Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 22, 2023



Statutes Amendment (Animal Welfare Reforms) Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 30 November 2022.)

The Hon. C. BONAROS (17:30): I rise to speak on behalf of SA-Best on the Statutes Amendment (Animal Welfare Reforms) Bill 2022 and indicate our support for the second reading of this bill. The bill seeks to enact the recommendations of the joint committee established to consider and report on a previous version of the bill, which aims to reduce the number of dogs and cats euthanised by the various shelters and rescue organisations operating in South Australia and establish a code of practice and licensing requirement.

Another important aim of the bill is to improve public accountability of the greyhound industry by requiring Greyhound Racing SA to submit an annual report to parliament on the number of greyhounds registered and destroyed each year. That is, I think, a sensible measure in line with the recommendations of the committee.

We know this industry has been plagued by scandals in recent years. Who can forget the award-winning 2015 Four Corners exposé on live baiting in Queensland and Victoria? The horrific footage showed live piglets, possums and rabbits being fixed to mechanical lures and flung around the track—as many as 26 times—before being caught and ripped apart by the chasing greyhounds.

No, it was not in South Australia, but nevertheless that very disturbing vision significantly impacted the industry's image Australia wide—as it should have. In South Australia, Greyhound Racing SA now publishes, as I understand, statistical overviews on key numbers. In the 2021-22 financial year, for example, there were 31,354 individual race starts, 752 registered dogs bred and 730 rehomed. Tragically, 22 greyhounds died at racetrack meetings.

Critics continue to question the accuracy of injury, death and rehoming numbers across the industry. Wherever the truth may lie, I think it is fair to say that we, on this side, consider transparency and accountability is certainly a positive step towards the longevity of the industry but also more importantly in terms of those animals themselves.

As the mover of this bill the Hon. Tammy Franks has highlighted in her second reading contribution, the public demands the humane treatment of those animals. Further cases of animal hoarding and neglect have come to light since the committee's final report, including the prosecution of the founders of SAHARA, known as SA Dog Rescue.

The government has now been undertaking some reviews into the way we treat animals in this state, namely, by the Animal Welfare Act review and the Dog and Cat Management Act review. Just earlier today, we had notice from the Attorney of the report of the Dog and Cat Management Act review and that is both timely and welcome, but it is certainly my understanding that we still wait for the Animal Welfare Act review.

I think some of the issues that have been raised in relation to this are whether we should be dealing with this bill as part of a broader review in line with the Dog and Cat Management Act as well, or whether we deal with this as a separate piece of legislation. I note that one of the things that has come to my understanding—and the government can correct me if I am wrong on this or perhaps the mover can correct me if I am wrong on this—but the issue of puppy farms, which we have already had one bill on, is another issue that ties into the broader context of what we are dealing with here. It is the government's intention, as I understand it, to pursue a separate piece of puppy farm legislation outside of that review framework. To my mind, that would be at odds with any argument that this bill cannot be progressed outside of that review.

I have to say that certainly we have been waiting some time now for those review outcomes. Anyone who knows anything about the Legislative Review Committee knows that I wholeheartedly welcome the Dog and Cat Management Act review—although I have not read it yet; I have just received it—because I hope that it addresses longstanding issues that the committee has dealt with in terms of cat management in this jurisdiction, something that has consumed way too much time of that committee because of by-law-making processes over many, many years now. I think everyone has been waiting patiently for that review to come out, in the hope that it does something to address that issue, going forward.

Members in this place have previously said, on the record, that they are hoping that there would be a statewide approach to dealing with those issues. I suppose, once I read the report, we will have an indication of whether indeed there will be a statewide approach to dealing with those issues.

I cannot see the merit in this bill not being dealt with now, irrespective of whether or not there is a further review. We are satisfied that the bill has been thoroughly consulted on. The joint committee received evidence from key stakeholder groups, including the Australian Veterinary Association, the RSPCA and the Animal Welfare League of South Australia. The Law Society's Animal Law Committee has also provided extensive commentary and professional opinion.

There are obviously some outstanding issues that have come about as a result of those opinions, and issues identified in the Law Society's most recent submission, on which, as we progress through this bill, we will be seeking some clarification from the mover. They include the absence of a definition of 'animal rescue organisation' and of the explicit manner in which a dog or cat can be euthanised, which in their view leaves no flexibility for field judgement by inspectors, who may determine that the best method is by shooting, for example. These are questions and issues that the society has raised that I think can be canvassed during the committee stage debate and addressed appropriately then.

With those words, we commend the mover of the bill for her ongoing, diligent work on this issue. As we know, she is a fierce advocate for animal welfare in this place. We indicate our support for the second reading of the bill.

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (17:38): I rise on behalf of the government to make some brief remarks on this bill. The government has commenced a review of the Animal Welfare Act 1985 to ensure that it meets community expectations, in line with previous commitments. The first stage of this comprehensive process is currently open for public consultation and is seeking a broad range of feedback to better understand the community's expectations about animal welfare and to identify opportunities for change that may improve the act.

