Legislative Council: Tuesday, September 26, 2023



Veterinary Services Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 12 September 2023.)

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:30): I rise to conclude the debate. I would like to thank those who have made contributions to the debate so far. I acknowledge that there is broad support for the bill, but there have been a number of amendments filed on matters of detail related to the definition of veterinary services, references to premises, consultation on appointments to the board, consultation on code standards and guidelines, contents of the annual report, how 'fit and proper' is determined, the obligation of a health professional to report medical fitness, and constitution of the tribunal.

I very much appreciate discussions that I have had with my parliamentary colleagues to work through these amendments, and also the impacts should they be passed. I have also consulted widely, and that has included the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and the Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia, in regard to the amendments filed and to inform the development of amendments that I have subsequently filed myself.

As we head into the committee stage, assuming we get there today, I ask that the scope of this bill, represented by its long title, be kept front of mind: that it is a bill for an act to support animal health, to support animal safety and to support animal welfare, as well as the public interest, by providing for the registration of veterinarians and premises at which veterinarian services are provided, to regulate the provision of veterinary services for the purposes of maintaining high standards of competence as well as conduct, to recognise the registration of veterinarians in certain other jurisdictions, to make related amendments to various acts, to repeal the Veterinary Practice Act 2003 and for other purposes.

It is very clear that on the whole there is strong support for this bill. It is important to modernise the current act to reflect current veterinarian practice, and I seek support for the passage of this bill.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

In committee.

Clause 1.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: I have a series of questions for the minister in regard to the consultation process. Can the minister inform the chamber as to the consultation process and the stakeholders who were specifically asked to comment on the bill?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: Consultation on the draft bill was involved with the public by the YourSAy website. It ran for a period of 9½ weeks, from 14 December 2022 to 19 February this year. Feedback was sought through YourSAy by email or by post to PIRSA's legislative reform team. The commencement of consultation on the draft bill and the process of making a submission was widely publicised through a number of communication channels.

A ministerial media release was published on 15 December 2022 to announce the commencement of the consultation, and a direct message from myself as minister was emailed to a targeted stakeholder list of 140 persons and relevant industry or professional associations and other organisations. This list included organisations representing the veterinary profession, consumer organisations, educational institutions, government agencies and individuals who had participated in the previous consultation on a discussion paper.

PIRSA's Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, with a combined following of over 19,000, were used to create awareness and call for feedback at various points during the consultation. Where requested, PIRSA's legislative reform team also met with key stakeholders. This included meetings with the Australian Veterinary Association, the Veterinary Surgeons Board of SA, Livestock SA, the SA Dairyfarmers' Association, the Department for Environment and Water, SA Health, the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. In addition, at many of my regular meetings with many of those organisations, the matters or their goals were discussed as well.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Given that we are discussing the Veterinary Services Bill, were individual vets specifically written to about this bill and invited to contribute through communications from either the Veterinary Surgeons Board or PIRSA?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised PIRSA does not have the individual contact details of each registered vet, and therefore it was not possible for PIRSA to communicate directly. There was circulation, I am advised, of PIRSA's communication material by the Veterinary Surgeons Board at the end of October 2022. In terms of the Australian Veterinary Association, my understanding is that they have communicated, but I have not sought specifics about the methods they have used.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Can the minister please clarify whether PIRSA communicated the bill to the Veterinary Surgeons Board, and was any direction given from PIRSA or the minister to the Veterinary Surgeons Board to seek direct communication with the vets registered in South Australia, inviting them to make submissions?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that my letter went to each board member of the Veterinary Surgeons Board. In terms of specifically directing the board, that would not have been applicable because under the current act it is not a function of the board to educate or inform veterinarians. That is one of the things we are addressing in the bill that we are discussing, because it is clearly important that there is that level of communication that will provide the best support to veterinarians in order to ensure that they are informed and able to comply with the requirements that are upon them.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Is the minister aware of whether the Veterinary Surgeons Board communicated directly with registered vets in South Australia inviting them to make a submission on the Veterinary Services Bill?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am not aware of that occurring.

Clause passed.

Clause 2 passed.

Clause 3.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: I move:

Amendment No 1 [Centofanti–1]—

Page 8, after line 25 [clause 3(1), definition of veterinary service]—After paragraph (d) insert:

(da) the castration or spaying of an animal; and

This inclusion is in the current act. Whilst the meaning within the new Veterinary Services Bill includes 'the performance of an invasive or surgical procedure on an animal', there are some non-invasive techniques, for castration in particular, which are often done via biocompatible implants which are injected under the skin which temporarily suppresses testosterone. That should still only be performed by a registered vet, therefore certainly the industry was asking for this definition to remain, and I support that position wholeheartedly and hence have moved this amendment.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that castration and spaying are currently specified in the definition of 'veterinary treatment' under the Veterinary Practice Act and as such its inclusion was explored during the bill development. The draft bill released for consultation proposed that these two procedures be included in the definition of 'veterinary service' but then feedback received suggested that it was unnecessary duplication to specify, given that in the most part castration and spaying fall within another aspect of the definition, being 'the performance of an invasive or surgical procedure on an animal'. However, it is duplication, which is not ideal in legislation, but nor is it particularly problematic, so whilst we do not specifically support it it is not a problem if it does go through.

Amendment carried.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: I move:

Amendment No 2 [Centofanti–1]—

Page 8, after line 30—After subclause (1) insert:

(1a) A reference in this Act to premises will be taken to include a reference to a mobile hospital or clinic (whether a vehicle, demountable building or otherwise) in which it is intended that veterinary services will be provided (including the performance of invasive or surgical procedures on animals).

This amendment extends the definition of 'premises' to include variations such as mobile veterinary hospitals. We need to ensure that we futureproof this bill, and currently this bill does little in the way of mobile veterinary hospitals.

Vans and trucks that offer veterinarian services remotely are on the rise around the globe and have been introduced in other states around Australia. These are hospitals or clinics essentially on wheels, as I alluded to in my second reading speech, but it could also be a dismountable in which it is intended that veterinary services will be provided, including the performance of invasive or surgical procedures on animals within that premise.

In particular, we know that in the US there are 26-foot mobile vet clinics, which do include separate surgery suites, that are available for purchase and are certainly advertised as state-of-the-art mobile vet clinics with all the comforts and technology of a bricks-and-mortar veterinary clinic and with the advantage and convenience that they obviously come to the client.

So we know they are coming, and we need to ensure that this bill facilitates and also regulates their existence. The current bill does not contain stipulations for these types of functional mobile clinics—only bricks and mortar. We must ensure that veterinarians who practice from mobile vet clinics and vet hospitals are held to the same standard as those operating from traditional clinics. We also must ensure that those vets operating in these environments are offered the same professional protections as their peers.