Crimes Amendment (Animal Cruelty) Bill

About this Item
SubjectsAnimal Welfare; Crime; Fines and Penalties
SpeakersDella Bosca The Hon John; Clarke The Hon David; Moyes Reverend the Hon Dr Gordon; Chesterfield-Evans The Hon Dr Arthur; Rhiannon Ms Lee; Ryan The Hon John
BusinessBill, Second Reading

Page: 19713

    Second Reading

    The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA (Special Minister of State, Minister for Commerce, Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, Assistant Treasurer, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.25 a.m.]: I move:

    That this bill be now read a second time.

    The second reading speech has been delivered in the other Chamber and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.

    Leave granted.

    I am pleased to introduce the Crimes Amendment (Animal Cruelty) Bill 2005. The Community was outraged earlier this year by a number of vicious attacks on animals earlier this year. In response the Government established the multi-agency Animal Cruelty Taskforce to consider changes to animal cruelty laws and procedures. The amendments contained in this Bill arise from the Taskforce Report to the Government.

    Current animal cruelty offences are found in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. The most serious of these offences carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment.

    The Taskforce was concerned primarily with whether a new aggravated animal cruelty offence, carrying a higher penalty, should be created in the Crimes Act 1900. It was proposed that this new offence deal with the worst examples of animal cruelty, that is, cases where offences are committed with the intention of inflicting pain on the animal, in circumstances that amount to serious instances of animal cruelty, like torture and where the animal is killed, seriously injured or experiences prolonged suffering.

    This Bill also creates a new offence designed to protect animals used for law enforcement purposes. This is in response to the killing of police dog Titan last year during a police operation. There have also been other reports of attempts to injure law enforcement animals such as throwing marbles under the hooves of police horses.

    To reflect the seriousness of these two offences the maximum penalty for both of these new offences will be five years imprisonment.
    The Taskforce also found that where matters were prosecuted by animal welfare organisations, like the RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League, with no involvement by police in the investigation, there was no guarantee that a guilty person's fingerprints would be taken and a subsequent notation made on their criminal record.

    Accordingly, an amendment to the Law Enforcement (Police Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 will provide that when offenders previously have not been fingerprinted for an offence of cruelty or aggravated cruelty to an animal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, an application may be made to the court for a fingerprinting order. This will allow accurate criminal records to be maintained.

    The introduction of the new offence under the Crimes Act will not affect the offences that currently exist in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Those offences will remain unchanged and together with the new Crimes Act provisions create a scale of animal cruelty offences of increasing seriousness. Less serious matters of animal cruelty, therefore, will continue to be dealt with under the Protection of Cruelty to Animals Act.

    I will now turn to the detail of the Bill.

    Clause 1 sets out the short title of the proposed Act.

    Clause 2 provides for the Act to commence on proclamation. New indictable offences are usually commenced in this way to provide certainty as to the exact commencement time and to allow the police and courts to put the necessary administrative and education measures in place.

    Schedule 1 Amendment of Crimes Act 1900

    The Schedule inserts proposed sections 530 and 531 into the Crimes Act 1900. Both offences will be indictable offences carrying maximum penalties of 5 years imprisonment.

    Proposed section 530 makes it an offence, with the intention of inflicting severe pain on an animal:

    (a) to torture, beat or commit any other act of serious cruelty on the animal, and

    (b) to kill, seriously injure or cause prolonged suffering to the animal.

    Specific defences provided for are:

    • authorised animal research;
    • routine agricultural and animal husbandry;
    • recognised religious practices;
    • pest extermination; and
    • veterinary practice.

    These specific defences, of course, do not limit other circumstances where there is no requisite intention to cause of severe pain or other general statutory or common law defences, like self-defence or necessity, that will naturally apply to both new offences.

    Animal has been defined to mean mammals (other than humans), birds and reptiles.

    Proposed section 531 makes it an offence to intentionally kill or seriously injure an animal knowing that the animal is being used in the execution of the officer's duty or to do so as a consequence of, or in retaliation for, such a use of the animal.

    Schedule 2.1 amends section 268 of, and Table 2 in Schedule 1 to, the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 to provide that the new indictable animal cruelty offences are to be dealt with summarily by a Local Court unless the prosecutor elects otherwise.

