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TT-Line - Animal Carriage

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 1 December 2022

Tags: TT-Line, Animal Welfare

Ms O'CONNOR - Through the minister, we're very interested to understand about the measures that have been put in place so you could resume carrying livestock.

Mr GRAINGER - I will hand to the CEO to provide that information. He's closer to it than I am.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay, so what's different?

Mr DWYER - NRE has seconded NRE resource to us, to assist us in evaluating the livestock and the appropriateness of the carriage or the vehicle they are been carried in, and they make a recommendation to us whether that should be carried or not.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you but, with respect, that doesn't really answer the question. There is some advice that's coming to you and presumably on a case-by-case basis. In terms of the measures, is the measure just that you have approval from NRE Tas or Biosecurity Tas, practically, in terms of how they are carried on the ship, or if anything's different in the way that animals are carried on the ship?

Mr DWYER - There has been no change to the way we carry animals on the ship, because we've never had an issue or incident before. The NRE resource, as I said before, makes a recommendation on each livestock and each carriage of livestock - perhaps that's where I wasn't clear - and recommends whether we should carry that livestock or not, and we take absolute heed of that advice.

Mr GRAINGER - The final decision rests with TT-Line whether that livestock should be carried but you'll appreciate - and I have said this in the past at this table - that we are a ferry company, we are not veterinarians or transport inspectors. We now have an interim situation in place where we get that advice. The final decision still rests with TT Line, but we get the best advice we can.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. We have here a draft version of the Animal Welfare (Land Transport of Livestock) Amendment Regulations. I am interested in understanding, not going anywhere near the appeal, what TT-Line's view is on the draft regulations? Are you not prepared to answer that? I'm sorry, I should not have put you in that position, Mr Grainger.

Minister, perhaps you could talk to the committee about the purpose behind the Animal Welfare (Land Transport of Livestock) Amendment Regulations and how they might mitigate risk in future to animals and potential liability on the carrier?

Mr FERGUSON - Ms O'Connor, I'm not able to elaborate. That is a matter for the Minister for Primary Industries and Water who has responsibility for the Animal Welfare Act, so I would be speaking outside my portfolio in doing so. However, I will do my best to be as helpful as I can because I have a major stake in this issue, having a long-term resolution.

From the point of view of the Government, it's about being extremely careful with our public statements so as to not create new issues given that there is an active court case underway at the present time. We need to respect and want to respect that. At the same time, the Government recognises that in taking account of Her Honour's judgment, we would need to consider options for long-term resolution. I honestly think that is about as much as I am able to say and the Government considering options and taking careful advice along the way will be part of that process going forward.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. In terms of what the regulations do, our understanding is that in effect they mean there are potential changes required to ventilation on the ship, that there is exemption from the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act of a person if a declaration is received and this person undertakes reasonable compliance with instructions under the Animal Welfare Act. Our understanding - and perhaps you can confirm this, minister - is that should these regulations pass, a person who is the carrier of an animal and ultimately responsible for that animal's wellbeing, would be able to sign a certificate to say they are compliant and then be permitted onto the ship. Is that your understanding?

Mr FERGUSON - I'll share my answer in responding to you with the CEO. I will begin from the outset by saying Government is taking advice about possible long-term arrangements that would secure the intent of the Animal Welfare Act and ensure that we can have security for the transport and carriage of livestock going forward.

At the moment, the interim arrangement is working very well but it's not considered by government as a long-term arrangement that will be sustainable. We are taking advice. I'm not in a position and it would be wrong for me - I think you would be surprised if I said otherwise - it's not possible for me to discuss what you believe you have there in draft regulations.

Ms O'CONNOR - It's not that I believe it, I have them.

Mr FERGUSON - I know exactly what you're doing and understand where you're coming from.

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm not trying to be tricky.

Mr FERGUSON - Not at all, you would never do that.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well, I would, but not today.

Mr FERGUSON - Thank you, Ms O'Connor, very clever. What I'm saying is that Ms Palmer, the Minister for Primary Industries and Water, is working as part of our Government to respond in a way that provides for long-term arrangements that will work for the community and not compromise animal welfare standards. I'm not in a position to discuss or speculate on the document you claim to have in your hands. I'm happy to share as well with -

Ms O'CONNOR - I do have it in my hands.

