Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill
Debate resumed from 9 November 2004.
Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) [10.30 a.m.]: I support this bill. Animal cruelty is a serious and topical issue. We all saw on television over the Christmas period the serious maltreatment and abuse that was perpetrated on kittens by a group of youths in the Sydney area. That behaviour outraged the community and made most people think hard about better protecting animals from cruelty. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Welfare League are working to improve the situation and to better protect animals in New South Wales. They do that every day; they are always out there looking after animals. The rest of us only see occasionally the cruelty we saw over the Christmas period.
Like other honourable members, I want suitable laws in place that help the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League, the police and the courts to deal with cases of cruelty. Just as importantly, I want laws that enable officers to prevent cruelty to animals and not simply to respond to an animal cruelty incident after the fact. That is what the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill does. It makes a range of useful and appropriate legislative changes that will greatly facilitate the prevention of cruelty to animals. The bill is the product of a great deal of work. Officers of the Department of Primary Industries have spent several years on developing the bill. They have done so in close consultation with the RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League, and they have consulted with groups such as the New South Wales Farmers Association.
The result is a bill that meets many of the needs of charitable groups while at the same time ensuring that animal owners and carers are treated fairly. Obviously, as a representative of a regional seat I know that we need to keep a close eye on animal cruelty. All the farmers in the area I represent care greatly about their stock and the animals in the region, and they resent people who act cruelly or mistreat their animals. They are certainly not frightened of appropriate and sensible laws that ensure that animals are treated properly. The bill provides new powers to issue directions for the care or treatment of animals, and to issue penalty notices for less serious offences. The powers of the police are expanded so that they can direct and detain vehicles, such as cars, trucks, aeroplanes and boats.
However, the extension of the powers in the Act is balanced by new requirements that officers of the RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League must identify themselves and explain what they are doing. Although not new in practice, these obligations are now given greater weight by their inclusion in the legislation. The powers of the courts are also being enhanced. In addition to any other penalty, the courts will be able to make an order against a cruel offender so that he or she cannot own or have control of any animal. This court power is already available under the Act against a convicted offender who is in charge of an animal, such as an owner. However, the ban was not previously available to the courts when convicted offenders were not in charge of the animal, such as when a convicted offender attacked a stray animal or another person's pet. The bill will address that problem, which occurred last Christmas with the cruel treatment of a cat at a railway station in Sydney.
The amendments in the bill are not simply about compliance. They have an education base, and recognise that people might be treating their animal cruelly unintentionally. For example, obesity can cause serious difficulties in humans, and it is also a problem for animals—although it is not a serious problem for many grazing animals in my electorate at the moment—and companion animals in particular. A new directions power for officers of charities will allow them to direct people to care for their animals in a particular way, for instance, in relation to the provision of food or examination by a veterinarian. The directions power is an educative tool that is aimed at providing early intervention to prevent future injury to an animal.
It is important for me as a representative of a regional seat to mention that New South Wales must have strong rules in place to prevent cruelty to animals. The New South Wales Government and Country Labour continue to ensure that the legislation is balanced and that extreme groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA], which has received a lot of media coverage recently, do not push their agenda of getting stuck into our grazing industries. This bill does not do anything to help those organisations. For example, PETA is conducting a campaign against mulesing, ignoring the fact that the practice prevents fly strike and the great suffering that sheep have to endure.
The Government and Country Labour in particular continue to support our grazing and sheep industries in New South Wales in the work they do for the benefit of our community. That is an important point to make when we know that extreme groups, which have no understanding of these industries and the treatment of animals, constantly come out with ridiculous campaigns and statements. This legislation will ensure a proper balance. We protect animals from cruelty. We are moving to protect animals from cruel treatment, and to enable prosecution after they have been treated cruelly, but we balance that aim with the rights of owners and with the need for people to care properly for animals in their care.
