Mr DULUK (Davenport) (16:47): I would also like to make a small contribution to this debate and welcome the government's finally presenting the long overdue legislation. I would like to acknowledge the many stakeholders who have made a contribution to the substance of this bill, including the RSPCA, the Animal Welfare League, the Local Government Association, the Australian Veterinary Association and, of course, the many dog breeder associations. I also want to acknowledge Andrew Lamb, who is here in the chamber today, for all the work that he has been doing in this bit of legislation (and also for the umpiring he is going to do on Saturday).
In my small contribution, I want to highlight some of the outcomes of the committee and of the citizens' jury. One thing that strikes me about a lot of this legislation is that it seems to take so long from go to whoa to get it through this government, from when consultation starts to when we almost see legislation pass. The community has long urged the government to act in this matter, and I am not sure why it has taken so long. Of course, the Hon. Michelle Lensink in the other house introduced the Animal Welfare (Companion Animals) Amendment Bill in September 2014, and the government introduced its own bill only in November 2015, so we have been talking about this issue is for quite a while now.
This bill proposes a number of changes to the act, including mandatory desexing, mandatory microchipping and mandatory breeder registrations. Maintaining animal welfare is of course something that is very important to so many of us. This bill ensures that there are measures that protect animal wellbeing, and that is of course supported. Irresponsible pet owners will now be punished under this new bill. On this side of the house, we support many of the changes, and one issue that this debate has been able to bring out in the community is the need for people to be responsible animal owners, responsible pet owners, and really focus individuals on being responsible for their pets.
Some of the recommendations of the select committee were to improve welfare standards in the breeding of companion animals, increase purchaser confidence in the source of their companion animals, reduce the number of surrendered animals and, by extension, euthanasia numbers for those animals, and increase public awareness of animal welfare issues and owner responsibilities, which I believe are some of the most important. The citizens' jury created by the Dog and Cat Management Board recommended some other points as well:
• that there be greater coordination of educational programs about responsible pet ownership, including the introduction of online tests for kids and people in general to become pet owners( and I can just see all those kids out there on their iPads doing their online test in order to look after Moxie the cat);
• legislation to encourage more acceptance of tenants with dogs and cats, which I think is a really important one, especially for many elderly citizens who may live on their own and who may use dogs and cats as companion animals; that is very important for interaction and a sense of responsibility and companionship as well;
• legislation to restrict the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores and mandatory registration and licensing of dog and cat breeders; and
• a centrally-managed, statewide database for microchip data for dogs and cats.
As I said, there is broad support from this side of the house. We do want to ensure there is exemption for working dogs in this bill. I certainly know that it is members on this side of the house that always champion dogs and anything related to the land, so we want to see an exemption from that, for the four-legged ones. We also believe that fines in this bill should be open to parliamentary oversight, that that should be looked at through the legislative framework rather than through regulation.
There are a couple of other differences as well around the code of practice. Indeed, for me— and I suppose it will be something we will be seeing coming through—it is how we are going to deal with the code, how breaches of the code will be dealt with, and councils be relying on information from the public to investigate breaches of the code. That is probably a bit of a grey area in terms of how the code will work and how that will be implemented.
As I said, by and large there are big advantages to the community in this legislation, and that is why I think it is broadly supported in the community as well. I think it will see an administrative burden on councils. Reducing the reach of government is always welcome, and I think we will be able to save a bit of money here as well.
The dog registration categories are being reduced from eight to two, so a simplified system, and of course the establishment of a single officer identification will be an important one as well. Councils will also be able to monitor registered breeders in this new legislation, and will be able to further tighten the grip in removing puppy and kitten farming, which we know is a really unsavoury element in the community. I know that the member for Bright has been very vocal in his opposition to puppy farms and those sorts of practices.
Of course mandatory desexing decreases animal welfare admission rates and helps to reduce cat overpopulation, creating a safer environment, and that is one I certainly welcome very strongly. Finally, it is good to see this bill before the house. We would all have liked to have seen it sooner, but I congratulate all the stakeholders in their efforts.