    This is to ensure that the criminal justice system can efficiently deal with these matters. As with other indictable matters that can be dealt with summarily, however:

    • the Local Court must have regard to the maximum penalty provided for by the Parliament as an indication of the seriousness of the offence; and
    • Police must identify serious matters and elect to have them dealt with by the superior courts where it is likely that the criminality of the offence outstrips the sentencing capacity of the Local Court.

    Schedule 2.2 amends section 134 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 to enable a court which finds an offence proven against a person under section 5 (Cruelty to animals) or section 6 (Aggravated cruelty to animals) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to order the person to attend a police station and submit to the taking of identification particulars. This will ensure that accurate criminal records can be maintained in relation to animal cruelty offences.

    The Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 is to commence on 1 December 2005. The equivalent provision is currently located at section 353A(7) of the Crimes Act 1900; this will be repealed when the LEPAR Act comes into force.

    Unwarranted and unjustified cruelty to animals is unacceptable to our society and the Government wishes to send a strong message that such unacceptable actions will be dealt with as serious criminal offences and offenders can be assured of strong enforcement of these new laws.

    The Hon. DAVID CLARKE [11.25 a.m.]: The Opposition is pleased to support the Crimes Amendment (Animal Cruelty) Bill. Unfortunately, far too frequently we are confronted with media reports of cases of extreme cruelty to animals, cruelty of such barbarity and perversity that all decent people are sickened and repulsed. The community demands that this sort of conduct be dealt with severely under the law. Perverse individuals who engage in such debased conduct need to learn that their conduct will not be tolerated. In response to this widespread community concern an animal task force was established by the Government to formulate a community response and to recommend an appropriate toughening of the laws pertaining to animal cruelty. Currently the law is governed by the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, which provides a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment for acts of animal cruelty.

    The bill amends the Crimes Act 1900 to create a new offence covering more serious acts of animal cruelty where there is an intention to inflict severe pain on an animal, or kill or cause serious injury or prolonged suffering to an animal. The new offence will carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. The bill makes clear that this new offence is directed at cruelty, the intention of which is to inflict severe pain, and is not directed at authorised animal research, routine agricultural or animal husbandry practices, recognised religious practices or veterinary practice. The term "animal" is defined as relating to mammals other than human beings, birds and reptiles.

    Another practice that the community is not prepared to tolerate is any action intended to kill or seriously injure animals used for law enforcement purposes. The type of action that this provision targets includes the injuring or killing of police dogs in order to impede law enforcement or the situation where marbles, glass, nails or other objects are thrown under the hooves of police horses—the type of action that all too often is prevalent at violent mob demonstrations. Accordingly, the bill amends the Crimes Act 1900 to create a new animal cruelty offence, with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, where the offender intentionally kills or seriously injures an animal knowing that it is being used for law enforcement purposes, or in retaliation for such a use. The new offences will relate to any dog, horse or other mammal, other than human beings, used by a law enforcement officer in the execution of the officer's duty. Existing offences contained in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act will remain.

    The Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 is amended to enable a court that finds certain animal cruelty offences under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to be proven to order that the offender submit to the taking of identification particulars, including fingerprints, by police. This amendment is to overcome the current situation where matters prosecuted by animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA, and not involving the police, do not guarantee that a convicted person's fingerprints or other necessary identification particulars are taken and a notation is made on their criminal record.

    Finally, the bill amends the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 to enable the new offences created by the bill to be dealt with summarily by the Local Court, rather than by indictment, unless the prosecutor elects otherwise. The bill will have strong community support. In creating a more serious category of animal cruelty offences punishable with more severe penalties the bill responds to community concerns—concerns that are certainly shared by the Opposition—that cruelty to animals should not and will not be tolerated.

    Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES [11.30 a.m.]: The Crimes Amendment (Animal Cruelty) Bill amends the Crimes Act 1900 to create two new indictable animal cruelty offences. In a previous debate on proposed legislation relating to animal cruelty I made reference to the fact that there is much truth in the saying in the biblical book of Proverbs 12:10 that "a righteous man cares for the needs of his animals but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel". The Bible never fails to provide insight into the human psyche, and is as relevant today as it has been to past generations. If the kindest acts of the wicked towards animals are cruel, it is also clear that the acts of those who mistreat animals are a reflection of a mental or psychological state of mind that is unsettled and perturbed, a state of mind that can act and react negatively towards humans.

