Back to All News

Speech: independent Office of Animal Welfare

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 23 Jun 2015

I am pleased to introduce the Greens' Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2015, which establishes the Office of Animal Welfare as an independent statutory authority - with its CEO responsible for reviewing and advising upon the protection of animal welfare in Commonwealth regulated activities.

The Greens are strongly committed to improving the welfare of animals across Australia, and share every compassionate Australian's abhorrence and despair at the continuing horrors and deep suffering borne by animals used for food, clothing, entertainment and profit.

Again and again, we keep seeing animals suffering sickening cruelty under the Government's ineffective Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme.

Terrified cattle cowering and slowly dying under the blows of sledgehammers; throats sawn agape; eyes gouged; tendons slashed; living beings stabbed, kicked, trussed and thrown; crying in pain and terror, buried or butchered alive.

Thousands of animals in a festival of slaughter. Thousands of animals debilitated in their own excrement on oven-baking ships. Thousands of animals dying horrific suffering deaths.

Time and again, our live export companies cover up, lie and mislead, and excuse the horrific brutality suffered by Australian animals.  Time and again, successive Australian governments and Ministers charged with growing the export market have turned a blind eye to systemic abuse, with the industry claiming humane care and state of the art facilities, even as Animals Australia and other investigators record the torture and terror being meted out to our animals in those slaughterhouses and in those markets.

Under the present system not a single company or person has been penalised. Not one banned.

Across Australia systemic abuse of animals continues: terrified animals used as live bait for racing greyhounds; hens suffer in tiny dark and filthy cages; pigs spend their lives in metal crates they can barely lay down in; ducks living in their own excrement without the water they need to function; cows milked beyond normal capacity with their tiny calves removed and killed as surplus to requirements; kangaroos mis-shot in the dead of night with their joeys killed by being swung by the tail - often ineffectively - against the back of a ute, or left to be torn apart by foxes or suffering a frightening death over many days.

And the response to such systematic cruelty across Australia?

In last year's budget, this Liberal-National Government withdrew the minimal $5 million funding and dissolved the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy which sought to provide a national framework to prioritise and coordinate actions to improve animal welfare across animal use sectors.

It disbanded the Australian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, an advisory group that provided consensus advice to government on animal welfare, and which comprised representatives from the livestock industries, vets, animal welfare advocates and researchers.

It discontinued the Live Animal Exports - Improved Animal Welfare Programme, which supported training in improved animal welfare in the countries importing Australian live animals.

At the same time the Government invested an extra $100 million to expand agricultural markets and profitability, and reopened notoriously cruel live export markets in the Middle East.

The Greens' Bill, Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2015, establishes the Office of Animal Welfare as an independent statutory authority, with responsibility, through its CEO, for advising upon the protection of animal welfare in Commonwealth regulated activities.

This Bill removes the Agriculture Minister, the industry and their excuses, from the current equation that has them effectively condoning the animal abuse that is continuing right now under this government, and which continued under the purview of the previous Labor governments.

The Office of Animal Welfare will assist its CEO in his or her functions, which include the review, inquiry, monitoring and reporting of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock and the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System. The CEO is also responsible for undertaking inquiries and preparing reports about the activities and effectiveness of the Live Export Advisory Group.

The CEO will monitor, investigate and report on animal welfare issues that impact the Commonwealth, on the work of animal welfare committees and review animal welfare laws and policies. The CEO will also implement of the Commonwealth's animal welfare laws, with the power to do all things necessary to be done to perform his or her functions.

The Bill also establishes an Office of Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to assist the CEO and his or her Office of Animal Welfare in performing its duties to the best possible standards.

The Committee's members will consist of the CEO and representatives of non-governmental animal welfare organisations, consumer groups, scientists and ethicists specialising in animal welfare issues, the Department and commercial producers or purchasers of animals or animal products, and two other members as considered appropriate by the CEO.

