Page 4294 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2005

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owners to allow dogs off leash except in off-leash zones, but that is rarely enforced by the government, despite common sightings of owners allowing dogs off leash in prohibited areas. Why have a law if you cannot police it? There is risk of that if you do not have enough resources to back up the law.

Mr Speaker, it is also illegal for an owner to allow their dog to defecate in public without the owner picking it up, but I do not think anyone in the ACT has ever been charged for this offence. There are not enough rangers to police the whole thing anyway. Also, the cost of housing seized cats will be an extra burden to both the government and cat owners and the seven-day holding period for seized cats may be too short, even though it is the same as for dogs. Maybe in the future we need to look at extending the holding period for both cats and dogs to ensure there is a better chance of the animals being returned to their homes rather than being rehoused or destroyed.

Low income earners, who often rely on cats for company, also will be severely hampered by the increased costs of ownership under the proposed compulsory guidelines. The Stanhope government is not proposing cat registration, which would probably be a more effective way of managing the problem and ensuring an effective cat management database. The irony is that this government wants to issue on-the-spot fines for an owner whose cat may have accidentally strayed outside the front door, yet it refuses to implement an on-the-spot fine system for real criminals, such as graffiti vandals.

Mr Hargreaves: We will microchip your graffiti blokes!

MR PRATT: My God, don’t reduce the amount of graffiti under any circumstance! This government wants to punish ordinary, everyday people but does not want to punish the types of people who go around committing deliberately disgraceful acts of vandalism. This is an unnecessary piece of legislation. I heard the minister talking about perhaps microchipping graffiti artists.

Where is the evidence that we do have a serious cat problem in the ACT that requires the sorts of substantial controls that are being proposed by the government? This is bureaucracy gone mad. It is another case of big brother watching you, and your cat. Stifling control measures are being put in place, yet the government fails to deploy resources to address problem areas such as the spreading of graffiti. The government is frightened to deploy sufficient inspectors to carry out sting operations so that the government might make examples of at least a number of offenders. The government does not have sufficient random vehicle inspections. Inspections dropped by about 10,000 to 12,000 in the last two years. The government does not have sufficient resources to quickly repair streetlights that have gone out.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Pratt, come back to the subject matter of the bill, please.

MR PRATT: The government is seeking to misspend the little it has in resources on controlling our cats when there is not substantial evidence that we have a major cat problem. Those resources could be better directed to addressing the issues I have listed.

What is it with cats, Mr Speaker? Why are they the easy target of the many targets in the municipality arena that need to be attended to? The answer, of course, is that the government is merely pandering to a green lobby, an easy project but one with

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