As noted in Chapter 1, the committee agreed not to advertise the inquiry
widely or accept public submissions. Instead, a group of animal welfare organisations
and the Department of Agriculture were invited to submit to the inquiry.
Submissions were received from the following organisations:
Humane Research Australia;
Sentient: The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics;
Lawyers for Animals;
Department of Agriculture; and
World Animal Protection
Support for the bill
It is noted that the vast majority of submissions received were from
organisations which advocate an increased focus on animal welfare. It is also
noted that the majority of these submissions expressed support for the Voice
for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2015.
RSPCA Australia, for example, expressed support for the intent of the
bill and argued that a 'national approach to animal welfare policy and independent
oversight of the effectiveness of the live animal export regulatory framework
is desperately needed'.
It was further argued that:
A national approach is needed to promote consistency and to
develop a proactive strategy that addresses animal welfare issues before they
become national headlines. This will create further certainty for business,
investment and trade, reduce unnecessary duplication at a state government
level, and most importantly, contribute to the sustained improvement of animal
welfare standards across the country.
In expressing the view of the Barristers Animal Welfare Panel (BAWP)
Director, Mr Graeme McEwen, told the committee that the organisation was
supportive of the proposed new legislation and argued that what the bill seeks
to do is to encourage the Department of Agriculture – whilst maintaining its
powers – to:
... focus properly on animal welfare, because it needs to do so
if we are going to move forward. Ultimately, this must be to the benefit of
industry. It creates confidence. So this bill, I think, gets it right. 
PETA Australia (PETA) indicated that whilst it is an 'animal rights'
rather than 'animal welfare' organisation which 'will always champion an animal
rights approach' it is also an organisation that works to minimise animal
suffering. PETA noted that its position on the bill overall is, therefore, one
We believe that the establishment of an IOAW is essential and
justified ... and a promise to the Australian public long overdue to be
Animal Liberation indicated that whilst the new legislation proposed by
the bill is 'commendable in principal'
the bill does not go far enough. The organisation proposed a measure similar to
the Inspector General of Animal Welfare but with greater power – a National
Animal Welfare Authority – designed to protect animal welfare in
Commonwealth-regulated activities. It was argued that such a body, which could
operate concurrently with state and territory laws, and which 'has the power to
examine all animal welfare matters within Federal government jurisdiction would
provide better protection for animals in Australia'.
Government position on the bill
The submission provided by the Department of Agriculture outlined the
government's position in relation to the issue of animal welfare, particularly
as it relates to agricultural production. The submission also made specific
comment in relation to the bill and the establishment of an independent office
of animal welfare.
The Department noted that, on 31 July 2013, the then government
announced it would establish an independent position – the IOAW – to review and
audit Australia's live export trade processes and develop systems to strengthen
Australia's animal welfare assurance system.
However the Department's submission also noted that on 31 October 2013,
the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce, MP, announced that the
government would not proceed with the establishment of an IOAW and that the
... confident that the establishment of a regulatory framework
for livestock exports was designed to minimise the risk of adverse animal
welfare outcomes and that the Inspector General position added an unecessary
[sic] layer of bureaucracy without any practical benefit.
Australian Animal Welfare Strategy
The Department of Agriculture's submission noted that, as part of its
responsibilities in relation to animal welfare, it 'supports the implementation
of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) as the national blueprint for
sustainable improvements in animal welfare'.
During the committee's hearing, the Department was questioned about the
current status of the AAWS. Deputy Secretary, Phillip Glyde indicated that
whilst the AAWS had 'been through at least two iterations over the last eight
to 10 years', the 'Australian Animal Welfare Strategy exists; it is still
Mr Glyde further explained that:
Previously, the Australian Department of Agriculture had
played a pretty strong role in bring together all of the parties, in regular
meetings, to monitor the progress of that. The government decided, as a
cost-saving measure, to abolish the AusAWAC, as it was called, the advisory
committee in relation to AWS. It, nevertheless, maintained the strategy and it
remains the responsibility of all of the parties to implement their various
responsibilities under the strategy. Essentially, that is what the Australian
government is doing.
