Australian Greens' Dissenting Report
The Greens Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare)
Bill would help reduce the cruelty animals are subjected to.
The Greens are deeply committed to
improving animal welfare across Australia. We share every compassionate
Australian’s repugnance at the cruelty and deep suffering that continues to be
perpetrated on animals used for food, clothing, experiments, entertainment and
The sickening cruelty borne by animals whose care and wellbeing is
dependent on our commitment continues unabated, only revealed by courageous
independent animal welfare investigators. Last night Animals Australia yet
again exposed that cruel horror and terror to which we condemn our livestock in
Animals continue to suffer sickening cruelty under the Government’s
ineffective Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme. Cattle cower and slowly die
under the blows of sledgehammers, their throats sawn agape, eyes gouged,
tendons slashed. Sheep are kicked, trussed and thrown onto car roofs or into
baking car boots, butchered or buried alive.
Every year we send thousands of our animals overseas where they are
brutalised and terrified in a festival of slaughter. We continue to condemn thousands
of animals in our care to be debilitated in their own excrement on oven-baking
ships, only to suffer a brutal and horrific death at the end of their journey.
Yet time and again, successive Australian governments and Ministers have
turned a blind eye to the systemic abuse in the live export market and continue
to make excuses for the suffering of these animals.
The Minister for Agriculture, charged with the care of our animals
farmed and slaughtered under primary production frameworks, continues to claim
the live export industry as humane asserting that the government is in
control of supply chain processes. This is even as Animals Australia and other
investigators bear witness to the suffering, terror and torture being meted out
to our animals in those overseas markets and slaughterhouses.
Under the present supply chain system not a single company or person has
been penalised. Not one banned.
Across Australia the systemic abuse of animals also continues, with no
one authority across jurisdictions or at a Commonwealth level to independently
assess, monitor, advise and report on the protection of animal welfare in
Commonwealth regulated activities, free from the influence of a Minister and
industry that seeks to use animals to maximise profits.
The Greens’ Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare)
Bill 2015 seeks to establish an Office of Animal Welfare as an independent
statutory authority with responsibility, through its CEO, to monitor,
investigate and report on the protection of animal welfare in Commonwealth
The bill seeks to remove the Minister charged with expanding animal
production industries from his or her conflicted role of ensuring animal
The Greens refer to the second reading speech on the Bill and note the
Majority Report already provides details of the bill as it currently stands.
The Greens thank the committee for its work on this inquiry. We
especially thank the organisations who submitted to the inquiry, and those who
attended inquiry hearings as witnesses.
The majority report
The Greens note the majority report recommends the bill not be passed,
noting “widespread disagreement, even among animal welfare groups, as to the
structure and tone of any new animal welfare body”.
The Greens disagree with this view, noting as does the majority report
that “the vast majority of submissions received were from organisations which
advocate an increased focus on animal welfare” and that “the majority of these
submissions expressed support for the Voice for Animals (Independent Office of
Animal Welfare) Bill 2015.”
The RSPCA summarises: “A national approach is needed to promote
consistency and to develop a proactive strategy that addresses animal welfare
issues before they become national headlines” and that “New Zealand, the United
Kingdom, Canada and the European Union all have formally established expert
animal welfare advisory bodies operating at the national or supra-national
level. The absence of any equivalent body in Australia represents a lost
opportunity for promoting better standards of animal welfare and is putting our
industries at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to trade, market access
and consumer confidence”.
It is not our intent to reiterate the majority report’s summary of
submitters and witnesses to the inquiry suffice to say that without exception,
all NGO submitters call for a strong and independent agency to oversee the
protection of animal welfare, and to ensure the protection of animal welfare as
the first priority.
We note that only the Department of Agriculture argued that there is no
need for the establishment of an independent office of animal welfare, stating
that its own functions and mechanisms are already sufficient in this regard.
The Greens disagree.
Dissenting Report Recommendations
We agree with NGO submitters that the bill should be amended to tighten
its provisions to ensure independence from Ministerial interference; and to
ensure its full jurisdiction over the issues identified by the submitters.
A key challenge of the bill is to ensure that its powers remain within
the legal remit of the Commonwealth. We accept Animal Liberation’s statement
that the “proposed bill does not go as far as the constitution allows” and that
“there is considerable power under, for example, corporations power to
legislate on animal welfare.”
The Greens also agree with the wide concerns that the protection of
animals deserves measures that have greater power for enforcement and
investigation. This recommendation is echoed in other submissions also. A National
Animal Welfare Authority is beyond the remit of this particular bill; however
the Greens are strongly committed to further exploring such a model informed by
consultation and advice from our animal welfare organisations.
The Greens believe the greatest challenge to effecting animal welfare
protections in Australia is the lack of commitment and will by successive
governments of both major political parties to prioritise the wellbeing of
animals dependent on our care and sense of responsiblity. An Independent
Office of Animal Welfare would remove the political conflicts of interest, and
would respond to the majority of Australians’ expectations that governments
should ensure the health and wellbeing of the animals.
