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Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2014

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, in 2011 the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was asked by the then Primary Industry Minister, Bryan Green, to work with the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment to review the Animal Welfare Act 1993. The aim of the Animal Welfare Act 1993 is to prevent neglect of and cruelty to animals and to ensure the welfare of animals.

AWAC comprises organisations including the RSPCA, Tasmanian Farmer and Graziers Association, Tasmania Police, the Australian Veterinary Association, DPIPWE, the Local Government Association, intensive farming industries and the University of Tasmania. In this review of the act, the committee consulted a wide range of stakeholders and this was followed by the public release of a discussion paper. After analysing feedback from a three-month public comment period, we adjourned in November 2012. AWAC made 65 recommendations to amend the Animal Welfare Act of 1993. The amendments proposed in the current Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2014 relate to four areas: animal cruelty penalties; powers afforded to officers under the act; the operations of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee; and the accountability of professional standards for officers. This amendment bill before us today commits to addressing 23, with the new amendment, of the 65 amendments which AWAC recommended.

I commend the decision to increase the maximum custodial sentence for aggravated cruelty from 18 months to 60 months. This sends a very important message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in Tasmania. The bill recognises that some offenders have other problems as well and allows courts to pursue alternative sentencing options such as psychological counselling or participation in restorative justice or training programs.

Another important area of reform covered in this amendment bill is giving animal welfare inspectors ability to enter and search a property and take evidence if they believe animal cruelty has been committed. Until now the animal or animals at the centre of a complaint have to be on the property and they have to be alive. This part of the amendment bill will assist animal welfare inspectors to respond to animal cruelty complaints swiftly.

The Minister, Jeremy Rockliff, has rightly been asked about the Government's plans for the remaining AWAC recommendations which were not dealt with in this bill. I note the minister has said the Government will deal with these by consulting further with the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. The RSPCA in Tasmania is supportive of this amendment bill and wants it to go through. It also has the expectation that more of AWAC's recommendations will be appropriately addressed in a timely and effective manner. The Government needs to clearly explain which of these recommendations will be dealt with through further legislation and what time frames it is seeking to have these outstanding matters dealt with by the Parliament.

With regard to the pronged collars, which was very well explained by the member for Mersey, I have to say on an emotional response they sound absolutely terrible. When you do read and ask questions about them, listening also to the member for Western Tiers, there are certainly some other explanations from people who train. I am a little betwixt and between. I accept that Mr Tomkinson who sent the email this morning possibly only learnt about the amendment at short notice. It makes it difficult to know how many people have been consulted and who has not. I also note the import of them is banned in Tasmania so it is a difficult question.

In summary, I support this legislation but on the basis that the Government will clearly outline how it will deal with the outstanding AWAC recommendations. The overarching intention of this act is to prevent neglect of and cruelty to animals, and to guarantee their welfare. I applaud the Government for the recommendations adopted here. As a member of Tasmania's House of Review I remind them that our job is to ensure legislation passed here is the strongest and most effective it can be. There is more work to be done.

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