Cruelty to animals is a topical issue—we have seen it reported in the media, particularly over the Christmas break—and the bill has come at the right time. A number of people have been campaigning for this change to be made, and I am pleased that the Minister took the opportunity to consult with people in this process of developing the amendments to the legislation. We need firm powers for enforcement officers and the courts, as well as a high regard for the role that education can play in protecting our animals. The bill introduces changes that are a proper mix of the two, and I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI (Murrumbidgee) [10.37 a.m.]: The Opposition will not oppose this bill. The Hon. Duncan Gay, the Opposition spokesman on agriculture, will give a detailed response to the bill in the upper House on behalf of the Opposition. Although he will raise a number of concerns, at the end of the day the Opposition will not oppose the bill. However, I shall make a couple of brief comments about cruelty inflicted on animals. Firstly, one of the cruellest things that has been done to an animal in recent times is to compare rats with the Premier. Rats have feelings too. Secondly, cruelty inflicted on animals is sometimes regarded more seriously than cruelty inflicted on human beings. During the Christmas period we saw media reporting of the cruel treatment of a cat on a train station. I do not underestimate the seriousness and sickness of such behaviour. There was huge public outcry, and rightly so. We have all heard about cruelty to children, particularly by parents, and I wonder whether we are becoming desensitised to such behaviour.
I attended a school presentation in my electorate and noticed that one of the children at the front of the group was mucking around. He was being quite disobedient and I asked the principal what the story was. She said that he had been locked in a cupboard for a couple of years by his parents and suffered psychological damage as a result. When I asked what had happened to the parents, I was told that the child was taken away from the parents for approximately 6 months and that the parents now have temporary access to the child. I could not help but think that if someone locked up a duck in a cupboard for two years, they would probably get into more trouble than the parents were in for locking up that child. I understand that dealings involving adults and children are more difficult and complex, but I sometimes think that it is a tragedy that we regard cruelty inflicted on animals more seriously than cruelty inflicted on human beings. The Opposition will not oppose the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill.
Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE (Strathfield) [10.40 a.m.]: I support the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill. Before I deal with a number of matters, I point out that it is not useful for the honourable member for Murrumbidgee to compare the prevention of cruelty to animals with the treatment of human beings, because cruelty in any form to any living thing must be stopped. It cannot be tolerated and it is absolutely sickening. The honourable member for Murrumbidgee referred briefly to an animal that has been the subject to of a recent media campaign. In my view, any effort by members of the Opposition to trivialise the importance of this bill by introducing humour into the debate is absolutely appalling.
The bill will introduce a number of changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that are intended to enhance the Act's operation. The bill has adopted a dual approach to improving animal welfare. The first aim of the bill is to improve compliance and enforcement aspects of protecting our wonderful animals. In this regard, the bill extends the powers of police officers and inspectors, the way that offences are prosecuted, and the powers of the courts. The second aspect of the dual approach adopted in this bill is to facilitate greater education and early intervention so that incidences of cruelty can be stopped in their tracks. The bill achieves those outcomes by, among other things, introducing direction powers and penalty notices. During my preparation for debate on this bill, I noticed the unforgettable article that was written on 27 January 2005 by Mark Nolan under the heading "2 kittens killed and strung out on fence". The article states:
Two kittens were bludgeoned to death and slumped over a barbed wire fence bordering a disabled children's holiday camp in yet another sickening case of cruelty.
A mother, driving her children to a nearby preschool, made the gruesome discovery at Camp Breakaway, in San Remo on the Central Coast.
One of the six-month-old kittens was so badly beaten its blackened ginger fur was covered in blood and its eyes had popped from its skull.
No children were attending the camp at the time of the incident.
Police said it appeared the killings were a copycat of the recent string of horrendous acts of cruelty against kittens.
It is the fourth attack on kittens in just 12 days in NSW and Victoria.
An eight-week-old kitten was stoned, jumped on, ridden over and kicked on to train tracks at Seven Hills on January 16.
