Author Topic: Animal welfare wrangle 22.2.2012  (Read 830 times)

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Animal welfare wrangle 22.2.2012
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2013, 05:20:39 PM »
LABOR’S proposed Independent Office of Animal Welfare will aim to seize control of live exports and the plans are “well advanced”, according to one of its chief architects, Fremantle Labor MP Melissa Parke. 

Last November, the ALP caucus endorsed plans to develop a preferred model for the new Office, from a commitment made at the ALP’s 2011 National Conference.
Ms Parke also raised a motion at that conference to end live exports in a four year phase-out which was narrowly defeated, with 174 delegates supporting the trade’s end and 215 voting against it.

In the House of Representatives earlier this month, Ms Parke provided an update on plans for the new statutory authority from the dedicated Caucus Live Animal Export Working Group.

She said the public’s faith in Australia's animal welfare system had been undermined in recent years due to revelations of cruelty to livestock, both here and in countries Australia exported livestock to.

Ms Parke said industry self-regulation had often amounted to “self-delusion”.

She said unfortunately, no existing government department had overarching responsibility for animal welfare as its core role.

Ms Parke said the new Office would be a statutory authority operating outside of the agriculture portfolio, dedicated to animal welfare policy, science and law and independent of undue influence from competing political and commercial interests.

She said it would be internationally recognised as a centre of excellence in animal welfare.

The office will take the lead role in managing the development of national animal welfare policy, including the standards and guidelines, and facilitating harmonised legal outcomes by the states and territories.

It won’t administer or enforce animal welfare legislation - currently, the responsibility of states and territories - due to the political, constitutional and budgetary difficulties involved.

However, it would oversee the live export system since this is a specific responsibility of the Commonwealth.

A significant proportion of the resources and funding for the office would be sourced from existing government structures.

Ms Parke said the functions proposed don’t represent a significant increase to those already provided for, and there would be considerable cost savings by the rationalisation of existing animal welfare committees and processes.

“This is a real opportunity for Australia to manage animal welfare in a better, fairer and more cost-effective way and I believe this reform will be warmly welcomed by the Australian community,” she said.

Currently DAFF has chief responsibility for animal welfare policy and most state and territory departments of agriculture and primary industries are responsible for animal welfare legislation.

The regulatory regimes for live animal and meat exports are currently administered and enforced by DAFF and include welfare considerations.
Other departments at both levels of government are involved to varying degrees in specific animal welfare issues on the basis that these are incidentally relevant to their core areas of responsibility, such as environment and health.

Ms Parke said agriculture departments, including DAFF, were not widely regarded by the community or animal welfare groups as being impartial on animal welfare.

She said DAFF's historical role as an agency with a core responsibility for ensuring profitable primary industry meant it was “ill-suited” to take on the growing role of animal welfare oversight and regulation, especially in relation to livestock.

She said DAFF was “inherently conflicted” because improvements in animal welfare were often not consonant with increased productivity and profitability, and vice versa.

In previous media interviews, Ms Parke has said her views on removing the Agriculture Minister’s responsibility for animal welfare, due to conflicts of interest, were the same reasons why the Resources Minister is not also the Environment Minister.

Mr Parke said the department's conflicts of interest skewed decision-making in the development processes for the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines and the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock.

She said decision-making committees also tended to be dominated by industry and agriculture, while a lack of independent animal welfare science is also a major problem.

“While the Australian animal welfare system strongly advocates the need for policy to be evidenced based and to reflect scientific knowledge, this is currently not often the case,” she said.

“The results of too many animal welfare studies remain commercial in confidence and not subject to independent peer review and public access.”

Ms Parke also acknowledged the work of RSPCA policy officer Jed Goodfellow and former WA State Government Manager Animal Welfare Dr Jenni Hood, in assisting with the proposed model.

Ms Parke was recently elevated to the Gillard Ministry along with another member of the Working Group and outspoken live export critic, Kelvin Thomson.

The Victorian MP was made the Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, while Ms Parke was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Homelessness and Social Housing and Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health.

The RSPCA has supported setting up an independent office of animal welfare to complement its role and operate independently like the Productivity Commission.

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig and Mr Thomson’s offices were contacted for comment.

Minister Ludwig has repeatedly said the government supports live exports and has placed animal welfare at the heart of its new Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, to secure a more robust future for industry and producers.

22 Feb, 2013
« Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 06:38:36 PM by WA Export News »