    Professor Paul Wilson in the Journal of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law explored the relationship between criminal behaviour and mental illness in young adults in the context of cruelty to animals. He expressed the view that cruelty to animals appears to be a strong indicator or "red flag" in the background of many serial killers and thus, it is suggested, in the history of perpetrators of other forms of major interpersonal violence. In fact, RSPCA New South Wales Chief Veterinarian, Dr Mark Lawrie, addressed the Australian Urban Animal Management Conference in Canberra in October this year, exploring the links between violence towards animals and violence towards people in Australia. In light of the well-publicised cases of animal cruelty at the beginning of this year, one being the violent and heart-wrenching case of the kitten named Shelley, the Minister indicated that he would establish an animal cruelty task force composed of representatives from the Attorney General's Department, NSW Police, the RSPCA, and the like, to consider issues relating to animal cruelty, including diversion schemes for juvenile offenders. These plans were welcomed by the peak organisation, the RSPCA, advocating for the rights of animals.

    This bill arises as a consequence of recommendations made by the Animal Cruelty Taskforce, which was charged with the responsibility of reflecting on and considering changes to animal cruelty laws and procedures. At present, animal cruelty offences are found in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. The task force recommended that an indictable aggravated animal cruelty offence be created in the Crimes Act 1900 to reflect the gravity of the circumstances surrounding the offence. The task force also made recommendations that measures should be put in place to ensure that when criminal charges are laid by animal welfare organisations, such as the RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League, with no involvement by police in the investigation, any persons convicted can be fingerprinted and the offence recorded on their criminal record.

    I will now turn to the specific provisions of the bill. The bill makes an amendment to the Crimes Act 1900 to create a new serious animal cruelty offence, under proposed section 530, with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, where the offender intends to inflict severe pain on an animal and kills or causes serious injury or prolonged suffering to the animal. Of course, in some situations it may be viewed as acceptable to inflict severe pain on animals because of the context in which the pain is inflicted. For example, proposed section 530 will not affect such activities as authorised animal research or other lawful activities, routine agricultural or animal husbandry practices, recognised religious practices, pest extermination or veterinary practice, for which defences are provided. However, if there is some contention about whether the pain inflicted is justified in even these circumstances, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 provides a basis for offences.

    Proposed section 530 makes it an offence, with the intention of inflicting severe pain on an animal, to torture, beat or commit any other act of serious cruelty on the animal, and to kill, seriously injure or cause prolonged suffering to the animal. The bill also amends the same Act to create a new animal cruelty offence, under proposed section 531, also with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, where the offender intentionally kills or seriously injures an animal knowing that it is being used for law enforcement purposes, or in retaliation for such a use. The offence will relate to dogs, horses and other mammals, other than human beings. Importantly, the offences do not prevent the application of the defence of self-defence under the Crimes Act 1900; the defence is contained in section 418 of the Crimes Act 1900.

    The Criminal Procedure Act 1986 is amended to enable the new offences to be dealt with through the local court system, unless the prosecutor otherwise elects. The maximum term of imprisonment that may be imposed for such an offence if dealt with summarily is two years. The bill makes amendments to the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 to enable a court that finds certain animal cruelty offences under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to be proven to order that the offender submit to the taking of identification particulars, such as the person's photograph, fingerprints and palm prints, by police. Those who perpetrate unjustified acts of cruelty towards animals are not mentally sound. Though this legislation will make it clear that acts of cruelty towards animals are reprehensible, it is also necessary to understand why people act in this way towards animals. After understanding why, steps need to be taken to encourage those affected by mental health issues in this area to seek help. The Christian Democratic Party commends the bill to the House.

    The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [11.36 a.m.]: The Democrats have a proud record with regard to animal rights and the protection of animals from wanton cruelty. Certainly the Democrats do not want to encourage or allow wanton cruelty—for example, people setting fire to cats, or various other forms of mindless cruelty. We are conscious that such animal cruelty may indicate some criminal tendency, a callousness that is worthy of note, and would require considerable attention if it is part of gangland behaviour or adolescent behaviour which might lead to a suggestion that there is a danger of cruelty to children or other violence. We would like the Department of Community Services to look at such issues if children are behaving like this, in a preventive fashion with regard to minors and in a watching fashion with regard to adults. Certainly we believe that if cruelty to animals occurs action should be taken.

