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Dog Control Amendment Bill 2019

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Tags: Penguins, Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to speak on the Dog Control Amendment Bill 2019. Our primary spokesperson on this issue is Dr Woodruff, in her capacity as shadow local government and environment spokesperson, but I am taking this opportunity to say a few words before Dr Woodruff is back in the Chamber to speak.

The ongoing depressing news of the deaths of little penguins in Tasmania demands of this parliament and of government, a very strong response and this amendment bill is a reasonably positive start. I will not stand up here and point the finger at anyone or accuse the Government of not caring about penguins, because it is very clear that people do care about little penguins and all of us are horrified when we see those stories of yet another massacre of little penguins on one of our beaches in and around Tasmania, by dogs who are not controlled and not where they should be.

In the past year, there has been at least 170 little penguins die because dog owners did not take responsibility for their pets and the dogs have got into the colonies and in some cases, almost wiped out colonies, creating a terrible precariousness for those colonies. It is the breeding adults that are taken out when dogs attack colonies in this way and the viability of those colonies in places like Wynyard is in question now. That is why so many community organisations and so many Tasmanians are really concerned about this issue.

I acknowledge Ms Dow's contribution. That was an excellent contribution and you asked all the right questions. It is important that we have strong laws and regulations in place to protect penguins but the fact is, there has not yet, as I understand it, ever been a charge laid against a dog owner for the deaths of penguins at a colony anywhere around Tasmania.

You can have the best laws in place, you can raise your penalties, but as Ms Dow said, unless you have got monitoring, compliance, education and resourcing to support your laws, you are not going to be effective. We need to make sure that this legislative change is matched with the resourcing that Parks and Wildlife needs but also local government. There is an intersection between local government and Parks in relation to the management of little penguin colonies and the protection of those little penguins.

We need to make sure that there are cameras at colonies. That we are allowing for the possibility of drones and new technology to be used, that we are investing in rangers and dog control officers so that there can be that compliance and yes, we need to be engaging right across the community, in our schools, in our community groups, to new arrivals to Tasmania who have come here to see our beautiful environment. We need to talk to them about respect for the species and the vulnerability of the species. They are particularly vulnerable because they nest in the dunes and in the bushes along the coastal dunes.

In September, in one attack, 42 little penguins were killed at Wynyard. That creates a pressure on that colony which it is difficult to see the colony sustaining. If not for organisations like Penguin Rehabilitation and Release, which picked up those chicks who were, as I understand it, standing at the edge of their burrows crying for their parents, if not for the work of those community volunteers there would have been a double tragedy. The chicks would have died as well without their parents.

It takes an enormous amount of time and energy, and it takes money, to look after wildlife that has been affected by human behaviours. Dogs are a part of that human behaviour. I want to acknowledge the outstanding work of the community volunteers in this space.

We made a substantial submission to the draft of the Dog Control Amendment Bill. It was in Dr Woodruff's name and it makes the point that no-one has been fined because no-one has been caught. To make an effective response from this legislative initiative will require surveillance and protection measures for penguin rookeries. It makes the point that protecting little penguins from being killed by dog attacks is not an insoluble problem. There are many willing community members already working across the north-west, north and east, to protect colonies from being wiped out.

As well as needing more money for Parks and local council staff, concerned community people would also step up to do more if the Government provided that base funding to support them in doing that work. We strongly suggest the Penguin Advisory Group needs to be properly funded to map rookeries and to coordinate the necessary monitoring, surveillance and protection measures for little penguins.

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson is passionate about little penguins and he has been raising these issues with increasing alarm over a number of years now. He did make the suggestion once that in order to protect the colonies we should consider using snipers to take out dogs that would kill little penguins. He says they were used in Sydney. He made this statement three years ago but there was such concern about dogs that were killing wildlife in Sydney that residents were letterboxed and warned there would be snipers in the area. As a result, everyone kept their dogs indoors and no wildlife was killed. That is at the extreme end of how you might protect little penguins from being killed and the species being driven to extinction. Clearly, there is some merit in letting dog owners know if their dog is off leash and in a restricted or prohibited area, there is a reasonable chance that that dog will be dealt with.

I know that in this legislation there is provision to destroy dogs if they are found guilty of an attack and you would hope that would be enough for dog owners to keep their dogs indoors and out of little penguin colonies but it is not. This requires a level of community engagement with dog owners which is deep and sustained and it makes it clear what the responsibilities of dog owners are but also what the consequences might be for their beloved dog should it get off the leash and into a little penguin rookery.

I pay tribute to the incredible work of one of my favourite Tasmanians, Dr Eric Woehler, who I first came into contact with when we were working hard to save Ralphs Bay. Birdlife Tasmania and Dr Woehler have been demanding of government for a prolonged period now that there be effective measures in place, that fines be increased and that resourcing be increased in order to protect little penguin colonies, because there is a real risk of not only localised extinctions but extinctions of the species.



Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I will wind up my contribution with some observations relating to the greyhound section of these amendments to the Dog Control Act.

