Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 2 Hansard (16 February) . . Page.. 454..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
attacked the poor, defenceless eight-week old kitten at a railway station. I refer members to Hansard of 13 May 2004, pages 1865 to 1867. On page 1866 I go through the various penalties and the increases I am proposing. I am not going to bother reading those out; they are in Hansard for anyone to see.
Other states are looking to increase penalties. Some states already have significant penalties. The RSPCA advised me that one state has a maximum penalty of up to seven years imprisonment. Increasing penalties does not mean a court is automatically going to go for the maximum, but it gives a better range of penalties for a court to bring home the seriousness of offences for cruelty to animals than we have at present.
I have also spoken to Mr Tadd recently in relation to this. My bill provides for penalties of up to five years imprisonment. The current maximum penalty is only one year. The comments made by the government in Saturday's Canberra Times seem to indicate it thinks two years is more reasonable. If that is what is needed to get an improvement, I am more than happy with that, as is Mr Tadd. Even an increase to two years would be a significant improvement on what we have at present.
So I am happy to work in a spirit of cooperation with all members of the Assembly on this bill. If people have different ideas-as seems the case after what I read in the paper on Saturday-I am more than happy to talk to them. At the end of the day any improvement that adds a greater range of penalties for the courts will be better than none at all. It is high time that we looked seriously at this issue. It is a particularly nasty offence because many animals are totally dependent on humans. They cannot talk or look after themselves, and acts of cruelty, especially particularly vicious cruelty, are probably some of the more reprehensible crimes one can think of. The RSPCA will tell you-and a fair bit of study has been done on this-there is a real correlation between people starting off being very cruel to animals and going on to be cruel to human beings. When I introduced the bill last year I mentioned the case of Martin Bryant as a case in point. He started his particularly nasty career by shooting neighbourhood cats and being cruel to them.
I commend the bill to the Assembly. I look forward to working with members of the Assembly on it. As I have indicated, if members want to amend it, I am more than happy to facilitate that, but it is crucially important that we address this issue. It has been around for decades and we would be derelict if we did not take some steps to improve the protection of animals.
Debate (on motion by Ms Gallagher ) adjourned to the next sitting.
Leave of absence
Motion (by Mr Hargreaves ) agreed to:
That leave of absence be given to Mr Corbell (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) and Mr Pratt for this sitting.
MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (10.55): I move: