HON RICK MAZZA (Agricultural) [1.06 pm]: I move —
That this house acknowledges the agriculture sector as an essential service and recognises impediments that impact farming enterprises including, but not limited to —
(a) trespass by activists;
(b) environmental green tape;
(c) supermarket purchasing power; and
(d) nuisance neighbours
and the need for protection of primary producers’ right to farm.
(Comments and speeches from various members)
HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [2.52 pm]: I rise to say a few words on one of the areas of this motion, following the excellent contribution by my colleague Hon Diane Evers—that is, to talk about farm trespass. It really highlights the inadequacies of our current animal welfare laws. Cruelty to animals is of concern to the community at large. When there are exposés of animal cruelty—they are aired far too frequently, I have to say— the outrage is palpable. It is not any one particular industry or one kind of animal. People will not abide cruelty, regardless of where it is occurring.
The government has of course just commenced a review of the animal welfare legislation. Like many members, I put in a submission to that process. I note that the lack of trust that people have in the current laws was one issue that was highlighted in the documents that were printed beforehand. At this point, unfortunately, I could pretty much produce a laundry list of animal cruelty that has been uncovered by whistleblowers or activists who have engaged in trespass and unauthorised monitoring or videotaping of this abuse. Quite simply, we should not need animal activists to uncover animal abuse on this scale. It is, and it should be, the regulator’s job to stop animal cruelty from occurring in the first place. Current legislation for the monitoring and enforcement of animal welfare is insufficient. If it were working, we would not see instances of hundreds of cattle dying from dehydration, or we would be able to prosecute the people who allowed these things to happen. At the moment, large-scale acts of animal cruelty are going unnoticed by the authorities. If or when they are noticed, the perpetrators very often escape any form of legal repercussion. People are justifiably outraged by what is a complete lack of legal action on animal cruelty matters, and I think that they should be.
These clear and present failures of the law and the agency that is supposed to protect animals are driving people who care about animals to behaviour that is against the law. Western Australia is lagging behind in implementing legally enforceable national standards. We are protecting the welfare of production animals used in agriculture— chickens, sheep, cattle and pigs, in the main. There is movement but it has been slow. We are well behind our counterparts in the eastern states. We have been able to legally implement many of these standards since only late last year, despite some of them having been nationally agreed years ago. We want Western Australians to have confidence in the animal welfare practices employed by WA’s primary producers. We recognise that most farmers care deeply that the animals they have nurtured and raised are treated appropriately throughout the whole of their lives. However, the minority who do the wrong thing are not facing the sorts of legal sanctions we would expect them to face, whether that is because there are legal loopholes or simply because there is a lack of capacity and resourcing in those regulatory offices. It is essential that we strengthen the capacity to undertake lawful monitoring activities and put in place measures to prevent and identify contraventions of the Animal Welfare Act, wherever and whenever that occurs. Currently, activists feel they have to fill that hole by uncovering animal abuse. Clearly, we need to fix that broken system that is pitting members of our community against each other.
I particularly look forward to the delivery of proactive inspections of places where animals are housed and farmed, and ensuring that our inspectors have the powers needed to detect and deter cruelty offences and the mistreatment of animals. We need to do that in order to protect those farmers who are doing the right thing, which is by far the majority. For the life of me, I cannot see why anyone would be opposed to such important reforms.
(Comments and speeches from various members)
Question put and passed.