    It is one thing to simply increase the penalties. The Government likes to do that without looking at the preventive and social aspects of many crimes, or indeed at the way in which people should be apprehended and the behaviour discouraged. In many cases a broader look at the issue is needed, rather than simply jacking up the penalties, which is very simple through this House; it gets a rah-rah response from many members and from the shock jocks—who, of course, would lock up everybody if they could without any sociological consideration about what will happen when they come out and how much money we are paying for very little sociological outcome.

    I note that religious practices are an exemption. Does this mean sacrifices? Does "sacrifice" mean slaughtering quickly and burning, rather than slaughtering as occurs in an abattoir, whereby at least people eat what is slaughtered? I have not seen in the second reading speech any elucidation of what the exemption means in practice. Obviously, if religious practices involve simply slaughtering cattle while they are facing Mecca, or another variant of common practice in abattoirs, that is another aspect. During my medical career I was involved in the sacrificing—as is the euphemism—of animals for research purposes, which was done in order to teach students the fundamentals of animal research. I believe it is sometimes necessary. It has been said that animal research is never necessary to test drugs, but I do not subscribe to that view. I believe that if we do not want to put humans at risk, it is necessary to test the drugs on animal species before they are tested on humans.

    Unless we all become vegetarians—which would be better for the planet—the slaughter of animals for food will continue. Many animal husbandry practices have slaughter as their end point because of the carnivorous nature of our diets and our habits. In Julius Caesar the plotters were discussing how he should be killed. One of the plotters said, "Let us not just butcher him, let us carve him as a sacrifice to the gods," which is somewhat gilding the lily as Julius Caesar was to be stabbed to death one way or another, whether it was described in lofty terms or put in more basic language.

    The other interesting thing about this bill, which is just a tad worrying, is the special offence relating to police animals. It is one thing for a person to soak a cat in petrol and light it, or to swing it around by the tail or to engage in some other mindless cruelty; it is another thing for a criminal being apprehended to attack a police dog. The dog is trained to attack. My understanding is that if the person being apprehended has a gun, the dog is trained to try to grab the gun. Effectively, the dog is taking the risk of being shot in lieu of the policeman. If the person to be apprehended were in a corner or in a building, et cetera, and were confronted by a number of dogs trained to attack him or her, it would be extraordinary if that person did not defend himself or herself against that animal and it would be extraordinary if the dog were not at some risk of being harmed.

    The idea that mindless cruelty to an animal and an attack on a dog being used for law-enforcement are parallel situations is almost absurd. Is that person then charged with robbery, swearing, resisting arrest and attacking the dog that was attacking him or her? Is this just another way of introducing another crime to put people in gaol? While I do not want to be unsympathetic to police dogs, one has to admit that they are used to attack criminals in order to apprehend them. To regard an attack on a police dog as being a higher category of offence seems a tad absurd. Horses at demonstrations are quite threatening—they are big and strong, and, of course, they were used in war in historic times. Demonstrators have had two traditional methods of stopping horses: to put marbles under their hooves and to burn them with cigarettes. I have never been involved in a situation where a crowd has been pressed back in a hostile fashion by police using horses, and I have taken part in quite a number of demonstrations.

    I refer to people defending themselves against aggressive police tactics in demonstrations. From my experience, at times demonstrators get angry and hot under the collar. They are usually demonstrating because of what they perceive to be an injustice or a cause that is important to them, whereas the police are concerned with the maintenance of order. Sometimes the police are sympathetic to the cause and to the right to protest—I think more than they were in the pre-Vietnam war demonstration times. However, things sometimes get heated. If people believe they are being trampled by a horse they might reasonably take some sort of action to defend themselves.

    The animals may be used in an aggressive fashion by the police. It is not a parallel case to say that anybody who resists that attack is guilty of animal cruelty in the same way that somebody takes to a defenceless animal and attacks it for no good reason. That needs to be taken into account in the application of this law. It is interesting that it has not been noted in other contributions to the debate. It is worrying that the bill seeks to demonise people who might come in contact with police dogs or police horses and puts those animals on a pedestal without acknowledging the fact that they are used in a law-enforcement situation. It suggests that this House is not looking honestly at the facts in front of it and is not discussing issues that ought to be discussed. I have concerns about that issue. However, the Australian Democrats record in relation to animal cruelty and animal rights is second to none.

