Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 28, 2022


Veterinary Practices

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (15:35): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development a question about the Veterinary Practice Act 2003.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: In the 2022-23 budget, there was a budget target for PIRSA to prioritise legislative reform, including amendments to the Veterinary Practice Act 2003. My questions to the minister are:

1. What consultation has the minister done with members of the veterinary profession, including the South Australian branch of the Australian Veterinary Association, on this issue since the election?

2. When can the veterinary profession and the South Australian public see a copy of the draft amendments to the Veterinary Practice Act?

3. Will she commit to legislative reforms coming before the parliament during the First Session of the Fifty-Fifth Parliament?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:37): I thank the honourable member for her questions. I do acknowledge of course that she is part of the veterinary profession. I understand she has still maintained her required registration, and I am sure she will have a high level of interest in this.

Certainly, there was a discussion paper and some consultation under the previous government in regard to the Veterinary Practice Act. It appears that they have then failed to progress any further. That is something that has been raised with me on a number of occasions, and it's something that I think is a shame because it certainly would appear that there is scope for some changes and some improvements.

The Veterinary Practice Act 2003 review was initiated in 2020. My advice is that there was an independent desktop review of the legislation initially. It is being led by PIRSA. The act requires the registration of veterinarians and regulates the provision of veterinary treatment in the state. The act also establishes a statutory authority of the Veterinary Surgeons Board.

Veterinarians are highly qualified professionals who contribute significantly to this state by providing for the health and welfare of companion, production and performance animals, in addition to the state's wildlife. Veterinarians also play a vital role in ensuring food safety, market access and biosecurity.

The legislative review is being undertaken to ensure that South Australia maintains a contemporary and flexible framework that continues to meet the objectives of protecting animal health, welfare and the public interest, which includes of course users of veterinary services. This is important given the nature and types of veterinary practice that have changed significantly since the act came into effect in 2003.

The functions and therefore the required composition of the Veterinary Surgeons Board have also evolved considerably. This is primarily because the responsibility for hearing and determining disciplinary proceedings alleging unprofessional conduct against veterinarians was transferred to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in May 2020.

There was broad consultation over a period of nine weeks through the release of a discussion paper, and the discussion paper explored a number of topics, including the structure of the board, registration of veterinary nurses, and the licensing of veterinary premises and services offered by non-veterinary animal care providers. I am told that the paper was informed by meetings with key stakeholder organisations and through a comparison study of interstate and overseas veterinary legislation.

Consultation, unsurprisingly, generated some significant interest, and there were close to 200 submissions received from a wide range of individuals and stakeholder groups, including organisations associated with animal health and welfare, consumers, veterinarians and advocacy groups. I can confirm that following consideration of that feedback, as I mentioned at the beginning of my answer, it did not appear to progress for some time after that, but I have now reinvigorated that process.

If I recall correctly, I think I recently signed letters out to stakeholders who were involved with an original discussion paper to advise that. I didn't put this in the letter, but contrary to what happened under the previous government where it seemed to just stall, we are now looking at that legislation progressing and looking at having legislation drafted to bring into this parliament.