As members are aware, in 2015, again, outstanding investigative ABC journalist, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, put to air a story on ABC's Four Corners that detailed in horrifying, minute detail the terrible and sad lives of greyhounds in Australia. The fact that around 10 000 greyhounds across the country each year are killed for no good reason other than that they are past their use-by date or they are injured or they are no longer turning a profit for their owners. That is the same story as we now know for thoroughbred horses in Australia.

It is naïve or disingenuous in the extreme for any member of the Government to try to tell Tasmanians that we do not have huge problems here enduring in the greyhound racing industry and systemic cruelty in the horse -racing industry.

This is a matter of very serious public interest because the people of Tasmania subsidise Tasracing to the tune of $30 million a year. What we are dealing with is state-sanctioned cruelty, the waste of animals' lives and the breeding of animals to increase owners' bank balances. Once those animals, be they a greyhound or a beautiful racehorse, are no longer fast enough, too old or have been injured, are disposed of and their short and sad lives often end in absolute terror.

Yesterday, Tasracing tabled its 2019 annual report. Of course, it is all about the money. It is all about the capacity of the industry to turn a profit. As we know, under this Government, horse owners, breeders, are paid to breed animals to feed into this industry. It is imperative of the industry to breed up to keep getting foals produced, just in case the next Phar Lap or Black Caviar is produced.

We see here - I mentioned it earlier and I will mention it again - a person who appeared before the greyhound racing inquiry, northern trainer Anthony Bullock. We have pictures of Anthony Bullock's practices on his property of horses being led into his property to be killed and fed to the greyhounds. There is a picture here of Mr Bullock carving up a horse carcass, a picture here - I am not holding them up, Madam Deputy Speaker - of horse guts and half a horse carcass in the back of a trailer at Mr Bullock's property and there is an image of horsemeat in vats to be fed to the greyhounds. But, in Tasracing's annual report, who is the star of the show? What do you know? It is Anthony Bullock. He is noted on page 31 as greyhound award winner and leading trainer Anthony Bullock, with 181 winners. As we know, there have been charges laid against Mr Bullock in the past for his practices in relation to trying to make dogs go faster on the track.

This is the sort of institutionalised cruelty and waste that underlies the racing industry in Australia and in Tasmania. Whether they are thoroughbred horses, for the races or the trots, or whether they are greyhounds, these animals are bred simply to turn a profit. When they cannot do that anymore, they are killed. They are not euthanased, they are killed, because euthanasia is a mercy killing. The meaning of the word is 'good death'. It is not a good death if you have spent your life being cosseted as a racehorse because you turn a profit and then in some instances, as we know from the 7.30 Report, a week after your last race you are sent off to the abattoir to be killed, not euthanased. There is a grotesque cycle of dependence between the horseracing industry and the greyhound racing industry, as we know. Just ask Mr Bullock.

This is a cruel industry which within itself feeds off the breeding and waste of beautiful animals, not for sport but for an industry and for profit. I predict that, as it was with the greyhound racing industry, the thoroughbred racing industry is losing and will lose its social licence, because it still cannot explain what happens to the thousands of ex-racehorses after they retire.

It is the same here. The minister and Tasracing have no idea what happens to Tasmanian thoroughbred horses after they are retired. There is nothing in the national or local rules that requires them to be rehomed, there is no consistency anywhere in the country and here in Tasmania in relation to what happens to those animals after they no longer fatten the bank balances of horseracing owners and greyhound owners in this state.

I do not know where members will be next Tuesday at 3 o'clock but we will not be watching the Melbourne Cup. In the past, like so many Australians, I have taken part in a sweep, watched the race and admired and marvelled at those beautiful horses, but I cannot do it anymore. It is a disgusting industry. I know there are people within the horseracing industry and the greyhound racing industry who dearly love those animals and care for them very well, but there is an example of a woman who used to be the jockey for one of these beautiful horses who saw the horse that she loved, cared for and raced in the images of the horses at the abattoir in Queensland.

Dr Woodruff and I next Tuesday at 3 o'clock - and I invite all members of this place who are here next Tuesday at 3 o'clock - will be at the Cascades Hotel where they will be having a No Melbourne Cup event. We will talk about how we can reform the greyhound and horseracing industries in this country and how we can make sure we are not complicit in the most appalling cruelty towards horses and dogs because, although under Tasmanian law greyhounds are regarded as livestock, they are beautiful dogs and great pets.

I invite members of the House to the alternative to the Melbourne Cup next Tuesday. That is where we will be and I am certain that over time, as Australians including Tasmanians become more and more aware of the cruelty that is at the very heart of this industry, it will continue to lose its social licence because of the blunt truth that when there is profit involved, the welfare of animals come last to the money.

This is a systemic issue across the racing codes in this country. Dr Woodruff and I will continue to pursue this to seek changes. It is extremely disappointing that three years after we handed down the greyhound racing inquiry findings here very little has changed in the greyhound racing industry. We know very little has changed. I hope members in this place who have not watched the 7.30 Report do so and if you cannot bring yourself to look at the pictures, read the transcript. It is a wake-up call to us all.