Mr Glyde also indicated that a Commonwealth/State committee currently
exists under AGMIN. It was further noted that:
It is a task group that is underneath the chief executives of
the departments of agriculture around the country that, in essence, monitors
the roles of government. But there are responsibilities for industry in there
Comments in relation to specific sections of the bill
Department of Agriculture –
conflict of interest
A number of submissions raised concerns that, at the Commonwealth level,
the Department of Agriculture is the department responsible for animal welfare
Animals Australia, for example, indicated that the organisation's
'foremost issue with the Bill in its present form is that it is not clear
within which Department the IOAW will sit'. However, assuming that it is most
likely to sit within the Department of Agriculture, it was argued that, under
that framework, there would be a 'clear and serious conflict of interest within
the Department': 
The Department's primary responsibility is ensuring
profitable and productive primary industries within Australia, with its
responsibility for animal welfare being a secondary and often conflicting
responsibility. This makes the Department largely unsuited to carry out its
responsibilities for animal welfare in Australia, as, in the majority of
instances, improvements and strict regulation over animal welfare conflicts
with its primary purpose of achieving profitable primary industries.
Sentient: The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics (Sentient) noted
that the organisation has, for some time been concerned about the 'inadequacies
of the current animal welfare and related regulatory frameworks in Australia'.
The organisation also raised specific concerns about the conflicts of interest
which arise when the 'agencies responsible for administering and enforcing the
legislation have, as their core business aims, the promotion and profitability
of the industries they are attempting to regulate'.
Sentient conceded, however, that whilst the bill does not propose that
the OAW would directly address the Department of Agriculture's existing conflicts
It is however, a powerful first step to manage these conflicts
by providing oversight by an independent agency. Additionally, this would send
a strong message that such oversight is needed in the jurisdictions. Ideally,
of course, state and territory animal welfare legislation should be
administered and enforced by independent agencies, such as IOAWs instead of
departments of agriculture (as is currently the case).
Lawyers for Animals (LFA) also indicated its support for the OAW being charged
with undertaking inquiries and preparing reports about the activities and
effectiveness of both the Live Export Standards Advisory Group (LESAG) and the
Office of Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (OAWAC). LFA argued that:
... it is critically important that such review functions be
performed by a body that is independent from animal-industry, as the Department
of Agriculture cannot be, since it represents the interests of animal-industry
Voiceless also noted that under the current drafting of the bill, the OAW
would report to and take direction from the Minister for Agriculture. Further,
the Voiceless submission recommended that, in order for the OAW to be separated
from the Department of Agriculture, and to avoid any further conflict of
it would be more appropriate for the IOAW and the CEO to report to either the
Attorney-General's Department or the Department of the Environment.
BAWP, however, took a slightly different view regarding the Department
of Agriculture's involvement in animal welfare. Director, Mr Graeme McEwen
argued that, in terms of animal welfare:
We need to take producers and farmers with us – which is
another reason, perhaps, it [animal welfare] should be left with the Department
of Agriculture here in Australia. It can see that this is a process brought
about with a Department of Agriculture that goes along with it as it responds
to reports and inquiries of this Independent Office of Animal Welfare. It is a
good thing. And we move forward. I think this bill gets it right.
For governments, or even opposition parties, it is good to
say, 'We're not removing the teeth from the Department of Agriculture. We do
want an animal welfare voice being factored into outcomes rather than, as at
the moment, being completely ignored.' Consumers will respond to that. It needs
to be explained to rural constituencies or regional constituencies that this,
ultimately, is in their best interests, It is all about creating consumer
confidence, because that is, ultimately, where the products go.
In response to the evidence received which raised concerns about the
Department's potential conflict of interest (in relation to animal welfare),
Deputy Secretary, Mr Phillip Glyde told the committee that:
Earlier today, you heard that you really cannot have the
poacher as the gamekeeper and that there is a strong conflict between animal
welfare outcomes and livestock profitability. We try in our submission to
outline the reasons why we think it is not as simple as that. There is
certainly a tension between welfare and profitability, but in our experience,
if you improve animal welfare outcomes, you have increased productivity and you
have improved competitiveness – for us, particularly, as we are a high cost
producer and increasingly our markets are demanding good outcomes, whether it
is sustainability in an environmental sense or good animal welfare practice or
good supply chain management to ensure the quality and healthiness of our food
products that we export. That is one of the keys: good animal welfare practice
is a key to improve competitiveness. Finally, on sustainability, unless the
Australian community knows that in the great majority of cases animal welfare
is being looked after – if that is not nurtured – the community will lose faith
in the ability of the industry to do that. So we think there are a lot of good
reasons why industry and animal welfare outcomes are intertwined.
