mr Jamie Parker said, that is why The Greens support the establishment of an independent statutory body, the independent office of animal protection, to oversight the animal welfare framework in New South Wales. That change would demonstrate that the Government is serious about animal cruelty prevention being important in its own right and not just as a function of agribusiness. It is very important we recognise that, because the priorities and profit motives that are driving the agriculture Minister and the Department of Primary Industries are not related to animal welfare. While I note that the Minister has brought forward this legislation dealing with the prevention of cruelty to animals, it takes only one action out of the 14 recommendations that are required. Other recommendations in the report include:

That the NSW Government, as part of the review of thePrevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, consider statutory time limits for the prosecution of animal cruelty related crimes …

That the NSW Government amend thePrevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to require the approved charitable organisations to:

• table their annual reports in both Houses of the NSW Parliament

• comply with requests under theGovernment Information (Public Access) Act 2009.

The report also recommends that the Legislative Council portfolio committee responsible for primary industries be required to conduct a one-day public hearing each year, involving the approved charitable organisations, with the hearing to be conducted after the lodgement of the reports. There are certainly a number of recommendations in the report that have not been included in the bill. I acknowledge Ms Abigail Boyd and thank her in advance for the work she will do in moving amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill 2021, to ensure that it reflects the recommendations of the animal cruelty committee. It is clear that the Minister has a conflict of interest. It is clear that the department has a conflict of interest. They cannot prioritise the needs of agribusiness in this State while at the same time pretending to ensure that cruelty to animals is prevented and animal welfare is prioritised.

I have been overwhelmed and inspired by the number of people who live in the electorate of Newtown and care about animal welfare issues. They have been in touch with our office about many issues, whether it be allowing pets in rental accommodation; reforms to our domestic violence laws to recognise the indication that violence towards animals can have about the risks of DV; sharks and shark netting; or the appalling behaviour of the Liberal‑Nationals Government last year when it came to killing koalas and the ongoing devastation of some of our amazing native animals. I ask that all members in this place consider whether we are doing enough when it comes to animal welfare and animal cruelty issues. First and foremost, the best way to move forward is to make sure that a Minister who brags about knocking over deer on the road is not responsible for bringing prevention of animal cruelty legislation to this Parliament.

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