Last Saturday a 10-week-old kitten was doused with petrol and set alight at Mt Druitt while a three-month-old kitten was kicked, swung by the tail and thrown during an attack at Shepparton in Victoria.
An 18-year-old man and a 16-year-old youth, both from Tregear, were charged on Tuesday with committing an act of aggravated cruelty on an animal over the Mt Druitt incident.
Those poor little kittens! There are many more articles depicting horrendous acts of barbarism committed on the wonderful animals that people enjoy as companions in sharing this wonderful planet. A matter I wish to concentrate on is the manner in which the effectiveness of the Act may be increased by its enforcement when this bill is implemented. As in the examples I have given, who can forget the terrible cruelty of the cases of mistreatment that have been reported in the media? These and other terrible acts of cruelty to animals demand the provision of additional powers to the police, the RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League to enable them to take action when, sadly, they come across incidents of mistreatment.
The amending provisions of this bill will broaden enforcement options to enable the police, officers of the RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League to be more proactive in preventing cruelty by giving lawful directions and penalty notices. Through expanded powers of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, officers will be able to allow first offenders, or others who have committed less serious breaches of the Act, the opportunity to remedy the situation. A direction may be given without an offender being subject to court proceedings or other penalty. The power to give directions will provide an officer with an enforcement tool for relatively minor breaches which will save enforcement agencies becoming involved in expensive and resource-draining prosecutions. The Chief Inspector of the RSPCA, Don Robinson, has stated that this would be a "day-to-day occurrence" if the RSPCA had those powers.
The bill also introduces the power to enable officers to issue penalty notices for prescribed offences. In most cases the ability to issue penalty notices will avoid the burden of court proceedings for less serious offences. Currently the Act provides that a court may ban the purchase, acquisition, possession or custody of an animal. However, the power to ban is currently limited to a person who is in charge of an animal and has been convicted of a serious cruelty offence under the Act. Section 31 states that when a court makes an order regarding the disposal of an animal, it can make an order stopping the offender from acquiring or having an animal. The court can also apply time limits on the order. That is as it should be. Unfortunately, the wording of section 31 is not adequate because it does not cover people who harm other people's animals.
In the past, there have been cases of cruelty to animals in which the offenders have been convicted, but the courts have not been able to ban ownership or custody of animals by the offenders. That happened because the animals they had harmed belonged to other people, or perhaps belonged to no-one in the case of strays. An illustration of this point is the case of a person who is convicted of abusing or mistreating someone else's kitten, but the court would not have the power to prohibit the person from acquiring an animal of his or her own. What a terrible situation that is! The shortcoming of the power clearly goes against the intention of section 31. The aim of section 31 is to stop serious or repeat cruelty offenders from having ownership and control of animals. It is outrageous and beyond my comprehension that people would want to repeatedly commit acts of cruelty upon animals.
Because offenders may perpetrate serious animal cruelty offences when they are not the person in charge of the animal, the bill expands the court's power to ban the purchase, acquisition, possession or custody of an animal. By virtue of this bill, the power could be applied to any person who has been convicted of a serious cruelty offence under the Act. The section will also be amended to make it apply to any conviction under part 2 of the Act which encompasses the cruelty provisions. The provisions of this amending bill send out a clear message to potential offenders. They also greatly improve the power of the courts to protect animals from potential and future acts of cruelty by convicted offenders.
Another court-related amendment in this bill concerns the limitation period for prosecutions under the Act. At present, actions must be commenced within six months of an offence being committed. The amending bill extends that period to 12 months, and that must be another good step in the right direction. Under current provisions, the Act requires enforcement agencies to commence prosecutions in the Local Court within six months of the offence. However, many cases of cruelty to animals are very complex. They involve a lot of facts and interviews of various witnesses, and can sometimes take more than six months to prepare. In other cases, the offence is not drawn to anyone's attention until the six-months period has passed. Don Robinson cited an example of offenders who have moved interstate to avoid prosecution by invoking the statute of limitations. In such cases, the alleged offenders avoid penalty. The changes provided in this bill will overcome that problem.
