Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 414..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
That is the way we move on. As a result of some of the thorough coronial processes we have had in the ACT in the past the system has improved in many respects. As a result of coronial inquests that have taken place there have been some important initiatives in a number of ACT government agencies, and in a number of instances the same mistakes have not been made twice. If we adopt this Labor idea that no-one is to blame, we cannot apportion any fault, everything is all right and we will make a few recommendations to improve the system, I fear that we will not learn and we will run the risk of grievous errors being made. People will not learn from their mistakes and the innocent will suffer. Indeed, in some instances, they suffer with their lives. It is crucial that we get this review right.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (5.17): While we are on the theme of bushfires, the matter about which I want to speak tonight is the RSPCA, one of the organisations so adversely affected by those terrible fires. But on a more constructive or positive note I wanted to make mention of my visit to that facility not so long ago when I had an opportunity to meet with Michael Linke, the CEO of the ACT division of the RSPCA. During that meeting we discussed issues relating to animal welfare and the role of the RSPCA in the ACT.
RSPCA ACT is a non-government funded organisation that, as a result of its location in Canberra, provides unique opportunities for re-homing companion animals as well as rehabilitating native wildlife. The RSPCA staff and volunteers are engaged in active caring every day of the year to ensure that all animals that arrive at the RSPCA are given every opportunity to live a fulfilling and healthy life.
There are four main functions of the RSPCA in the ACT: the operation of an inspectorate service, the operation of an animal shelter, raising community awareness through education, and raising funds. The society's first function is to investigate cases of alleged cruelty or neglect via an inspectorate service that ensures community compliance with the Animal Welfare Act 1992. As members may well be aware, this act gives RSPCA inspectors the power, when necessary, to enter premises, seize any animal and lay charges that could result in fines of up to $10,000, a year's imprisonment, or both.
Many of the complaints that are received do not warrant such harsh action. I am informed by the RSPCA that in most cases advice from an inspector and a follow-up visit are sufficient to ensure compliance. With the hot weather that we have had of late there are situations when people, either through oversight or a failure to appreciate the impact, do not leave out water for pets. The RSPCA, to its credit, is quick to move in those situations and inform people of their obligations.
Unfortunately, the RSPCA receives limited funding from the territory government to enforce the Animal Welfare Act on its behalf. I believe that increased government funding for this service would help the RSPCA perform its other important duties. Mr Linke explained that it is the government's responsibility to manage this aspect of service provided by the RSPCA, and stated his belief that it should recognise the important and vital work undertaken by the association by increasing funding. My