This review, the first since 2008, will look at all aspects of the act and its role in promoting the welfare of animals, rather than individual components of the act. This comprehensive process will ensure that the act is updated to reflect contemporary practices and the community expectations of South Australians in relation to the welfare of animals. The consultation period closes on 26 March. Around 200 submissions have already been received.

The Dog and Cat Management Board has also undertaken the legislated review of the Dog and Cat Management Board 1985, consulting with local government, the RSPCA, Animal Welfare League and the Australian Veterinary Association. The board has provided a report on this review to the Minister for Climate, Environment and Water, which was tabled in both houses, I understand, or so I am told, earlier today. The review considers opportunities to add value, resulting in a more contemporary approach to dog and cat management.

It is important that these significant reviews inform future legislative amendment. This is because they are based on extensive stakeholder engagement and consideration of the overall legislative framework and operational implications for implementation. Using these reviews to inform legislative amendment will better enable good animal welfare and animal management outcomes to be delivered. It is our view, I am told, the rules in this area should only change once, not twice, therefore we do not intend to support this particular bill at this time. It is our preference that the legislative reform follow the reviews underway in this space.

However, we acknowledge the Hon. Tammy Franks for her long advocacy in this area and for bringing this bill forward. We do not intend to delay the Legislative Council's deliberations on these matters, therefore, while we will not be supporting the bill at this time, we will not be seeking to divide on it or to delay the committee stage.

The Hon. S.L. GAME (17:40): I would like to rise briefly to say that I will be supporting this bill.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (17:41): I rise to make a contribution on the Statutes Amendment (Animal Welfare Reforms) Bill 2022 on behalf of the opposition and confirm our intention to support the bill, subject to a number of amendments that I will move during the committee stage.

This bill has had various iterations since it was first introduced to this place by the Hon. Ms Franks in 2017 and I wish to acknowledge her commitment to advancing this piece of legislation. I would also wish to acknowledge the considerable efforts of Ms Mia Aukland, a member of the South Australian community, who set out to influence the law in South Australia and to improve outcomes for healthy and treatable dogs and cats who find themselves in a shelter and needing rehoming. She is to be commended for her perseverance and commitment to this process.

As the Hon. Ms Franks indicated, when the bill was introduced to this chamber in 2020, the previous Liberal government provided support for the bill to be referred to a joint select committee of the parliament to give detailed consideration to the reforms proposed, including through consultation with relevant stakeholders and the general public. The select committee was chaired by the Hon. Ms Franks and I was pleased to be a member of that committee, along with my former colleague Dr Richard Harvey, the former member for Newland, and the Hon. Dr Susan Close, member for Port Adelaide and now Minister for Climate, Environment and Water.

I would like to thank all the stakeholders who engaged during the committee and hearing process. Your contributions have ensured that the recommendations that were made by the committee were relevant to industry and community expectations and had input from the organisations and interest groups that would be most impacted by the proposed reforms.

I note that the version of the bill before this council adopts most of the recommendations of the committee, which were endorsed by all members of the select committee, including the now minister herself, the member for Port Adelaide, who is apparently no longer supporting the bill, which, can I say, is an absolute shame.

The bill achieves a number of sensible outcomes, including the requirement for rescue and rehousing organisations that meet the definition of a prescribed organisation to maintain a licence to operate, along with an endorsement to operate as a rehousing facility. I wish to emphasise that the definition of a 'prescribed organisation' that is set out in this bill includes the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League and a person or body who holds a licence under the Collections for Charitable Purposes Act 1939 and collects money, property or bequests for the purposes of providing welfare services to animals. This definition does not apply to local government bodies or veterinary practices or pet shops.

The requirement for prescribed organisations to maintain the licence and associated endorsements will provide authorities with appropriate oversight to ensure that rescue and rehousing organisations, including their premises and facilities, meet an appropriate standard. The bill also creates the ability for inspectors or veterinary surgeons to apply to the Magistrates Court for animal cruelty intervention orders, which will ultimately lead to improved enforcement of animal welfare standards in South Australia.

However, the opposition has some minor concerns with some of the clauses of the bill. The proposed section 15F of the bill establishes a code of practice which addresses a number of provisions, including in relation to euthanasia of dogs and cats, permanent sheltering of dogs and cats, criteria determining the suitability of dogs and cats for rehousing, and minimum standards of care. Those rehousing and rehoming organisations that meet the definition of a prescribed organisation will be required to comply with a code of practice. But the provisions of the code of practice will also be relevant to the veterinary industry, which will be required to comply with the code of practice during the administration of euthanasia of a dog or cat.

Whilst the bill requires that the prescribed organisations be consulted with the minister adopting the code of practice, the bill does not expressly require that consultation occur with the veterinary industry, which the opposition considers to be important and appropriate, given that they will be required to comply with the code having regard to the provisions of the proposed section 15M, which relates to euthanasia of dogs and cats by prescribed organisations. In addition to this, the opposition is concerned that the provisions of the proposed section 15M, as they relate to euthanasia of dogs and cats and how it is performed, is overly prescriptive and onerous on the veterinary industry.