Offenders will not be able to get off lightly any longer. Enforcement agencies will have 12 months in which to bring forward prosecutions. The change will mean that those who are enforcing the Act will have sufficient time to properly prepare cases, even more difficult and more complex ones. It will also provide more time for offences to come to light and for prosecutions to be undertaken. I think this is a sensible and practical change—a change that will enhance the common good. A procedural matter this bill addresses is the court process where more than one animal is treated cruelly. At present, the prosecution must lay a separate information and file a separate summons for each animal. This causes a particular problem where the offence involves large numbers of animals, such as a flock of sheep. The requirement for a separate information and summons for each offence means considerable additional costs for enforcement agencies. This requirement also adds to the court's workload and costs, and has resulted in criticism by some magistrates.
A case Mr Robertson brought to my attention was one where the RSPCA tried to bring one charge covering the maltreatment of 50 horses. It sickens me how people can do that. It is very sad. However, to stick to the law as written, the magistrate directed the RSPCA to file one charge per horse. What a waste of time and resources! Under the amendment in this bill, the court will be able to consider whether an offence involved more than one animal. This will allow a clear presentation to the court of the seriousness of offences that may relate to herds, flocks or groups of animals of the same species at the same place and whose management has been identical.
Other changes to the Act will introduce safeguards regarding the exercise of powers of enforcement officers aimed at protecting the rights of citizens. For example, officers will be able to enter residential premises only in animal welfare emergencies or under the authority of a search warrant. The bill demonstrates our Government's commitment to protecting the welfare of our wonderful animals. I do not know how anyone in this House could not say that animal welfare is a matter of deep concern for every member of our community, irrespective of political positions. The amendments in this bill will ensure that the community's just expectations are appropriately met. The expanded range of powers will allow better, more targeted intervention and more efficient procedures when matters have to come to court. It will mean a better, more efficient use of resources These, and the many other amendments in this bill, will improve the Act's administration. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ALAN ASHTON (East Hills) [10.52 a.m.]: In the six years I have been a member of this Parliament I have spoken to every bill that relates to prevention of cruelty to animals. I place on record my support for this bill and my appreciation of the Opposition's support for the legislation. I heard the honourable member for Murrumbidgee comment that at times we are more fascinated by outrageous cruelty to animals than cruelty to humans. He spoke about the attack on the cat at the railway station, and there appear to have been copycats of that incident. That attack happened just after the tsunami. I think I know what the honourable member for Murrumbidgee was alluding to. At times we do become used to seeing people dying in war zones and in terrible tragedies, and when we see an animal suffering as a victim of human cruelty the reaction is almost the same. That is a natural human reaction.
I remember reading that one of the great philosophers said that human society can be judged by how it treats the weakest of the species, including other species. Society can be judged on how humans treat animals. If animals are treated poorly, badly or cruelly—and sometimes animals are treated poorly through neglect by people who love their animals but cannot look after them—Parliament has to do everything it can to stop such treatment. I will not examine the detail of the bill, as that has already been done. I urge the judiciary to treat cases of cruelty to animals more seriously. It is quite common when the RSPCA or the Animal Welfare League or another organisation prosecutes people for cruelty to animals that they walk out with virtually a tap on their hands from a feather duster. Those who have a predilection for cruelty to animals are likely to be cruel to other people. There is evidence to back that up. Youths who are serial offenders against animals may well develop that syndrome as they get older and treat their families and friends in the same way. I support any legislation to prevent further cruelty to animals. The honourable member for Bligh has always done the same. Again, I support the bill and thank the Opposition for its support.