    Ms LEE RHIANNON [11.46 a.m.]: The Crimes Amendment (Animal Cruelty) Bill creates serious animal cruelty offences in the Crimes Act. The Greens take animal welfare issues seriously. We have a strong policy and a strong track record of work on a range of issues, such as the conditions of battery hens, sow stalls and many of the foodlots. So whenever the Government brings forward a measure to tackle animal cruelty we are inclined to support it. Recently some serious cases of animal cruelty have received media attention and have been distressing. They have brought to light the cruelty that occurs all too frequently. I believe we can do more to tackle this cruelty, and it is not just about changing the law.

    The Greens believe new section 531 to be superfluous. On the face of it, it achieves nothing more than is achieved by new section 530—it simply duplicates the provision, but with the addition of the term "law-enforcement". I am obviously not in favour of cruelty to law-enforcement animals—quite the opposite—but this objective would have been achieved without section 531. I think that is worth members pondering because it explains how so much of the legislation that this Government brings forward is drawn up: it is drawn up with a mind for headlines, not just the apparent intent of the bill. It is impossible to speak to this bill without addressing the hypocrisy in new section 530 (2).

    On the one hand, animal cruelty is a terrible offence to be punished by 25 years prison but, on the other hand, it is okay if the harming of animals is for scientific research, agricultural practices or religious activity. Obviously, these are complex issues: they are rarely black-and-white. I acknowledge that. But, surely, if we are so concerned about animal cruelty we should put more scrutiny on these areas. We should require the Government to make a higher standard to justify its actions, otherwise the inconsistency is so great that it undermines the intent of the bill. On a more general level, the Government must do more to reduce animal cruelty before it happens. That is where we should concentrate our efforts. Providing more severe penalties after the fact is not the way to reduce animal cruelty. As is the case with most types of crime, there is little evidence to prove that more severe penalties will prevent criminal activity.

    I acknowledge that this is a difficult challenge but it is one that the Government should take up. It requires a broad change to societal attitude, encouraging greater respect towards animals and awareness of cruelty issues. It means tackling difficult issues and having a vested interest in areas such as battery hens, sow stalls, feedlots and research on animals in general. When people see the conditions that some animals are forced to endure quite legally it makes a complete mockery of animal cruelty laws. When people are exposed to animal cruelty that is legal, they realise the inconsistency of the way in which our laws work. The Greens also have serious concerns about the measure in the bill covering police animals. Protesters can be charged under the Act if police horses and police dogs attend a protest. This country does not have a long history of police dogs being used against demonstrators, but there have been many incidents where police horses have been irresponsibly used against protesters and striking workers.

    The Hon. Charlie Lynn: They were trying to break the law.

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: I was hoping Mr Lynn might interject at this point. He might be interested to know that a former Coalition Government police Minister, Mr Ted Pickering, prohibited the use of horses as weapons for crowd control.

    The Hon. Charlie Lynn: I would change that.

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: It was your Government that had the foresight to put that in place. It was back in 1990, before the major parties became addicted to the simplistic, populist law and order approach to justice issues. These days one could not imagine any member of the major parties being willing to say that police horses should not be used against protesters. Current NSW Police standard operating procedures for public order management advises commanders responsible for policing demonstrations to consider using mounted police. Mounted police are currently used with greater frequency to move on groups of people at protests than we have seen for many years.

    The Hon. Amanda Fazio: And drunks at Circular Quay.

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: I acknowledge the interjection, but I am concerned here at the way that police horses are used as police weapons against protesters. Reports on this matter have noted that deploying horses as unregulated police weapons is a tactic similar to firing tear gas, rubber bullets or water cannons into a crowd or using a line of police.

    The Hon. Charlie Lynn: What is wrong with that?

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: I acknowledge that interjection. We can see Mr Lynn's attitude to people who have a right to protest.

    The Hon. Rick Colless: What about marbles at a police horse?

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: Yes, I will get to that. Perhaps Mr Colless will speak in the debate and he can give us cases when that has happened because we hear those charges made time and again.

    The Hon. Rick Colless: You know about them.

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: No, I do not know about them. You give me an example when these allegations have resulted in charges in court.

    The Hon. Rick Colless: Don't blame me for them. It is not my fault. That is what you are saying.

