Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, an animal welfare question from the RSPCA. Will you recognise the role of independent expert advice and establish an independent animal welfare commission? It is recommended the commission has functions and membership that would be legislated with advice and reports made public to improve transparency.
Ms PALMER - I do have to say that we have AWAC, which sounds like a very similar set up to what you are talking about.
Dr WOODRUFF - That is an advisory committee, yes?
Ms PALMER - Yes, Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. I will pass to the deputy secretary.
Ms WILSON - Through you, minister, the Animal Welfare Act 1993 establishes an animal advisory committee and it has broad functions to advise the minister on any matters generally relating to animal welfare; on any specific matters relating to animal welfare at the request of the minister; to ongoing reviews of the laws relating to animal welfare; to recommend any changes to the minister in relation to laws; to make recommendations on any matters of concern to the advisory committee; to identify areas which require development of public education strategies; to develop education strategies relating to animal welfare; to make recommendations to the minister on any matters relating to animal welfare standards or animal welfare guidelines; and any other functions imposed by the act.
AWAC has an independent chair and quite an extensive membership of representing government animal industries, animal welfare groups, veterinarians, the ABA and includes the RSPCA.
Dr WOODRUFF - Are all of its advice and reports made public?
Ms WILSON - Advice is provided to the minister. It is a matter for the independent advisory group what information is releases. The chair would make a call on advice of the committee but what we can say is when, for example, a determination is made that the minister may review regulations or guidelines that sit under the act, that advice goes to the minister and is part of the deliberations and the process.
Dr WOODRUFF - Without any comment on the quality of that advice or that committee, the view from the RSPCA and many others is that's not sufficiently independent and capable of being fearless and frank in its views about what is required. That is a long standing concern about a gap in Tasmania with animal welfare. I note that there was only $550 000 towards enforcing animal cruelty laws across the Budget which is small compared to the $46.9 million to the racing industry and $4 million to hunting and fishing. Enforcing animal cruelty, making sure animal welfare exists, the capacity for a frank and fearless advice, particularly when you have large industries that are well funded and we have seen what has happened with whistle blowers in racing and so on. I am not meaning to point to them. This is something that would really shore up our animal welfare laws substantially. Could you look at that?
Ms PALMER - I do have to say I have great confidence in AWAC. I don't have with me who the actual membership is. The Deputy Secretary has given you a broad overview of the types of people who are on there and the RSPCA is on there as well. I have a great relationship with the RSPCA. We meet regularly. I am trying to recall if Jan Davis has raised it with me. I am not sure that she has but I would be more than happy to put that on the agenda to talk to her about, but I do have to say that the makeup of that AWAC board is pretty dynamic and the advice that they give and the conversations that they have are full and I know that I depended on their recommendations heavily when we put through the legislation, in particular about the banning of pronged collars and they have been a great resource to me.