Ms CLOVER MOORE (Bligh) [10.55 a.m.]: I support the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill, which introduces changes to the 1979 Act designed to prevent cruelty to animals and promote their welfare. In the year 2002-03 the New South Wales RSPCA investigated 12,748 complaints of cruelty to animals, a marginal increase from the previous period, although the number of prosecutions at 112 defendants is slightly down. These figures are still unacceptably high and I welcome those provisions in the bill intended to address the alarming level of animal cruelty in our society. The widespread publicity surrounding the recent horrific cases of kittens being tortured—as mentioned by the honourable member for Strathfield—reinforces the need for constant vigilance about animal welfare and the necessity to continually improve the effectiveness of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. I commend the Minister for Primary Industries for introducing the bill.
I welcome the introduction of provisions in the bill giving inspectors the authority to issue directions for the care of animals. The combination of education and compliance is an important preventative measure and clearly reflects the spirit of the Act. If an inspector considers that an animal's welfare is at risk, he or she can issue written directives for the animal's proper care. This power could be particularly relevant when an owner has neglected the welfare of an animal through ignorance, and it may, in many cases, prevent further cruelty to the animal. I am also in favour of those provisions in the bill that expand certain enforcement powers of the inspectors to investigate offences. I note also that the definition of "premises" has been expanded to include vehicles and other forms of transport. Inspectors will be given the power to enter a car if a dog is suffering from heat exhaustion and to inspect livestock in transit.
However, the bill removes the current unrestricted power of inspectors to enter residential premises. Except for an extreme emergency, consent from the owner or a search warrant will have to be sought. While this new provision is consistent with current laws governing police powers, it weakens the effectiveness of officers appointed under the Act to respond to cases of animal cruelty. I also welcome the expansion of a court's powers to ban a person convicted of previous cruelty to animals from owning another animal. Persons who have shown themselves incapable of considering the welfare of animals should not be allowed to own another. The Act currently exempts veterinarians from charges of cruelty if they are treating an animal. The amendment removes this exemption. Veterinarians are as a profession dedicated to the health and wellbeing of their animals. This amendment reflects current community expectations that animals should be treated as humanely as possible.
Although the bill's extension of the limitation period for prosecutions from six to 12 months is an improvement, I believe that there should be no limitation, as is the case with other criminal legislation. Animal welfare groups have informed me that there are cases where photographic, video and witness evidence of shocking treatment and torture of animals has been rendered useless because it is 13 or 24 months old. I also express concerns related to this legislation. The bill expands the definition of "stock animal" to include deer. I note that this formalises the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (General) Regulation 1996, in which deer are already prescribed as "stock animals". The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act sanctions the differential treatment of animals. Stock animals are not provided with the same degree of protection as other animals.
For example, they are exempted from the need for adequate exercise, a provision that allows for the intensive farming of animals, such as battery hens, which are confined in cramped wire cages, unable to carry their own weight. Various procedures performed on stock animals are acceptable under the Act as long as they do not inflict unnecessary pain on the animal. Surely any pain inflicted on any animal is unnecessary and unacceptable. I have some reservations about the inclusion of deer in the category of stock animal. A report prepared in 2004 for the Australian Government's Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation raised significant welfare issues in relation to commercial deer farming in Australia. One of the findings of that report expressed concern. It stated:
Despite the increased kill, the total weight of venison processed in the 2002/2003 year was similar to that processed in 2001/002 which reflects the lower average carcase weight of all stock processed which in turn reflects the lack of appropriate feeding caused by the drought.
As stock animals, deer will have less protection under the Act from the anti-cruelty provisions that apply to other animals. I am concerned that the expansion of the definition will facilitate the intensive farming of deer and remove it from the anti-cruelty provisions that apply to non-stock animals. I oppose any expansion of the category of stock animal and recommend that schedule 1  be deleted from the bill. I will move an amendment to that effect in the Committee stage. Another major concern with the bill relates to the prohibition on coursing, currently defined in section 21 (1) (a) of the Act as using a dog to chase, catch or confine an animal. My proposed amendment to schedule 1  limits the offence to one in which the animal is released from confinement to be chased, caught or confined by dogs. It will be permissible to use a dog for the purpose of hunting, shooting, snaring, trapping, catching or capturing an animal, but only in a manner that inflicts no unnecessary pain on the animal.