Clause 6 – Constitution
In line with concerns about the Department of Agriculture's potential conflict
of interest, Sentient argued that rather than a CEO, the proposed OAW would be
best served by an Independent Commissioner who would answer only to a Minister
administratively, rather than by a CEO 'who is a servant of the government'.
In addition, Sentient argued that:
... the Minister must not be the Minister for Agriculture,
given the conflict of interest that is inherent in this portfolio. The IC
should report administratively to the Attorney General (AG), and if the IOAW is
to be housed inside any department, it should be the AG's Department to ensure
Clause 9 – Functions of the CEO
Voiceless argued that the bill should be amended to make clear that the OAW
and the OAWAC are responsible for the coordination and development of the
animal protection standards, including facilitating the conversion process of
the Model Codes of Practice to Standards and Guidelines. It was argued that
... resolve the concerns around AHA [Animal Health Australia]
continuing to control this process, and ensure appropriate minimum animal
protection standards are set that accurately reflect community expectations.
Sentient told the committee that 'it would like to see the eventual
establishment of statutory authorities similar to the IOAW at the state and territory
In the meantime, however, Sentient recommended that:
... the aims of this current bill be extended to allow the IOAW
to harmonise animal welfare laws of the Commonwealth and states and
territories, as proposed in subsection 9(c) of the bill. The IOAW would then
also have the proposed role of a policy body and think tank that, via
consultation and discussion, could influence a broader range of animal welfare
issues than those for which the Commonwealth government has strict legislative responsibility.
Clause 10 – Minister may give
directions to the CEO
PETA argued that whilst Clause 10 does note that any directions the
Minister gives the CEO must be of a general nature only:
... the potential for abuse of this power does give us pause
and we believe it is worth considering some further clarification or
limit-setting in regards to this section.
Clause 20 – Termination of
PETA's submission expressed concern in relation to Clause 20, which
provides that the Minister may terminate the appointment of the CEO for, among
other things, 'misbehaviour':
PETA's view is that while an exhaustive list of scenarios
that might qualify as misbehaviour of course cannot and should not be included
in this section, an illustrative one characteristic in statutes containing such
ductile terms should be considered, to inject some objectivity into the
Clause 26 – Membership of the
Sentient made several comments in relation to the membership of the
OAWAC, including that the three members representing non-governmental animal
welfare organisations should include representatives from RSPCA Australia and
It was also argued that because 'most animal and veterinary scientists
are funded by industry, it may be difficult to find an independent person'.
Sentient therefore made the recommendation that this member should be 'an
animal or veterinary scientist who is independent of industry and has
demonstrated expertise in animal welfare research, teaching or advocacy, and has
related higher qualifications'.
Sentient also recommended:
the addition to the OAWAC of one member who represents the
veterinary profession; and
that a clause be added to ensure that no more than 50 per cent of
members may be affiliated with industry to ensure a balance on the committee.
World Animal Protection also commented on the issue of OAWAC
membership. The organisation indicated that whilst it is supportive of the
structure proposed by the bill, it believes the OAWAC should be 'underpinned by
an advisory and standard setting committee',
members representing the Commonwealth, States and Territories;
members representing industry interest, 1 for each production
animal group; 1 for companion animals; 1 for aquatic animals; 1 for animals in
the wild; 1 for animals in sport/on display; 1 for animals in research;
members representing community interests – for each production
animal group references above and one each for companion, aquatic, wildlife,
sport and research;
members representing academia and the law; and
expert scientific and technical members.
The committee notes widespread disagreement, even among animal welfare
groups, as to the structure and tone of any new animal welfare body
The committee also notes that the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy
still exists and that the Department of Agriculture continues its involvement
in the Commonwealth-state committee under AGMIN, and continues to have
responsibility for monitoring the roles of government.
The committee therefore does not support the establishment of a
statutory authority, the substantive functions of which are already achieved
through existing mechanisms.
The committee recommends that the bill not be passed.
Senator the Hon. Bill Heffernan
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