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Animal Welfare in Tasmania

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 1 August 2019

Tags: Animal Welfare, Narawntapu, Whistleblowers

Ms O'CONNOR (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: animal welfare in Tasmania.

We recognise that the wellbeing of animals in Tasmania, whether they be domestic, on farm lands or wild animals, is a matter of very significant importance to the vast majority of the Tasmanian people and it is one of those issues that cuts across politics. You can talk to people who have been lifelong Liberal voters, lifelong Labor voters, lifelong Greens voters and, overwhelmingly, people really care about the wellbeing of animals. They want to know that the laws that are in place to protect animals are being enforced. They want to know that the bodies that are authorised to speak for animals, to undertake inspections and to press charges when necessary are properly resourced. They want to know that they are pursuing those who would be cruel to animals or neglect their wellbeing without fear or favour.

However, there is no question that, since 2014, the wellbeing of Tasmania's animals, whether they be domestic animals, farm animals or wild animals, has gone backwards. The first Animal Welfare Act that the new Liberal Government undertook to amend on taking office was to do away with the Treasurer's instruction that we had put in place in the LaborGreens government that directed government agencies to procure cruelty-free eggs. You would think that was something all members of this place could agree was the right thing to do. If you have the procurement power of government agencies, you want to make sure we are not consigning chickens to a life of misery in cages that are no bigger than an A4 sheet. You would want to have government agencies procuring cruelty-free eggs, which drives a change in practice, leads to the market being able to support more cruelty-free eggs and more free-range eggs.

But, no, the Liberals did away with that Treasurer's instruction, thereby strengthening the battery hen industry in Tasmania. Shortly thereafter, the new Liberal Government did away with the ban on 1080. Anyone who has seen pictures of wildlife that have ingested 1080 knows that it is one of the most barbaric, unjustifiable ways to deal with browsing animals. It causes an excruciating death but, no, this Government lifted the ban on 1080.

To compound their cruelty, they made sure the RSPCA was not adequately funded to undertake its inspectorate work. That removed one of the most important, effective and independent safeguards for animals in Tasmania. I remember being a young journalist and the RSPCA was a powerful force for good for animals in Tasmania. The organisation vigorously went after people who were cruel to animals or neglected animals, without fear or favour, and pressed charges when necessary, but the RSPCA does not do that work anymore. That work is undertaken inside Government by Biosecurity Tasmania, so there is no longer an effective independent inspectorate to look after animals. We have a Biosecurity Tasmania agency which is under-resourced and is by its very nature regrettably captured by industry.

We have raised this week a range of issues relating to the wellbeing of animals in Tasmania and the Government's responsibilities to administer the Animal Welfare Act 1993. We have raised the issue of repeated detailed alarming allegations of animal cruelty and neglect at the 25 farms that make up the VDL properties in the north-west of Tasmania, yet we did not have a commitment from the Minister for Primary Industries and Water to undertake unannounced visits to each of those properties to investigate those allegations, which have credibility to them because of the level of detail that is provided and the fact that the whistleblower who spoke to us had worked at those properties for three years.

Then it was confirmed by the Greens that this Government has issued crop protection permits to kill swans that have led to the shooting of around 8000 of these beautiful birds over the past three years. We also know that there are still crop protection permits being issued for farmers to shoot wombats, an animal which has been in a localised sense obliterated by mange, a terrible disease that is wiping out the populations of this fantastic native animal in localised areas such as around narawntapu National Park.

What is the Government doing? On the one hand they pay lip service to the Animal Welfare Act and on the other issue crop permits to farmers like confetti, instead of working with farmers to say, 'If you have a problem with browsing animals here are some strategies', or 'We will give you the support of the Primary Industries agency or the Parks and Wildlife Service if it relates to threatened species to find better ways of dealing with the competition between native animals and your primary production imperatives'. But no, they just hand out crop protection permits like confetti. That has led to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of swans and wombats and heaven knows how many other native animals.

We also raised the question this week of the fate of a horse that died at the Brighton training track on Friday 30 June and an episode in Tasmanian politics which brings no glory at all to the Minister for Racing, who came into this House and knowingly withheld relevant information about where that horse was buried. It was buried at Zoodoo and, as the Greens had stated, we believed it had been taken to Zoodoo after it had died, and indeed it was.

We also have the terrible situation in Tasmania of the greyhound racing industry and the fact that despite the findings of the parliamentary inquiry that the Greens initiated into greyhound racing in Tasmania, it is still a cruel industry, it is still killing animals that are past their use-by date, and this House definitely needs to pass the Greens' Animal Welfare Amendment Bill when we bring it on for debate.