The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee has recommended that a bill to establish an Independent Office of Animal Welfare not be passed.
The Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2015 was introduced into the Senate on June 23 and referred to the Senate RRAT Legislation Committee for review on June 25.
It calls for the establishment of a Commonwealth statutory authority to be called the Office of Animal Welfare (OAW) to assume responsibility for advising on the protection of animal welfare in Commonwealth regulated activities.
The functions of the OAW as outlined in the bill would include:
- the review and monitoring of live export standards and the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme
- reporting on animal welfare issues that impact the Commonwealth; reporting on the work of animal welfare committees; and
- reviewing animal welfare laws and policy that impact the Commonwealth.
Under the proposed legislation, the CEO would be required to provide reports to the Minister for Agriculture, which may include recommendations for reforms to animal welfare legislation and standards and advice on issues such as the harmonisation of Commonwealth/state animal welfare laws. The bill also proposes that the Minister for Agriculture be required to respond to any recommendations made in these reports and table these responses in the Parliament.
The reasons given for the bills referral to the Senate RRAT Legislation Committee included that animal welfare is an important issue and one which is of concern to a large number of Australians – across political divides; animal welfare receives regular media coverage and the issues raised are of concern to a number of large animal welfare networks; and over recent years, the federal Animal Welfare Strategy (and its independent advisory committee) and the Inspector General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports have been disbanded.
A report handed down by the Senate RRAT Legislation Committee chair has recommended against passing the bill.
The report said the committee noted 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 report said.
“The committee therefore does not support the establishment of a statutory authority, the substantive functions of which are already achieved through existing mechanisms.”
Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon submitted a dissenting report.
The full report can be read here
Typical of this committee that was controlled by politicians who had personal interests in the live export trade and no doubt intensive farming.
Over 800 submissions were sent to this committee and about 80% were in favour of the government setting up an independent animal welfare unit so that there was more accountability and transparency about how all animals should be treated.