The CEO will provide reports to the Minister with recommendations which must be tabled in Parliament. The Minister will be required to respond to any recommendations made in the reports, and to table the response in Parliament.

These reports may review the work of key animal welfare committees, propose reforms to animal welfare legislation and standards and advise the Commonwealth on harmonisation of animal welfare laws of the Commonwealth, States and Territories.

The Bill directs the CEO to make the Office a Centre of Excellence for the collection and dissemination of information about animal welfare issues that impact the Commonwealth.

The CEO, supported by the Office, will also undertake inquiries, commission research and prepare reports about animal welfare issues. This will include protecting and promoting animal welfare in the export of live animals and the effectiveness of Commonwealth laws that apply to the export of live animals.The examination of the sustainability and animal welfare issues that arise in respect of killing kangaroos for commercial purposes also falls under the CEO's remit.

The CEO may also inquire and report on the Commonwealth's animal welfare policy, and scientific and legal issues and potential animal welfare issues that arise in respect of that policy; and the importation of animals and animal products and management of animal species introduced into Australia will also fall under its remit.

The CEO will develop and reintroduce an Australian Animal Welfare Strategy that will provide a national framework to identify priorities, coordinate stakeholder actions and improve consistency in animal welfare across all animal use sectors. He or she will consider animal welfare issues that arise in respect of the Model Codes of Practice for the welfare of animals and contribute work towards the harmonisation of animal welfare laws of the Commonwealth, States and Territories.

The CEO may also inquire into and report on the activities of the Department that relate to monitoring compliance with the Commonwealth's animal welfare laws. The effectiveness of these laws and their enforcement, and the effectiveness of the Department's implementation of the Commonwealth's animal welfare policy may also be examined and reported on.

The Office of Animal Welfare, directed by its CEO, would have the ability to truly independently examine and report on the continuing frameworks that perpetuate and excuse infliction of terrible suffering on other living beings - the animals we eat, we wear, we use for entertainment and profit. It would effectively give voice to those animals, where the Coalition and Labor have refused that voice.

Currently before the Senate sits Coalition Senator Back's repulsive Private Members' Ag-gag Bill that would prosecute without need for proof, animal welfare investigators who take visual recordings of systemic animal cruelty on Australia's factory farms, in greyhound training grounds, in live export slaughterhouses, shearing sheds and laboratories, and other animal use industries. While Labor does not support passage of the Bill, it has not condemned that Bill and the attempts to silence revelations of systemic cruelty in animal use industries.

The Greens have before the Senate a bill that would end the cruel live export trade. We continue to work to gain the Coalition and Labor's support of the bill.

The Greens also have before the Senate a bill that would end the import or use of animal-tested cosmetics and their animal-tested ingredients. We continue to work to gain the Coalition and Labor's support for the bill.

This Bill provides a new opportunity for the Coalition and especially Labor, to show Australians that they too believe the terrible suffering of animals in animal use industries is not acceptable and that things can and must change.

In 2012 the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party Caucus endorsed the Caucus Live Animal Export Working Group to develop a model for an Office of Animal Welfare, which reported back to the then Labor Agriculture Minister in 2013.

In a time-honoured buck-passing statement the then Labor Minister of Agriculture responded to the Greens' questioning about the Office that "there is work to be done in this area but the primary responsibility for animal welfare issues does remain with the state and territories".

This bill allows a constitutionally valid federal response to animal cruelty issues around Australia.

It reinstates the Coalition Government's dissolved Animal Welfare Strategy and its advisory group.

It would begin the long but so easily do-able road to protecting the wellbeing and welfare of the animals that we use.

This is what Australians want. It is what they expect.

There is nothing to stop Labor supporting this bill, and verifying its political will and the strength of truth of its asserted - but as yet unproven - commitment to the welfare of the animals that are captive to our care and good will.

I commend the Greens' Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2015 to the Senate.


Back to All News