I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation on the subject of animal welfare.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On 31 August, the RSPCA issued a media release and did some media in relation to greyhound racing and the ongoing concerns with animal welfare issues in South Australia and, in particular, raised two issues, one being that they say that they were advised by the GRSA that it is likely that South Australian greyhounds have been trained interstate using live baiting methods and then returned to South Australia to race.
They also raised a matter of a property at Two Wells, which was raided by the RSPCA and SAPOL on 26 March this year, at which there were some issues relating to storage of drugs at that location and the matter of some 60 greyhounds housed at those premises. The RSPCA say that they requested GRSA to test the animals for those drugs and that that did not subsequently take place. My questions for the minister are:
1. Does he stand by the statement that, 'There is no evidence of live baiting within the South Australian greyhound industry'?
2. Has he investigated this particular matter in relation to the dogs at the premises at Two Wells to determine whether any breaches of the Animal Welfare Act have taken place?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:38 :49 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. The South Australian government is committed to protect the welfare and safety of all animals, including those involved in the greyhound racing industry. This is why, clearly, the government undertook swift action after allegations were made of live baiting occurring in other states of our country.
Footage depicted on 16 February 2015 on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's episode of Four Corners,entitled Making a Killing, exposed the practice of live baiting in the greyhound racing industry in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The footage depicted greyhound trainers using live bait to lure greyhounds around rail tracks, and the revelations shocked the nation and spurred the South Australian government into action. Live baiting is already illegal in South Australia, I am advised, under the current provisions of the legislation; however, the associated activities of supplying animals to be bait, providing the venue, or being present at these training sessions were not at that time.
As a response to these interstate allegations, the government undertook reforms to tighten the screws on this sort of behaviour and, as honourable members are quite aware, this included making amendments to the Animal Welfare Act, which passed this chamber, which creates new offences for participation in live baiting to mirror current offences for organised animal fights, such as dog and cockfighting, and increase maximum penalties for breaches of the new laws, up to $50,000 or imprisonment for four years, and that is up from $20,000 or imprisonment for two years.
The proposed legislative amendments will complement steps also that Greyhound Racing South Australia, with support from the RSPCA, have initiated on this issue. These steps include additional animal welfare and compliance staff; dramatically increasing the inspection rate of premises; new aerial drone surveillance; surveillance cameras at private racing facilities, trial tracks and registered tracks; new rules around the prohibition and compulsory reporting of live baiting; the compulsion of registered participants to disclose all private racing facilities; and protocols to inspect greyhound facilities without notice.
I am very pleased to note that the two organisations, the RSPCA and Greyhound Racing SA, have worked cooperatively and productively together throughout the development of the government's response to live baiting allegations. I also understand that on 31 August this year the RSPCA issued a media release stating that negotiations with Greyhound Racing SA had broken down and called for greater reforms to the greyhound racing industry. The RSPCA went on to recommend four areas of reform to greyhound racing.
I understand that in South Australia the regulation of the racing industry is undertaken by controlling authorities in accordance with the national and local rules of racing and the policies of the controlling authorities, and Greyhound Racing SA is one of them. I am also told that Greyhound Racing SA advises that they will contribute to an additional $500,000 in expenses annually in support of integrity and welfare-related outcomes. The establishment of an independent body is, of course, an issue for the racing industry and a matter, of course, in parliamentary terms, for the Minister of Racing to deal with.
I am advised that Greyhound Racing SA requires licensed persons to establish and maintain records of all births, sales and deaths of greyhounds. Greyhounds are also microchipped at the breeding establishment to ensure that tampering of these records does not occur. I anticipate that the current suite of proposed changes to dog and cat management in South Australia will further assist should the parliament choose to support them. The dog and cat reforms include mandatory microchipping and a proposal for a centralised publicly accessible database. This will help assist in tracing greyhounds through their lifetime.
I understand that Greyhound Racing SA advises that the industry is also working towards national disclosure of key statistics, and the public release of data pertaining to the life cycle of greyhounds will need to be industry led. It is important to note that Greyhound Racing SA has rehomed a similar number of greyhounds to Queensland and New South Wales combined, I am advised, despite the fact that South Australia only breeds about 10 per cent of the number of greyhounds as those two jurisdictions. Greyhound Racing SA is the national leader in rehoming greyhounds, and the percentage rehomed is likely to increase further under planned retraining programs, including the successful Greyhound Adoption Program.
I also understand that RSPCA South Australia and Greyhound Racing SA have been working towards the development of a memorandum of understanding which would outline when and how referrals are made to the RSPCA. In response to the live baiting scandal, Greyhound Racing SA and the RSPCA agreed to cooperate in the investigation of all alleged animal welfare offences. Greyhound Racing SA has the authority to enter licensed premises at any time to ensure compliance. This level of inspection, with no suspicion of a breach of legislation, is not available to external bodies, including authorised animal welfare inspectors, I am advised.
If Greyhound Racing SA suspects a breach, they will advise the RSPCA inspectors who have the authority to conduct a regulatory investigation. Greyhound Racing South Australia and the RSPCA have also agreed the triggers for Greyhound Racing SA to engage SA Police in relation to a suspected or known breach of the Animal Welfare Act in situations where the circumstances are deemed to constitute, or potentially constitute, a criminal matter. To develop the MOU, and achieve a positive outcome, it is imperative that the RSPCA and Greyhound Racing SA continue to work together in a collaborative and respectful manner.
The success of the government's response to interstate allegations of live baiting is founded on the cooperative relationship between the RSPCA and Greyhound Racing SA. The Minister for Racing and I have implored the two organisations to again work together cooperatively. The government is open to considering further reforms, but the two organisations need to work together to develop a plan for a way forward and then put that plan to government, as happened so successfully previously.
In regard to the honourable member's questions about standing by what I have said previously, I have no difficulty with that. I have not been provided with any evidence of live baiting occurring in South Australia. But, as I said at the time, it would be silly for us to assume that it couldn't occur in South Australia because we know it does occur in the Eastern States. That is the rationale and the reason behind why we have moved so very quickly in this state with the legislation that has now passed both chambers.
In regard to reports of dogs being trained with live baiting interstate, there is a free movement of animals and people, of course, between Australian jurisdictions. There is no way that I know of to know whether South Australian greyhounds have been taken interstate to be trained using live baits. South Australian legislation does not apply in other jurisdictions so the South Australian government could not address this, even if there was evidence of it occurring interstate. However, this may be an area the greyhound racing authority could address through its own code of conduct with its own members, and that is something I will be raising when I meet with them this week when I have one of our regular meetings with the Minister for Racing, Greyhound Racing SA and the RSPCA.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:45 :52 ): The minister has not actually responded to the second question I put to him, which was the incident at Two Wells and whether he has investigated whether there were any breaches of the Animal Welfare Act.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:46 :04 ): To the best of my knowledge, no breaches have been brought to my attention.