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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 6

(Question No. 1096)

Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 28 May 1986:

(1) Has the Minister for Primary Industry's attention been drawn to reported remarks by the Victorian State Director of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Mr Peter Barber, that farm animals are dying because of neglect by Collins Street farmers.

(2) What options are available to the Federal Government, in conjunction with State Governments, to prevent cruelty to farm livestock from investors, or hobby farmers, Australia-wide, who might only visit and service their animals once a month or less.

(3) What is the range of penalties for such offences of neglect and cruelty in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory and how does this compare with maximum penalties in all of the States.

(4) What procedures are in place or are contemplated in areas under Commonwealth control to protect and monitor the welfare of farm animals.

Senator Walsh —The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) In his statement to the press, Mr Barber did not refer to Collins Street farmers. He stated that, in Victoria, there are problems with the neglect of animals due to absentee farmers. This is not an uncommon problem particularly on the fringes of Melbourne and other cities and towns. The Minister for Primary Industry is aware of this problem.

(2) Under the Australian Constitution responsibility for animal welfare rests with the respective State and Territory Governments. Direct Commonwealth responsibility for animal welfare and animal husbandry matters is confined to areas administered by the Commonwealth such as the Australian Capital Territory. Legislation exists in all States and the Territories dealing with the prevention of cruelty to animals, including farm animals.

The Commonwealth takes a coordinating role in animal welfare through committees of the Australian Agricultural Council. Through that process model codes of practice have been and are being developed setting out standards for the humane management and handling of animals. Model codes of practice are currently being drafted to cover grazing animals. They are prepared in consultation with scientific and animal welfare groups as well as with representatives of the various farming organisations. Following endorsement by the Australian Agricultural Council it is the responsibility of the State and Territory governments to ensure distribution of the Codes of Practice to all members of the farming community.

(3) The range of penalties for neglect and cruelty in the States and Territories is outlined below.

Australian Capital Territory

Offences of neglect and cruelty come under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance. The maximum penalty is $200 fine or six months imprisonment.

Northern Territory

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides for a maximum penalty of $200 fine or six months imprisonment.

New South Wales

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides for a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment, $1000 fine or both.


The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides the following penalties:

First offence $1000 fine or 3 months imprisonment

Second offence $2500 fine or 6 months imprisonment

Third offence $5000 fine or 12 months imprisonment


The Animals Protection Act provides for a maximum penalty of $1000 fine or six months imprisonment.

Western Australia

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides for a maximum penalty of $200 fine or six months imprisonment.

South Australia

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides a maximum penalty for cruelty or neglect of farm animals of $10,000 or 12 months imprisonment.


The Cruelty to Animals Prevention Act provides a maximum penalty of $1000 fine or six months imprisonment.

(4) Except in the administration of the Australian Capital Territory, through the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, the Commonwealth has no specific powers regarding welfare of farm animals.

In areas of Commonwealth responsibility the Department of Primary Industry works actively to resolve problems and improve the welfare of animals. It has imposed standards over livestock exports and registered export abattoirs as an administrative extension of legislative powers in respect of the health of animals intended for export or slaughter.

Animal welfare provisions are included in the legislation relating to abattoirs under Commonwealth jurisdictions. All export abattoirs are subject to these provisions which are contained in the Export Control Act (1982) and its associated Orders. In States and Territories where the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service is responsible for domestic meat inspection the provisions are contained within the Meat Inspection Act (1983) and its associated Orders. In general terms the animal welfare provisions of the Commonwealth legislation place responsibility for the welfare of animals directly on the management of the abattoir and cover issues such as surveillance of animals, the use and handling of dogs, stunning prior to slaughter, feeding and watering of animals and the handling of livestock.

All Commonwealth meat inspection staff have been instructed that the Department expects high welfare standards to be maintained on abattoirs under their control and that they have a responsibility to take quick and effective action if they see evidence of cruelty or neglect. Procedures have been developed to allow prompt reporting of cruelty to the State or Territory Department with animal welfare responsibility for further investigation and prosecution if necessary.

The Commonwealth has co-operated with the States in the preparation of Model Codes of Practice covering on-farm care and transport of livestock. The Government believes that the key to maintaining high standards of animal care lies in advising and educating the public and industry, through Codes such as these, on accept- able standards of animal husbandry.