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Ms FINLAY question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES and WATER, Ms PALMER:
You would be well aware of the concerns of Tasmanian farmers across the North and North-West whose properties will be adversely affected by the transmission lines associated with Project Marinus.
Farmers think it is only right to receive fair compensation through contemporary contracts and reasonable consideration regarding the treatment and alignment of the line so it does not interrupt existing and future on-farm assets like irrigation. The farmers are being reasonable and they do not appreciate threats from your Government of the potential compulsory acquisition processes.
Do you agree with their concerns? If so, will you back them?
August 25, 2022 - 10:17am
Video - YouTube
Mr Speaker, I rise to contribute to debate on the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2022, and indicate at this point that Tasmanian Labor are supportive of the amendment bill.
I have listened with interest to the former Minister for Primary Industries and Water, who is carrying this through the Lower House, and the narration of the process to this point.
The substantive bill is 1993 - a long time ago - and I understand there have been a couple of efforts to amend the bill; I have not been around very long.
At the outset, it is important to state that the original act was formed a long time ago. There has been a large shift in community sentiment about animals and expectations regarding the welfare of animals, whether they be personal pets loved in the home, livestock loved on the farm, or whether they be wildlife.
Communities are now engaged with and rely on animals for so many parts of their life, and rely heavily, in many circumstances, for living a full, active and engaged life as a result of their relationship with their animals. This amendment bill represents a move towards quality animal welfare legislation. However, it is clear that this is not the end of the road in terms of a suite of amendments that will need to land so that we can say we have fantastic animal welfare legislation in Tasmania.
Having said that, and spending quite a lot of time interrogating the reasons for these amendments, the ways they have been framed and presented, and also asking questions about matters that have not been tabled for amendment today, I can understand where the state is on its journey, but implore the state to continue doing work to make sure that Tasmania progresses towards quality animal welfare legislation. I do want to go through the amendments that have been proposed, and outline my understanding of the purpose of those.
Obviously, any time we can make improvements to prosecution processes, strengthen powers for officers, clarify definitions or, in fact, correct errors in the substantive act, then those things should be supported. Before we head into what will potentially be a long discussion on this bill, I think it is really important to make the point that the consultation was really rich for this set of amendments. I understand 89 submissions were received.
Curiously, I have only taken or responded to one piece of legislation so far in my time here - but it said four of them were blank, so I am not sure whether that was an error and people had made submissions that were not successfully received, or they in error submitted something. I hope that in the final set of submissions, everybody who had intended to submit had their submissions received. With all the legislation I see come through this House, that is quite a significant number of submissions. It indicates the depth of care and determination - and professionalism, because a lot of them are from organisations - but a lot of them are personal reflections on the need for quality animal welfare legislation in Tasmania.
It is important to acknowledge how many there were, because there are going to be some proposed amendments over the evening, and I think it is important that all changes are given an opportunity to be considered broadly across the community. Whether you are talking about pets in the home, livestock on a farm, or wildlife, there is a broad range of stakeholders and individuals who would want to understand what is actually progressing and happening in this place with amendments. The amendments have been raised in different sorts of documents.
Going through the amendments in no particular order, I am really pleased to see that where an allegation of cruelty to an animal is made, it is not simply okay for someone to deny they have ownership of that animal. Creating an evidentiary presumption, where it reverses that onus onto an individual, I think is really important. In the submissions that I read, the conversations I have had, and the documentation provided, it is important to clarify that this does not change the onus of being able to set the standard of the complaint; it just says you cannot simply say it was not my animal, it was not in my possession, and therefore I do not have that responsibility. We are really supportive of that amendment coming through. We are also very supportive of the amendment that increases the power to take possession of animals.
There have been circumstances in the past where if you understood that something was likely to happen, you still could not act; you had to wait until an event occurred before you could actually take action. In circumstances where you reasonably believe that one or more events are going to occur, then we should be able to support our officers to take action. That is a really important amendment that is being proposed here. Similarly, with the emergency entry powers. If there is an urgent need and an animal is in imminent or actual danger, it is really important we make that amendment so that support for the animal is not delayed.
