Animal welfare (live baiting) amendment bill

In Parliament - Thursday, 10 September 2015

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (17:16:47): I rise also to speak in support of this bill. Like many who saw the ABC Four Corners episode 'Making A Killing' back in February of this year, I was deeply troubled by the report and the footage shown. As honourable members are well aware, I was not the only one appalled by what I saw. After the program aired, I received many hundreds of phone calls, emails and letters from my constituents asking for parliament to act to prevent such cruelty to animals. I have no doubt that many other members had a similar experience, and I am glad today that we are finally acting on what we saw on the Four Corners program.

The callous nature of what was depicted in the documentary showed the greed of unscrupulous greyhound trainers who sought advantage from what they knew to be an unfair, illegal and cruel practice. Those who would choose to engage in this act of live baiting smear all greyhound trainers, including those who do their utmost to properly care for their animals. In Queensland, one of the three states where live baiting was found to have been taking place, there have been significant developments in recent times. It has been reported that a Queensland police taskforce investigating live baiting has so far made 25 arrests based on 68 charges, the vast majority of those charges based on animal cruelty.In response to an inquiry conducted by commissioner Alan MacSporran QC, the Queensland government committed to significant reform to the racing industry in their state, and I will return to reform of the industry shortly. Thankfully, there has been no evidence suggesting that greyhound trainers in South Australia have been engaging in this despicable practice, but we cannot be certain about this, and as the government has already pointed out, there is no assurance that it does not take place in our state as well. I believe the bill before us provides a measured response to make sure that the integrity of current laws are upheld and allows a safe, fair and humane racing industry to continue in South Australia. Most notably, this bill imposes strict penalties for not only those personally engaged in live baiting but also those persons who in any way contribute to such disgraceful practices.

The house should note that it was the Liberal Party that immediately took the initiative to amend this important legislation. Within 10 days of the airing of the Four Corners episode, our colleague in the other place, the Hon. Michelle Lensink, introduced a bill: the Animal Welfare (Greyhound Training) Amendment Bill 2015. The bill introduced by the Hon. Michelle Lensink, like the government bill, has sought to toughen the penalties on those persons who commit acts of animal cruelty and those associated with acts committed. However the bill put forward by the Liberal Party and, indeed, by the Hon. Michelle Lensink went further in putting forward suggested reform, namely, the introduction of a licensing system of greyhound training facilities overseen by the minister.

In relation to the bill before us, although the government's bill toughens penalties to prevent animal cruelty in the racing industry, it does not specifically address the regulation of training facilities, particularly licensing, which I would like to see. In terms of the current bill, the new penalties include a maximum penalty of $50,000 or imprisonment for four years for a person who organises or otherwise takes part in live coursing and is guilty of that offence, which is a dramatic increase and certainly a harsh penalty.

Additionally, a person who sells or supplies an animal to another knowing that the animal is to be used as bait in live coursing is guilty of an offence, with a maximum penalty $20,000 or imprisonment for two years. Indeed, in terms of operating without a licence, the bill states:

A person must not accept , in accordance with the licence under this part , operate a prescribed facility for the purpose of training or exercising a dog or undertake an activity to which this part applies.

The maximum penalty is $10,000 or imprisonment for one year for noncompliance. There are a lot of harsher penalties in this proposed bill, but as I reflected on, it would be worthwhile I think for the government to consider the introduction of a licensing system for greyhound training facilities overseen by the minister.

It is for this reason that I would encourage the government to work with Greyhound Racing SA and the RSPCA to implement a stronger system of oversight for all training facilities. Since the cruel acts occurred at training facilities in the Eastern States, it is imperative that the government ensure robust reform at a regulatory level to prevent the widespread cruelty such as we have seen in Queensland.

My colleagues and I have seen evidence of much stronger action from the racing industry in South Australia, which is welcome, and I note that a high level of cooperation from Greyhound Racing SA has been forthcoming, and I commend it for that. The vast majority of those involved in the racing industry are good and honest people. Our support for them should remain as long as they maintain the highest possible standards of animal welfare. Indeed, if this high standard of animal welfare cannot be maintained, then the industry should be under serious investigation and lose its right to operate as an industry.

The government has made an admirable start to prevent the incidence of animal cruelty in the greyhound racing industry, so I do encourage it to work with all stakeholders through law regulation and partnerships with relevant organisations for oversight to be effective. Those of us on this side of the chamber, as we have readily demonstrated time and time again, will always remain committed to the prevention of cruelty to animals. I commend the bill to the house.