Regardless of whether coursing is confined to the control of vertebrate pests, as suggested in the second reading speech, it will be coursing—a sport that is capable of inflicting immense suffering on an animal. We should look to the remarkable example in the United Kingdom where, despite a long and well-established tradition of hunting with dogs, recently an Act was passed that bans that cruel practice in both England and Wales. It is ironic and appalling that New South Wales wishes to sanction that activity. I strongly oppose the amendments contained in the bill that exempt coursing from the anti-cruelty provisions of the Act. I recommend that schedule 1  to the bill be deleted and that section 24 (1) (b) (i) of the Act not be raised as a defence under the measure in schedule 1 .
I am concerned about the provisions of the bill that will permit the feeding of live animals to predators. Obviously there are cases in which an injured reptile or owl, for example, is being looked after before being released into the wild. In those cases there is no alternative to feeding with the natural live animal diet. However, I oppose granting an exemption when a predatory animal is lawfully kept as a pet. I have been informed by animal welfare groups that over time the kept animal will accept a diet of dead animals. In my speech on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Bill 2003, I raised issues relating to the use of animals in medical research. I noted that in 1999 the Government banned the supply of pound animals for medical experimentation.
I requested members of this House to call upon the Federal Government to better monitor and provide public transparency for a Federal code to require alternatives to the use of live animals. I urge honourable members to reconsider my original request. As a society we must assume responsibility for animals. One of our most important responsibilities is to care for both children and animals. It has been said that the way we treat animals is as much a measure of our humanity as is our treatment of people. I conclude with the words of Abraham Lincoln:
I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.
Several amendments contained in the bill represent a significant improvement to the Act, and I commend the Government for their introduction. However, I oppose the provisions I have mentioned and will move amendments at the Committee stage.
Mr GRAHAM WEST (Campbelltown—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.03 a.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members who have contributed to debate on this bill. I will address a few points raised in debate, especially those highlighted by the honourable member for Murrumbidgee. The Minister for Police has announced that more attention will be given to violent crime against animals and its possible linkage to violence against people. A task force has been established, and has met, to investigate better intelligence sharing about offences involving deliberate cruelty to animals. The task force has brought together NSW Police, the Attorney General's Department and other enforcement agencies more than ever before. The Department of Primary Industries will also take part in the task force. Today we are witnessing the union of professionals and agencies dedicated to protecting and enhancing the lives of people and animals.
Animal welfare organisations are already co-operating with domestic violence agencies to ensure the safety of animals residing in violent homes and to assist women and children seeking safe havens and freedom from abuse. The aim is to relieve some of the stress of people who are in difficult circumstances. A recent example involved the RSPCA and the St George Hospital. The Government supports that task force and the involvement of staff of the Department of Primary Industries. I look forward to the development of new programs and legislative reforms that will assist in both reducing violent crime in our society and the suffering of animals. I take this opportunity to recognise all of the people involved in the activities of animal welfare organisation. Their dedicated work is essential for the maintenance of high animal welfare standards in New South Wales.
In particular, I recognise and thank the officers of the RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League, who conduct the necessary enforcement activities under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Officers of the New South Wales police service must also be recognised for their important contribution to the enforcement of the Act. I recognise also the significant work of veterinary practitioners in both treating animals and maintaining high standards of animal care in this State. The Government will oppose the amendments to be moved in the Committee stage. The provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill, in particular the new powers to give directions and to issue penalty notices, will greatly enhance the ability of the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League and police officers to effectively and efficiently enforce the provisions of the Act and to maintain high standards of animal care in New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Ms CLOVER MOORE (Bligh) [11.07 a.m.], by leave: I move amendments Nos 1 to 6 in globo:
No. 1 Page 3, schedule 1 , lines 8 and 9. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 2 Page 4, schedule 1 , lines 1-3. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 3 Page 4, schedule 1 , line 4. Omit "and (4)".
