Animal Welfare (Live Baiting) Amendment Bill

05 May 2015 newsspeechparliament

Adjourned debate on second reading of Animal Welfare (Live Baiting) Amendment Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK(17:28:23): I rise to put some remarks on the record in relation to this legislation, which is the government's response to the issue of potential live baiting in the greyhound industry in South Australia. The background is that on 16 February of this year the Four Corners program aired, 'Making a killing.' On 26 February, the Liberal Party announced and tabled a bill targeting live baiting in South Australia, and I will refer honourable members to some of the comments that I made which are also relevant in relation to this bill.

Greyhound racing monitoring and enforcement is undertaken by Greyhound Racing SA (GRSA). However, until the airing of the program, I think it is fair to say that the focus has been on the care and welfare of greyhounds, rather than the detection of animal cruelty associated with greyhound training, or potential animal cruelty associated with greyhound training. GRSA's existing registration system requires that all trainers and facilities be licensed and subject to random inspection. Penalties for breach of the code can attract fines of up to $50,000 and lifetime bans from the sport. The RSPCA SA and SAPOL are responsible for monitoring enforcement and prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act 1985, including alleged incidents of cruelty to animals.

The government announced a package of measures on 23 March to target live baiting in South Australia based on the recommendations of a working group of GRSA, RSPCA SA, SAPOL and DEWNR animal welfare officers. The working group response and the subsequent legislation that we have before us is to amend the Animal Welfare Act to create new offences for: live baiting, releasing an animal from captivity for the purposes of it being hunted or killed, selling or supplying an animal for the purposes of live baiting, and keeping an animal for the purposes of live baiting.

These offences form part of the amended clause 14 (prohibited activities) which currently only refers to organised animal fights. The maximum penalties in this section are being increased from $20,000 and imprisonment for two years to $50,000 and imprisonment for four years. The new maximum penalties are consistent with other sections of the Animal Welfare Act; for instance, clause 13 (ill treatment of an animal).

The other critical part of the response to this awful report on Four Corners is to beef up the GRSA inspectorate, refocussing it to include the detection of potential animal (bait) cruelty and improving protocols with the RSPCA SA and SAPOL. Actions arising from this are as follows:

Greater detail to be recorded in the GRSA licensing system; for instance, the location and usage of bull rings and all private racing facilities. In our discussions, Matt Corby, the CEO of GRSA, advised that they are adopting 'nearmap', which is an internet application that can take aerial or satellite photographs of sites which can then be monitored over time.

Increasing GRSA's animal welfare and compliance staff from one to four and improving training, including training in covert detection methods.

Increasing the inspection rate of premises—of which I was advised and spoke of previously in this place—which was previously on average once every two years.

Better protocols between GRSA stewards, the RSPCA SA and SAPOL.

I think better protocols, in particular, is quite critical given that the RSPCA and SAPOL collect evidence for prosecutions. I think it is fair to say that the linkages between those organisations and the GRSA could be improved just to ensure that these activities are not taking place in South Australia.

The last time I had a discussion with stakeholders (which would be one or two weeks ago) the information that came out in response from the GRSA and other agencies is that there is still no evidence that this is taking place in South Australia, but that does not necessarily mean that it is not taking place. Those actions to which I have just referred are clearly outside of the legislation but are critical to ensuring that we can have confidence that live baiting is not taking place in South Australia. GRSA also advises that they are examining the use of aerial drones and surveillance at private racing facilities, trial tracks and registered tracks.

Just to recap, the amendment that was tabled in this place by myself on behalf of the Liberal Party proposes the following: first, that bull rings be licensed, with a penalty of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for one year; secondly, that a specific offence be created for live baiting, with a penalty of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for four years; and thirdly, that a new offence be created for providing an animal for the purposes of live baiting, with a penalty of up to $20,000 or imprisonment for two years.

I accept that our legislation, in terms of licensing of bull rings, would have changed the system which operates at present and that the GRSA is the correct organisation to be doing inspections, notwithstanding that I think the scrutiny and assistance from the RSPCA is critical, and that is to be improved, as I have discussed. Therefore, the concepts that were proposed through the Liberal Party's private member's bill are effectively adopted within the working group's package in one way or another.

So while bullring licensing will not be subject to government licensing, it will receive specific scrutiny through improved GRSA inspectorate processes. I was given specific reassurance about this by Mr Matt Corby. The new offences in the bill that we tabled are also contained within the government's proposed amendments to the act. With those comments, I commend the bill to the house.