A number of improvements to the bill were identified by all NGO
submitters and witnesses. The Greens thank them for this feedback and
incorporate those suggested improvements in the following (numbered)
Support the Bill
the bill be supported and passed with amendments that ensure the following:
The RSPCA noted the need for full consultation in the implementation of
the bill. The Greens agree and recommend:
in the implementation of the bill and setting up of the Independent Office for
Animal Welfare, states and territories and key stakeholders including animal
welfare organisations, non-industry animal scientists, independent veterinary
physicians are consulted to ensure the establishment of a national approach to
animal welfare policy and standards development.
Sentient recommends expanding the Bill’s title to ensure the full aims
of the Independent Office of Animal Welfare (IOAW) are reflected:
the bill’s title be expanded thus: “A bill for an Act to establish a
Commonwealth statutory authority with responsibility for protecting animal
welfare in Commonwealth regulated activities, and for related purposes, and to
assist in creating a more consistent and effective Australian animal welfare
Sentient also noted that a number of terms in the bill should be defined
and included in the Bill’s Definitions:
following terms referred to in Section 9 of the bill be defined in the Bill’s
Definitions: Live Export Advisory Group; Australian Animal Welfare Strategy;
ASEL; ESCAS; the Department.
PETA also expressed concerns that under section 20 of the bill, the
ability of the Minister to terminate the appointment of the CEO for, amongst
other things “misbehaviour”, risks the dismissal of a CEO who refuses to comply
with unreasonable or bad faith directions by the Minister.
The Greens’ suggested amendment clarifies and limits the type of
directions a Minister can make to the CEO, and includes a definition of
the term “misbehaviour” is defined in the bill to ensure refusal by a CEO to
comply with unreasonable directions by the Minister does not constitute reason
for termination of employment under Section 20.
Specifying the IOAW is separate
from the Department of Agriculture and its Minister.
As currently drafted the bill does not specify the Minister to whom the
IOAW and its CEO reports. Whilst this was in recognition that departmental and
Ministerial responsibilities shift with changing governments, all NGO submitters
were unequivocal in their concern about the serious conflicts of interest
between the Department of Agriculture and its Minister, and industry’s
disproportionate and oppositional influence in the pursuit of greater animal
Voiceless noted that “under the current drafting of the Bill, the IOAW
still reports to and takes direction from the Minister for Agriculture.”
Animals Australia reiterated those submitters who recommended “that
unless the Bill is amended to remove and effectively address the conflict of
interest and disproportionate industry influence that currently exists, the
Bill will not achieve its intended purpose.”
The Greens recognise this risk and agree that the bill should specify
the Minister responsible to whom the IOAW and its CEO will report, with the
Attorney General’s Department the commonly recommended alternative.
the bill be amended to specify that the IOAW and its CEO sits within the
Department of the Attorney General under the responsibility of the Attorney
Concerns about the ability of the IOAW’s CEO to remain independent from
Ministerial political interference was expressed by all NGO submissions, with
Sentient summarising the role of a CEO as a “servant of the government” and
thus susceptible to the government of the day’s political interference. The
Greens accept Sentient’s suggestion that the IOAW would be best served by an
Independent Commissioner (IC), noting that role has a natural fit with the
alternative model proposed by Animal Liberation.
The Greens commit to including this consideration in future iterations
of the IOAW along with consideration of investigative and enforcement powers,
Appointment of the CEO
It is noted that a conflict of interest potentially exists should the
CEO engage in any paid employment outside the duties of their office. The
Greens also accept that the CEO should not detract from the position itself by
engaging in paid employment outside the position:
Section 16 be amended to remove the ability for the Minister to approve the CEO
engaging in paid employment outside the duties of his or her office, by
removing the words “without the Minister’s approval”.
Disclosures of interests
Section 17 of the bill should be amended to ensure the CEO does not have
any actual or perceived conflicts of interest:
Section 17: The CEO must not have commercial interests in any animal industry
or trade regulated by the Department of Agriculture or any related animal
The Minister may give directions
There was also common concern about the ability for the Minister to give
written directions to the CEO in Section 10 of the bill.
PETA noted that as worded, this leaves “potential for abuse by the
Minister to undercut the core missions of the Office given the CEO is obliged
to comply with no explicit avenue of administrative appeal contemplated in the
Section 10 of the bill be amended to ensure that any directions given by the
Minister to the CEO are administrative only; that they do not interfere in any
way with ability of the IOAW and its CEO to fully and effectively discharge its
functions and aims; and that all written directions are made publically
Standards and Guidelines
Voiceless, BAWP and Animals Australia mirrored other submitter’s
concerns that Animal Health Australia (AHA) continues to control the conversion
process of the Model Codes of Practice to Standards and Guidelines, given that
the AHA is controlled by governments and major national livestock industry
organisations. Voiceless noted that “animal welfare is not included in AHA’s
state objectives, mission, vision or corporate values” and that none of its 32
members are animal protection organisations.