No. 4 Page 4, schedule 1 , lines 13-16. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 5 Page 4, schedule 1. Insert after line 34:
 Section 24 (2)
Insert "or 21" after "section 19A".
No. 6 Page 15, schedule 1 , line 21. Omit "12 months". Insert instead "3 years".
The purpose of amendment No. 1 is to remove deer from the category of stock animal. I am concerned that the inclusion of deer in that category will lead to an increase of cruelty to deer, as stock animals are not covered with the same provisions as other animals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Amendments Nos 2 to 5 remove provisions that allow for coursing when a dog is used to hunt another animal. Recently that practice was prohibited in the United Kingdom, where, of course, there is a much longer history and culture of hunting. I call for the removal of provisions that allow that cruel and brutal practice. My amendment No. 6 allows for the extension of prosecution material for up to three years instead of 12 months to allow for evidence that is 18 months old still to be used. These amendments are very much in keeping with the spirit of this bill and with what the Minister intends to do to improve provisions relating to the protection of cruelty to animals. I hope that he responds positively to these amendments, which will further increase the strength of this responsible bill.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI (Murrumbidgee) [11.10 a.m.]: Opposition members do not support the amendments moved by the honourable member for Bligh, primarily because we were given only eight minutes notice of them and we have not had an opportunity to consult anyone. This bill was introduced last year so the honourable member for Bligh had a significant amount of time within which to provide Opposition members with details of these amendments. The honourable member for Bligh has three staff members and I have only two, so there is really no excuse for introducing these amendments at such a late stage. I cannot comment on their content as they were handed to me at the last minute and I have not had an opportunity to consult anyone. For those reasons, the Opposition does not support these amendments.
Mr GRAHAM WEST (Campbelltown—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.11 a.m.]: The Government opposes all the amendments. I refer to the first amendment. "Deer" has been specified under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (General) Regulation 1996 as a stock animal. It is proposed, as a tidy-up exercise, that deer also be included in the definition of "stock animal" under the Act because deer are farmed animals. This proposed change has no bearing or influence on other legislation where deer may be separately considered as pest animals or as wild game. The Government similarly opposes amendments Nos 2, 3 and 4.
Section 21 of the Act is intended to prohibit sporting-type activities where an animal is kept or confined and then released for the main purpose of being chased, caught or confined by dogs. Concern has been expressed about the fact that the word "used" in relation to a chased animal, which appears at present in section 21 (1) (a), could broaden the scope of the section so that vertebrate pest control and other legitimate activities are caught by the section, for example, the chasing of rabbits by dogs to confine rabbits in burrows before warren destruction and moving sheep during dog trials. To ensure certainty as to the scope of the offence section, it is proposed that the word "used" be replaced by more limiting words such as "released from confinement" so that the offence is directed only to sporting-type activities where quarry animals are kept and released to be chased, caught or confined by dogs.
Clarification of the provisions related to this proposed change have been suggested to make it clear that all legitimate animal husbandry practices are not caught by the provisions of this section. Mustering, although already mentioned, is not the only legitimate use of working dogs where they might be construed to chase, catch or confine stock that have been released from confinement. Farmers often use dogs for purposes such as work in yards to catch flyblown sheep in a paddock or to separate them from the mob. Sheep dog trials are also a legitimate recreational activity where working dogs are used to move and direct sheep about a paddock following release from a pen.
In relation to hunting, dogs are permitted to be used, as long as no unnecessary pain is inflicted upon the hunted animal and no animal is specifically released for the purpose of being hunted or chased by a dog. I refer next to amendment No. 5. The current provisions are the result of consultation. There is no need to extend the amendments further. I refer lastly to amendment No. 6. At this stage there is no clear demand to extend the period to three years. However, that issue will be closely monitored to establish whether that period needs to be extended. The Government opposes these amendments.
Schedule 1 agreed to.
Schedule 2 agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee without amendment and passed through remaining stages.