Another one that was interesting to me - again because I am often going through legislation for the first time with this sort of level of detail - is the amendment where you can actually be charged with an offence, and if you are not successful in actually having a charge of that offence, then a subsequent charge can be made, where you do not need to actually have duplication of effort in the first instance. Therefore the provision for an alternative verdict is, I think, an important update that is being made to this legislation. As already outlined by the Minister who provided this information but where, in the past, there may have been an event occur but the person, either themselves, or the evidence to support an outcome or a verdict is in another state, that has prevented charges occurring in Tasmania. To make sure that we have extra territorial applications of the power to require information is also a really important update to this act.
There was some comment on a way that you reduced the amount of time a carcass has to be kept. There was some confusion in the consultation with submissions that were made that it was reducing the time of an animal being held before the animal was euthanised. In fact, it is once that event has occurred, then the amount of time that the carcass has to be kept. As the Minister outlined, it has raised with me some interest that this amendment was about the capacity to store carcasses as opposed to any other sort of important reason, but understanding that there were no negative submissions in terms of the reduction of time. There was a misunderstanding in the consultation. It is worth putting on record, as I mentioned, there were a large number of submissions and as a result of the consultation, clarification was provided. I know some people who made a submission had a large range of questions that could have raised other questions in the community.
As a result of the consultation, they were able to have their questions answered and have not included a submission in the documentation here for want of confusing the community and others around the nature of their questions. It is great to see, as a result of consultation, that amendments were made to the amendments. Some things were removed but also clarification was provided. The clarification to the definition of disposal: there was an assumption by many, through the use of the act, that disposal meant euthanise. It does not simply mean that but it might be that it is rehomed or that it is sold, that the ownership changes. That has been an important improvement in the definition.
As outlined, in the cost recovery process, there is not such a significant delay in the recovery of funds. That could have been years - so, again, another improvement. I want to outline - and I think it is important - that one of the recommended amendments was under the animal research area. There were 19 submissions opposing an amendment.
On reflection, it was determined the baiting and shooting, as a research exemption, no longer proceed and that amendment was abandoned. However, to remain included was 'the officer not to be threatened, intimidated or abused' and 'to ensure that officers are protected similarly' with that.
Finally, I want to finish on what I feel. It seems to me that almost all of these amendments are tidying up, correcting or improving what was already intended as opposed to adding anything new. However, there is one very new amendment, which is really important and that is the banning of pronged collars. That is an issue that is emotional for so many and particularly for animal pet owners who have deep relationships with their pets and can understand pets being managed by another person in a way that is not appropriate for an animal. Compared to many other provisions in these amendments, this is a significant amendment and one Tasmanian Labor absolutely supports.
I know in the consultation there was a deep list of a lot of other suggestions of things that could be considered within this amendment. I reflect back on the reading that I have done and the understanding that I have about the time from 1993 to now. One small set of amendments went through but there was a significant attempt to make amendments to the act, from memory, in 2014 - I might be wrong on that; however, it failed –
Ms O'Connor - I don't think it did. I think that is an error in the submission.
Ms FINLAY - My understanding is, not from reading but from a conversation, that there was a large suite of amendments. There was an attempt to have it journey both through the upper House and the lower House and that it was not successful. That caused some people who I have talked to to be, what I would call, potentially conservative or moderate in their discussions with me around how much work can be done at one time to ensure that there are successful outcomes in order for not to have progress made.
Tasmanian Labor has taken the position to support this suite of amendments. We believe that it is really important, particularly with the banning of the use of pronged collars. However, in supporting this suite of amendments, we urge the Government to continue to not see this as the end of the road. This is definitely not the end of the road for improvements to animal welfare legislation in Tasmania and to continue to identify suites of changes that need to be made to bring us up to what would be contemporary and best practice animal welfare legislation in Tasmania.
That might mean that the 1993 legislation requires amendments but it also might mean an open mind to a new structure to animal welfare legislation in Tasmania. Tasmanian Labor supports the amendments as written and urges the Government to continue the process of making amendments to this legislation. We look forward to hearing the conversation through the House this afternoon.
October 26, 2022 - 5:22pm
Video - YouTube