Senate committee endorses Chris Back’s animal protection bill

James Nason, 15/06/2015

A Senate Committee has recommended that Federal Parliament pass amendments proposed by WA Liberal Senator Chris Back to national criminal laws, which would prevent people from holding evidence of animal cruelty for long periods before releasing it to authorities, and strengthen penalties against trespass.

After conducting an inquiry into Senator Back’s proposed Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill 2015, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee handed down two recommendations last Friday.

The first recommendation was that the requirement in Senator Back’s bill for people to report evidence of cruelty within one business day to the relevant authority be changed to require evidence to be reported “as soon as practicable”.

The second recommendation was that, subject to the first recommendation being accepted, the bill be passed.

The six member committee which handed down the final report and recommendations comprises three Government Senators (two Liberal Party Senators and one National), two ALP senators and one Australian Greens Senator.

The Australian Greens submitted a dissenting report calling on Members of Parliament to oppose the bill.

In his concluding comments committee chair and Liberal Senator for New South Wales Bill Heffernan said the committee acknowledged that a significant number of the submissions to the inquiry questioned both the intention and the likely operation of the bill in regard to animal cruelty.

This included arguments that the proposed legislation would unfairly target those who seek to uncover animal cruelty, such as whistleblowers (including abattoir, farm and factory workers), undercover investigators and investigative journalists.

“Whilst the committee acknowledges these views, it also notes that the bill does not remove or limit the ability for people to report animal cruelty, nor does it preclude any individual from lawfully pursuing a specific case of ongoing and/or systematic animal cruelty,” Senator Heffernan wrote.

“The committee does note, however, the argument raised by some submitters about the prescriptive nature of the timeframe for reporting.

“The committee acknowledges that, particularly in the case of remote locations, reporting within one business day may not be practical or possible. The committee therefore suggests that the time frame for reporting be less prescriptive.”

In the Australian Greens’ dissenting report, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said the amendments proposed by Senator Back sought to “deter and punish” people who tried to expose visual evidence of animal cruelty in commercial animal industries.

“It would do this by effectively criminalising investigators while turning a blind eye to the perpetrators of that cruelty,” Senator Rhiannon wrote.

“Indeed, the bill would result in greater penalties being imposed on those who make visual records of animal cruelty, than those who would commit the cruelty which remains an illegal act.”

Senator Rhiannon said the overwhelming majority of the1600 plus written and proforma submissions received by the inquiry condemned the bill and its intentions. She said support for the bill came only from minorities that with commercial interests that would benefit from less scrutiny of their animal welfare practices.

“Without the voices and actions of Australians from all walks of life and political persuasions; without the journalists, activists and investigators of animal welfare issues; without the hard work of our animal welfare organisations across Australia, animals suffering systemic and casual cruelty would forever remain voiceless and unnoticed behind closed doors.”

The Greens have proposed their own recommendations, primarily that the bill not proceed, and calling for stronger legal protections for people who report animal cruelty.

To read the committee’s full report click here


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  1. Christine Glenn, 16/06/2015

    Brad and Sue, holding onto footage and ambushing industries actually has an adverse effect on animal welfare. That is the problem livestock farmers have with well-intentioned activists who are actively holding onto footage for maximum exposure. Has there ever been an inquiry into the level of funds raised by the two contributors to “A Bloody Business” as a direct result of holding onto footage? Yet the pastoral industry lost many experienced workers, who are needed for animal welfare. Please look at the big picture, it is not always simple. Release the footage and people can get on with stopping the cruelty, wherever it is….

  2. Sue Clarke, 16/06/2015

    I read that Jack and don’t believe for a moment that they are not conspiring to do exactly what they want to do and that is to shut up animal activists. If industry and government actually did something about animal welfare that would be a different thing instead of contributing to the abuse. When has industry and government ever exposed animal brutality…they have known about it, but have never done anything to stop this brutality. The fact is there is no need for this ag-gag bill disguised as an animal welfare bill…the bill is designed to keep the abuse hidden, to threaten animal activists so they are too scared to do what they do….but you know what nothing will ever stop animal activists…we don’t sell our souls. So Jack while you may believe that this change in the wording makes it honky dory many don’t believe that the change to the wording will ever change the intent behind this bill.

  3. Jack Brown, 16/06/2015

    Sue and Brad – if you cared to read the article properly you will see quoted that the committee “notes that the bill does not remove or limit the ability for people to report animal cruelty, nor does it preclude any individual from lawfully pursuing a specific case of ongoing and/or systematic animal cruelty”.
    So its probably best to quit bleating your propaganda about “conspiracies against animals”, because, in short, you are wrong.

  4. Brad Petersen, 15/06/2015

    Even in the recent process of the senate committee seeking more information/clarification in person from selected groups or people who made submissions, practically all they asked or talked about was how activists are a threat to livestock farmers. Nothing else…but the bill covers a great deal more than just livestock farmers, it covers all animal enterprises, including such things circuses, greyhound racing and puppy mills. The discussion was all about the need to protect farmers from activists, and that really is what this bill is all about. It is an absolute nonsense to call it an animal protection bill, unless, of course, you include livestock farmers as animals. That would be most unfair to animals though.

  5. Sue Clarke, 15/06/2015

    Everything that this government does is about secrecy. They want to protect industries that exploit animals in the most horrendous ways. Had it not been for animal welfare groups the public would never have known about the atrocities of live export. While government and industry brag about ESCA, which in the end is a worthless piece of crap, it would never have been introduced if not for Animals Australia. And today millions of animals would continue to be used as live bait in the greyhound racing industry. The only changes in animal welfare have come about by covert surveillance, nothing, absolutely nothing has come from industry and government who have sat on this information and allowed it to happen for decades. All this bill says to the public is that you cannot trust industries that exploit animals and Australians cannot trust the government to look after animals…in fact the government has proven time and time again, they champion industry, not the Australian public. Absolutely pathetic…if politicians are so intent on championing industry get a bloody job in the industry or I guess they are doing this aren’t they…trying to keep the cruelty hidden so they can abuse these animals without any recourse.

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