10. That the bill is amended to
ensure the IOAW and its CEO is responsible for the coordination, development
and progression of the animal protection standards, including the conversion of
the Model Codes of Practice.
Sentient also noted that reference to Standards and Guidelines is needed
in the bill:
11. That the bill is amended to
add reference to “Standards and Guidelines” where reference to “Model Codes of
Practice” exist” in the bill.
Sentient notes that the term “Livestock Standards functions” is
potentially confusing given it may be taken to refer to the ‘Land Transport
Standards’, the ASEL, or the proposed new Animal Welfare Standards and
Guidelines for sheep and cattle. Further, the term does not allude to
Commonwealth legislation regulating export abattoirs and animals in quarantine.
Animals Australia also noted the need for independently prepared compliance
reports in the live export area.
12. That the bill be amended to
replace the term “Livestock Standards” with “Regulatory functions” (s9
Functions of the CEO, CEO’s functions)
13. That CEO functions be
amended to include reviewing and monitoring live export, live export abattoirs
and animals in quarantine, and preparation of compliance reports following
alleged or self-reported breaches throughout the live export chain.
The Greens also agree with Sentient’s concern that the current wording
in s9 Reporting Functions is not broad enough and accept the suggested
amendments that they make.
Voiceless recommends the amendment of the Reporting Functions and
Standard-setting functions assist in remedying the identified lack of
independent science and research in animal protection, and allow for
independent science to be utilised in the standard-setting process.
14. That the bill clarify that
the IOAW and its Advisory Committee also have responsibility for commissioning
independent scientific research into specific animal protection areas that may
be used in the Standard-setting process.
15. Development and progression
of general animal welfare policy under the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy
Humane Research Australia reminded the Committee of the often unexamined
suffering and cruelty inflicted on animals used in research, noting that
“transparency and the exchange of information is essential” to limiting the use
of animals in research and teaching by Refining, Reducing and Replacing animal
use in research. This transparency is completely lacking in this area and the
Greens strongly agree that the IOAW should include this area in its functions.
16. That the bill be amended to
ensure the IOAW’s functions include the area of animal research and
experimentation: to develop a nationally coordinated centralised reporting
system on animal use statistics; a central public database collating
non-technical summaries of all research projects using live animals to avoid
duplication of animal-use research, and to make available all unpublished
animal-use research and their results; and to develop nationally consistent
decision-making and approval processes for animal-use in research.
Lawyers for Animals raised the issue of a need for a central national
repository for the collection and dissemination of prosecution summaries and
outcomes from all agencies involved in prosecuting offences relating to animal
cruelty or other animal offences. This will inform consideration of the
effectiveness of enforcement of animal laws in Australia and to allow lawyers
to prepare submissions.
17. Development of a nationally
coordinated repository of all prosecution summaries and outcomes from all
agencies involved in prosecuting offences relating to animal cruelty or other
Investigation and Enforcement
The Greens strongly agree with a number of submissions recommendations
that the IOAW should also have monitoring and enforcement functions with
respect to Commonwealth animal protection laws, particularly in relation to
live animal exports.
Without the powers of investigation and enforcement, the status quo will
continue with industry and Departments prevaricating and excusing the terrible
systemic cruelty that continues to be exposed by under-funded independent
animal welfare organisations, or by underfunded and under-resourced animal
welfare organisations such as the RSPCA.
The recent move by state governments and Coalition Private Members Bills
to punish those independent witnesses and whistle-blowers of brutal and
neglectful treatment of animals is an end result of the habitual denigration of
independent animal welfare investigators as “just activists”.
This is a complex area of law that intersects with other federal and
state and territory investigative and enforcement laws, and requires and its
own consideration that is beyond the resources of this Dissenting Report to
address with the detail and attention it deserves.
We refer to previous consideration of an agency fully empowered to not
only conduct investigations, but also undertake enforcement and prosecution
activities. We recommend the following in the interim:
18. That the IOAW have
authorised officers that have statutory powers to conduct investigations and
inspections in relation to Commonwealth animal welfare matters, including for
example, the power to inspect and investigate matters relating to live animal
It was commonly submitted that membership of the committee needs to be
amended to ensure a balance of interests and appropriate qualifications are
represented. The Greens commit to exploring this further in the future, and
accept the following recommendations in this iteration of the bill.
19. That section 26 be amended:
include 1 member representing the veterinary profession
any animal or veterinary scientist member should be independent of industry and
has demonstrated expertise in animal welfare research, teaching or advocacy and
holds related higher qualifications.
all members should demonstrate current expertise in animal welfare issues and
related research within their areas of expertise.
no more than 50% of members may be affiliated with animal industries.
the members representing non-governmental animal welfare organisations include
one of each of the national NGOs that undertakes investigations and enforcement
activities – currently Animals Australia and RSPCA.
Senator Lee Rhiannon
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page