Livestock (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

27 Mar 2012 archivespeech

This speech has some comments made in support of the lead speaker, the Hon. John Dawkins, in support of the Hon. Mr Brokenshire's position in unamended form. It also addresses issues in relation to the RSPCA.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I would like to make some comments in support of our lead speaker, the Hon. John Dawkins, in support of the Hon. Mr Brokenshire's position in unamended form. I would say at the outset that I am a member of the RSPCA and a very big fan, I think it does wonderful work, as most people in this chamber would. However, there is an elephant in the room, and that is not meant to be any sort of joke; that is, the Brinkworth case. The Brinkworth case has highlighted flaws in the current arrangement, in that a botched investigation led to a grazier, who was to be the defendant in a case of animal cruelty, receiving an undisclosed settlement from the RSPCA.

This is an issue that a lot of members have taken an interest in over the past few years. For those who are not familiar with it, the operations manager was sacked, the CEO resigned, as did several board members. The Hon. Mark Parnell alluded to the fact that the RSPCA had a change of regime, and I would like to acknowledge the new president, Sheree Sellick, and CEO Neale Sutton, whom I have met with on other animal welfare issues, and I would like to reassure them that in no way should they consider that anybody wishes to undermine their role. We commend them for their commitment to caring for unwanted and abused animals.

This case took place some time in 2009-10, so prior to the last election. The minister at the time was minister Jay Weatherill, who commissioned a report from the Solicitor-General in January 2010 into how this occurred, including, and I presume, whether the arrangements should be reviewed. In February 2010, president Sheree Sellick, in response to a lot of bad press, put the RSPCA's side of the story in her regular column to the membership, and I would like to refer to that now. She stated:

Several weeks ago, the RSPCA's Operations Manager, who was in charge of all inspectors, investigations and preparation for prosecutions, confessed to CEO Steve Lawrie that he had altered an application for a warrant to enter and search one of the Brinkworth properties. On preparing the case for prosecution, he had discovered that the property name on the warrant application was incorrect. Although the—

The CHAIR: Order! We have an amendment here; can we stick to the amendment, not make a second reading speech at this time.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Well, I would have made a second reading speech. I was denied a second reading speech earlier this evening. Perhaps—

The Hon. G.E. Gago interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: No; on the other bill that got guillotined.

The CHAIR: You are not really being relevant to the amendment.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I am being completely relevant to the amendment, Mr Chair.

The CHAIR: Not in my opinion, the Hon. Ms Lensink.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: This goes to the core of whether the—

The CHAIR: Moving right along.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: —RSPCA should continue.

The CHAIR: Moving right along. Wind it up.

The Hon. T.A. Franks interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Thank you. I welcome the support of the Greens on this occasion.

The CHAIR: The Hon. Ms Franks will speak when she gets the call.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I might have to move a motion and detain you all on some other evening.

The CHAIR: You can move whatever you like.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I am glad to hear that, Mr Chair.

The CHAIR: That is your prerogative.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I apologise to Sheree Sellick that I will not be able to put the RSPCA's side of the story, because the Chair is not interested. Where this particular review is at—

The CHAIR: Do a grievance tomorrow.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: —is a continuous mystery, which is being delayed. The farmers from the South-East who brought this issue to the attention of the RSPCA are none the wiser, particularly James Darling, who has complained in public. A survey by the Stock Journal showed that 70 per cent of its readership believe the government should be responsible for the prosecution of animal cruelty cases. The Chair of the Animal Law Welfare Committee of the Law Society, Joanna Fuller, when interviewed about this issue said that prosecution cases should be handled by the Crown Solicitor's Office as it has a staff of lawyers experienced in prosecution cases under other acts such as native vegetation and fisheries.

My question on notice, June 2010 was, 'When will the review be completed?' The reply (returned 10 months later) was that it was anticipated that the Solicitor-General's review was likely to be finished in May 2011. My FOIs have been obfuscated but I did receive a reply from the Solicitor-General who, as well as telling me that he is exempt from the FOI Act, said that it was ongoing, and this is dated July 2011, so we are now some 18 months down the track.

The most recent information that I have received on this case is via a letter to me from the environment minister dated 29 February 2012—so pretty new information. His response as to when the case will be made public was that he has not yet received the report prepared by the Solicitor-General. We are very much in the dark about the review which goes to the core of what this amendment is about, and, in the meantime, all those farmers who are the ones who originally brought that particular case to the attention of the RSPCA are not happy, as are a number of other people who, I think, do not have confidence in the process.

I would state that it is not the RSPCA as an organisation, it just a governance issue, and this is a classic case of a structure which hinders the process. The RSPCA is a charity, and the role of investigation and prosecution, I think, has been shown to be flawed through that particular case, which is very regrettable, but I think it does need to be referred to because it is germane to what we are discussing.