Finally, the bill contains a clause which requires Greyhound Racing SA Limited to provide an annual report to the minister responsible for the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995, with specific information relating to greyhounds. Whilst the opposition is supportive of appropriate transparency and accountability, it is difficult to see what may be gained by the disclosure of some of this information, such as the approximate number of unregistered greyhounds destroyed in the relevant financial year, so we will also be moving amendments in regard to that clause. These concerns will be elaborated on during the committee stage, and I look forward to working through those with the council in due course.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:47): I would like to thank those who have made a contribution this evening: the Hon. Connie Bonaros, the Hon. Nicola Centofanti, the Hon. Sarah Game and the Hon. Justin Hanson. I also echo the words of the Hon. Nicola Centofanti in thanking Mia Aukland from the PAW Project for her longstanding, indeed decade-long work on these particular issues.

This bill has been a long time in the making and, in fact, this is the third iteration. It comes here to us after a joint house committee of the parliament in the last parliament went for over a year. It took 18 submissions and had 25 witnesses and was not the Greens bill by the end of it but a compromise consensus bill that was agreed to by Labor, Liberal and the Greens. The bill that I brought forward was the recommendations of that committee.

The bill looks to ensure that we lift the standards, set the standards for shelters and rescues in this state, that we see transparency in the euthanasia of cats and dogs—and greyhounds—but it also has some other measures in there around transparency and reporting that were requested by the RSPCA, that they are still waiting on, years after they first requested them. There are other minor issues in this area that really are kicked down the road. We keep kicking the can down the road on these issues. It is difficult as a private member to work collaboratively and bring something forward without the transparency that we are seeking in this industry to be also reflected in the members in this place.

I would say that it has been a revelation to read the review of the Dog and Cat Management Act that was tabled earlier on today, and I have been making notes ever since question time. Suddenly, some things are becoming clearer, but I will remind members that when I introduced this bill I noted in the second reading explanation that I had already had animal welfare advocates contact me because 'they had sought to make submissions to this long-awaited and anticipated Dog and Cat Management Act in review' but they had not been able to find hide nor hair (to make a pun) of information as to how to make a submission, how they could participate and how they could have input into this very important area. I have to say that reading the review it is quite clear they were unable to.

I find this an extraordinary set of affairs. I note that the review of the Dog and Cat Management Board was due by December last year and has finally made its way to the parliament but has not been out for community consultation. However, it did look at this particular issue, but it looked at it with only certain stakeholders allowed to make a contribution and others silenced by a lack of their inclusion. I find that an extraordinary state of affairs, and I think that is how we arrive to the position we are at right now with this bill.

I look forward to continuing debate on this particular bill. I will invite members who have questions at clause 1 to put them on the record, and I will take them on notice and bring back answers in a future sitting week. I indicate that I support the amendments that have been circulated by the Hon. Nicola Centofanti, one of which was simply a clerical error that got lost in translation from the report and the other is an incredibly useful contribution of including the AVA—the Australian Veterinary Association—within the prescribed organisations.

In the spirit of compromise, I am happy to work collaboratively with any member on this very important reform, which was literally first mooted in 2017 and has been advocated and supported by many in the community who made contributions to the joint committee; who were not heard in the review, the recommendations of which we have just seen today in the Dog and Cat Management Act report; and who may well be heard in the animal welfare review that is currently ongoing but is due to close its submissions in March. In fact, that is not that far away; one should imagine we will be able to progress this debate come April.

With that, I commend the bill to the council and note that should it get past the second reading stage I welcome questions at clause 1 of the committee stage, but then we will be reporting progress.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

In committee.

Clause 1.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Chair, I had something that I meant to say in my second reading summary, which was that I take on note the issue raised by the Hon. Connie Bonaros but also raised by the Law Society. I had expected, in fact, the government to come forward with that amendment with regard to clarity around the definition. I undertake that I will bring forward that amendment myself the next time we debate this bill.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: I thank the honourable member for that clarification. Just to confirm, will that include—I think there were two issues the Law Society raised, so perhaps the amendment plus any clarification around the further issue that they have raised. I am hoping that when we come back to deal with this the member might also be able to elaborate on the review process that we have touched on in terms of the Dog and Cat Management Act and the detail or lack thereof of the consultation process that she alluded to in her summation of the bill.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I thank the Hon. Connie Bonaros for that particular question. Just note that I do not have a list of those who have made a contribution to the Dog and Cat Management Act 2022 review. I can see from the summary that some groups have been called stakeholders and consulted, but I also am going to hazard a guess that there are quite a few who made contributions to the joint committee who were not consulted in this particular document. I would ask the government if they could provide a list of the stakeholders that were consulted as part of the 2022 Review of the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995: Final Report—whether that could be made public. That would be very useful to all in this place.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: I echo the honourable member's request in relation to that group because that will certainly help inform the progress of this debate.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: I also rise to indicate my support for that request.

Progress reported; committee to sit again.

Sitting suspended from 17:56 to 19:45.