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: No, because you cannot do it, Mr Colless. These weapons and techniques are designed to deploy force against groups of people to move them en masse rather than subdue or restrain an individual who may have committed an offence. This is when we have the worrying situation where police horses are used against protesters and striking workers. As with other crowd dispersal weapons and techniques, police horses are very dangerous and potentially lethal when used indiscriminately to disperse crowds. When using horses as weapons in this way the risk of people being kicked or knocked down and sustaining serious injury is heightened. To give an example, at the recent Forbes protest, which was a peaceful protest—

    The Hon. John Della Bosca: Which one was that?

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: The protest against Forbes.

    The Hon. John Della Bosca: They didn't use horses to disperse there.

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: Yes, they did.

    The Hon. John Della Bosca: Which day?

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: They were used on that evening. I am about to give the example where police charged into a group. Mr Cohen and I were there. We witnessed the charge, which was very serious. A number of people were injured and one was a young colleague of ours, who sustained a broken collarbone when he was squashed between two horses. At the time of the charge people were standing there and the horse charged them from behind, which is why the young man sustained such a serious injury. He did not even see the horses coming. Police horses are routinely being used as weapons in protests or crowd control situations. They are strategically directed to ride straight into crowds of protestors to make them disperse. That is what happened at the Forbes protest. Police were directed to ride into the crowd.

    At the May Day protests in 2002 journalists and a legal observer team recorded a charge by eight to ten horses on to the footpath without warning, which resulted in numerous injuries. A month earlier mounted police broke up a demonstration outside the Israeli Consulate in Sydney in a similar manner. In June 2001 a union blockade outside New South Wales Parliament House was charged by about 12 mounted police. In 2000 virtually all protests in Sydney were met by mounted police. These have been documented by legal teams and it is certainly a worrying trend under this Labor Government and the practice appears to be increasing since the Government was elected in 1995.

    To comment on the allegations that Mr Colless has made, they are similar to marbles being thrown at horses. Mr Costa made similar allegations when he was Minister for Police when a protest was held against a World Trade Organisation meeting being held in Sydney. Charges were not laid, but these serious allegations are damaging to protesters and blemish the good character of many people involved in protests. They are scare tactics to deter other people from joining such protests. The Greens are concerned about certain aspects of the bill. Although we welcome any measure to improve animal welfare, we are concerned that the bill could be misused by police to charge people at a protest, resulting in cruelty to police horses. It is only natural that someone who is being charge by a police horse will try to protect himself or herself from being trampled, and that is a serious problem with the bill.

    The Hon. JOHN RYAN [11.57 a.m.]: I respond on behalf of the Opposition to two comments made by the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans and the Hon. Lee Rhiannon and to put in context the making of a special offence of injuring animals used in law enforcement. First, the public recognises that many of the animals used in law enforcement are loyal creatures being used, in most instances, for the protection of human beings. Indeed, in some instances, they even put their own lives on the line in order to protect human beings. For example, I refer to the lives of sniffer dogs used in circumstances where bombs are present. Although they may not be cognisant of the fact that they may be about to make the supreme sacrifice, they are put on the line. The purpose of the Crimes Amendment (Animal Cruelty) Bill is to balance the odds and to make people think twice before they subject those animals, which are sometimes legitimately used in law enforcement, to acts of cruelty.

    I am sure all members of Parliament condemn demonstrators who use cigarettes to burn horses as a means of countering them being used to control crowds or preparing themselves with marbles in order to counter demonstrations. All of us support the right to peaceful protest and the opportunity for people to gather in the streets and send a message to a government or whatever. The right to peacefully demonstrate is respected across the board. However, the right to protest does not include the right to riot. In many instances the presence of horses is a means of ensuring that the protest does not go from being peaceful to being disorderly to becoming a riot, which not only threatens the people being protested against, but others who intend to be peaceful but who end up in a dangerous situation. The police who use animals to control crowds in this way are acting in the public interest. There is no excuse for deliberately injuring animals being used to control demonstrations with the aim of ensuring they do not progress from a demonstration of public opinion to a riot. The Opposition supports those provisions.

    I must comment on the remark that somehow or other actions against law enforcement animals represent a legitimate part of the right to protest or a legitimate defence against animals being used for the purposes of law enforcement. If a person took a spontaneous action in reacting to a law enforcement dog and caused the dog to be injured, I am sure the court is capable of taking the circumstances into consideration. Other than that, I believe that these laws are legitimate and should be supported by the House.

    Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.