Mr FERGUSON - Thanks, Ms O'Connor. I'm happy to pass now to Mr Dwyer.

Mr DWYER - There is one thing we should just clear up for Hansard. You made the comment that the ventilation needed to be changed on the vessel. There's no requirement at all under the proposed new regulations for those sorts of changes. We overcomply with all the regulations in relation to livestock.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay.

Mr DWYER -The changes, as far as I'm aware, don't mean any changes are required on the vessels themselves.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay.

Mr FERGUSON - I have been reasonably direct in the parliament in the House of Assembly on the matters that we're circulating around, but I'm not in a position where I'm entitled to just freewheel and say anything that comes into my mind, unlike others.

I have to be mindful and respectful of the company's legal role and position here. I have been pretty clear in the parliament when I got questions on this and it was pretty apparent that the Labor questioner who took me to task on this matter clearly hadn't read the judgment and I was able to articulate a couple of areas where the judgment was quite relevant in terms of securing the interim arrangements I've discussed.

Ms O'Connor, I understand where the question is coming from. I appreciate the question and the Government is working and taking advice on a long-term arrangement.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, we understand TT-Line has engaged the RSPCA about the animal facilities on the new vessels. The feedback we have from the RSPCA is very positive about working with TT-Line and the proposed new facilities. This is very welcome, following the disappearance of the dog Ruby recently. At risk of asking you a Dorothy Dixer, did you want to talk about the new animal facilities on the new vessels?

Mr FERGUSON - We do, and I will pass to Mr Dwyer to respond with the detail. This has been something that's based on feedback from customers as well as engaging and consulting with stakeholder organisations. I emphasise that the Spirit of Tasmania vessels currently do have fit-for-purpose animal holding facilities but we can always improve. That is certainly the intention with the new ships' purchases. Bernard, could I ask you to elaborate further.

Mr DWYER - Thank you, minister. Thank you, Cassy. The major change that we have made for the new vessels is currently legislation - IMR rules do not let passengers go into the vehicle decks at all during sailing so you cannot check on your animal. What we've done is move the pet area to the centre casing, is what we call it, which is the centre part of the ship. It is totally separated from the vehicle deck and has its own separate air. It will have 12-hour access for passengers to go down and visit their animals at any time, day or night. Those areas will be locked individually. If somebody has a cabin, their cabin key would open only their area for their pet and it is open basically all hours for them to do that.

There are a couple of other exciting things that we are doing with pets -

Ms O'CONNOR - This is what I hear, so here is your opportunity to talk a little about it.

Mr DWYER - It is slightly ahead of our plans to announce that publicly but it is much better solution. We could not be happier working with the RSPCA on this and taking their advice and also that of the Chief Veterinary Officer on how we are doing this, going forward.

Ms O'CONNOR - Can you confirm that you are looking at an app or another way of pet-owners checking in on their animals.

Mr DWYER - You have better intelligence than I thought we had released anywhere. On that point, we are actually looking to have video surveillance on each of those areas that the owner would have access to. Instead of having to go down, they would be able to check on their animal at any stage.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. Through the minister, that is for dogs and cats and chooks. What about for larger animals? What is the plan for larger animals on the new ships?

Mr DWYER - For larger animals on the new ships, it is still totally complying - as we do now - with all the regulations on air flow. That will not change on the new vessels. There will be more space, but essentially the below-deck is the same configuration as the below-deck now in relation to that. Fans in the areas of those animals would be added, et cetera. We are very confident with that solution.

Ms O'CONNOR - Can I just ask one last question? When are the new vessels due to take their first sailing?

Mr DWYER - They are due to be delivered in the first quarter of 2024, and the second vessel in the last quarter of 2024. When we say they are delivered, that means it is fully commissioned, everything checked, sea trials completed within Finland. Then we sail them out with our own crew. A lot of training happens then, as well as before that. Then it goes into service once we have fully provisioned those vessels. It might take six or eight weeks after we take delivery in Finland before they actually go into service in Australia.