Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 June 2005) . . Page.. 2145 ..
the restrictions; rehabilitative options such as counselling, anger management and antiviolence programs; and appropriate community service orders.
When amendments to the legislation were put before the Assembly last year, the government indicated that there is a need to provide direction to magistrates and perhaps investigate the link between cruelty to animals and violent behaviour towards animals. The government also indicated that the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee had undertaken a review of elements of the Animal Welfare Act and that the government was reviewing its recommendations and would address the penalty provisions of the act.
I understand that the government is planning to propose changes to the legislation later this year. However, I have to say that this has been a relatively closed process and has not effectively engaged the community in dialogue on these matters. I call on the government to undertake a public and consultative review of the animal welfare legislation. Such a review should engage the community in establishing agreed standards relating to, and looking more broadly at, the mechanisms for identifying and responding to suspected instances of animal cruelty.
I believe that there is sufficient community interest to have a robust public discussion, with the potential to substantially tighten both the legislation and the responses to instances of cruelty. I believe too that we should be aware that we are all complicit in animal cruelty unless we take steps to ensure that the eggs, meat and milk that we consume are not produced by methods of intensive farming that engage in inhumane husbandry and/or slaughtering practices.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (12.05), in reply: I thank members for their comments. It was probably somewhat difficult to come up with amazingly convoluted excuses for not voting for this bill, which is a sensible piece of legislation which takes into account concerns raised by the government last year in an effort by me to get it through. I will address a few points raised by members prior to reading out a letter from the RSPCA and a very good media release by Mike O’Shaughnessy of Animal Liberation ACT in support of the bill, which is a fairly basic bill.
I will respond firstly to Dr Foskey. We just had a motion before us about the need to support the conservation council and she talked, probably genuinely, of concerns about cruelty to animals. As a result of last year’s little effort, we already have a provision whereby there is a mandatory requirement for people to go and get the treatment Dr Foskey referred to and a lot of what she was saying in that regard would be covered effectively by that.
Whilst it may be true to say that increasing penalties on its own is not enough, it is a very good start. It is a very good start when you take into account all the other points you raised, which courts have been dealing with for decades. Very much so in the ACT, all of those factors are taken into account by the courts. But the Magistrates Court itself, over about the last 20 years, has been bemoaning the fact that the penalties available to the magistrates are woefully inadequate.
If the Acting Attorney-General and, more specifically, her colleague the actual Attorney-General have real concerns about this subject, all they need to do it to have a chat to Ron Cahill, who has been around a long time. I can remember him and a number