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Independent Office of Animal Welfare Bill 2021

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2019-2020-2021

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Office of Animal Welfare Bill 2021

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

and

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circulated by authority of

Andrew Wilkie MP



 

Independent Office of Animal Welfare Bill 2021

 

 

OUTLINE

 

The Independent Office of Animal Welfare Bill 2021 establishes a new Commonwealth statutory authority with responsibility for the development of animal welfare policy at the Commonwealth level. The Office will have a leadership role on matters of animal welfare, as well as the ability to conduct inquiries and reviews into the effectiveness and implementation of our animal welfare laws. The Office will be a trusted source of information and play an important role in science-based standard setting.

 

The Office will have review and regulatory functions relating to animal welfare issues which impact the Commonwealth. For example, this includes oversight of the live export trade including the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, the development of Australian Animal Welfare Standards, and inquiring into animal welfare compliance and enforcement under the Agriculture Department. The Office will also undertake inquiries, commission research and prepare reports about a range of issues including the commercial killing of kangaroos, importation of animals and animal products, introduced species, and development of Commonwealth animal welfare policy.

 

Due to the constitutional limitations of the Commonwealth acting on animal welfare matters, the Office is limited in its functions to the issues listed in the bill.

 

The Office will be entirely independent from the Department and supported by an Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. Committee members will be drawn from animal welfare organisations and various professions with a cross disciplinary focus on animal welfare. Members will be appropriately qualified and conflicts of interest strictly vetted. This ensures that in undertaking all reporting and review functions, the Office and Advisory Committee will be independently informed by the best available information regarding animal welfare.

 

The bill is in response to criticisms that the current regulation of these activities is ineffective, demonstrated by the frequently alleged animal cruelty occurring throughout the live export trade supply chain, as well as mistreatment of animals in the industrial agricultural sector. The Office will have the power to document and inquire into these allegations. Moreover, the bill seeks to address the well documented concerns about regulatory capture of the Agriculture Department and various bodies which develop and enforce industry standards and regulations. The model has broad support across animal welfare advocacy organisations, and a similar proposal was recommended by the Productivity Commission in 2017.

 



 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

The bill will have no financial impact.

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Clause 1: Short Title

This clause is a formal provision and specifies the short title of the bill as the Independent Office of Animal Welfare Bill 2021 .



Clause 2: Commencement

This clause provides for commencement of the Act six months after receiving Royal Assent, but only if appropriation is passed and administered for payment to the Office of Animal Welfare. If appropriation is not passed the Act does not commence.

 

Clause 3: Definitions

This clause provides definitions to be used in the bill.

 

Clause 4: Crown to be bound

The bill will bind the Crown in each of its capacities.



Clauses 5 to 7: Office of Animal Welfare

These clauses establish the Office of Animal Welfare. The Office consists of the CEO and staff, as well as consultants, assistants, and members of the Office of Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

 

Clauses 8 and 9: Functions of the CEO

These clauses establish the role of the CEO. The CEO has regulatory functions, reporting functions, and department review functions.



Regulatory functions including reviewing, monitoring and undertaking inquiries and reports about the Australian Standards for Export of Livestock and Exporter Supply Chains.

 

Reporting functions include making the Office a centre of excellence for the collection and dissemination of information about animal welfare issues which impact the Commonwealth, developing an Australian animal welfare strategy to provide a national framework to identify priorities, coordinate stakeholder action and improve consistency across animal use sectors, and developing and operating a national repository of information regarding prosecutions of offences involving animals.

 

The Office will also undertake inquiries, commission research and prepare reports about live animal export, commercial killing of kangaroos, Commonwealth animal welfare policy, importation of animals and animal products, introduced species, harmonisation of animal welfare laws across the states and territories, the Model Codes of Practice for the welfare of animals or the Australian Animal Welfare Standards as relevant, and any other relevant academic or scientific research.

 

The Office will have responsibility for reviewing and monitoring the export of live animals, including the treatment of animals exported from Australia at foreign abattoirs and any breaches of animal welfare laws along the live export chain. The Office will coordinate the development, updating and replacement of the Australian Welfare Standards and Guidelines and Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals as applicable.

 

The Department review functions include considering the activities of the Minister for Agriculture and the Department as they relate to compliance with, and enforcement and effectiveness of Commonwealth animal welfare laws. The CEO will additionally review the effectiveness of the Agriculture Minister’s implementation of Commonwealth animal welfare policy.

 

Clause 10: CEO solely responsible for performing his or her functions

The Office of Animal Welfare will be wholly independent from the Agriculture Department and the CEO will not be subject to direction from the Minister.

 

Clauses 11 to 20: CEO appointment, terms and conditions

These clauses set out provision for the CEO to be appointed by the Attorney-General for a maximum of 5 years, and determine remuneration and leave conditions. To ensure independence of the Office of Animal Welfare, the CEO is not permitted to engage in paid work outside of their CEO role, nor are they permitted to retain any commercial interests in any animal industry regulated by the Agriculture Department. These clauses additionally set out provision for resignation and termination. The CEO may be terminated for reasons including incapacity, absence, bankruptcy and failure to adhere to conflict of interest provisions. Additionally, he or she may be terminated for misbehaviour, but this does not include engaging in conduct that a reasonable person would consider appropriate for the CEO to engage in in the performance of his or her functions under this Act. 

 

Clauses 21 to 23: Staff and consultants

These clauses provide for the engagement of staff and suitably qualified consultants to assist the CEO in undertaking his or her functions.

 

Clauses 24 to 29: Office of Animal Welfare Advisory Committee

The Office of Animal Welfare Advisory Committee will assist the CEO in the operation of his or her functions. Committee Members will be appointed by the Attorney-General in order to maintain independence from the Agriculture Department. Committee members will be drawn from animal welfare organisations and various professions with a cross disciplinary focus on animal welfare. In appointing members, the Attorney-General must ensure members have current expertise in animal welfare matters, that at least one non-governmental animal welfare investigative agency is represented, and that members are appropriately qualified and independent of industry.

 

Members must disclose any interest, pecuniary or otherwise, in any matter considered the Committee and this must be recorded in all documents produced by the Committee.

 

Clause 30: Tabling of reports

Reports prepared by the CEO to fulfil his or her Regulatory, Reporting or Department review functions must be given to the Attorney-General within 15 days of completion. The Attorney-General will be required to respond to the report and any recommendations, and table both the report and response within 10 sitting days of receipt.

 

Clause 31: Delegation by the CEO

The CEO may delegate any of his or her functions and powers.

 

Clause 32: Constitutional basis of this Act

To ensure validity, the bill relies upon the constitutional powers for the Commonwealth to legislate with respect to trade and commerce, external affairs, corporations, territories, and with respect to matters incidental to the execution of any of the legislative powers of the Commonwealth.

 



STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Independent Office of Animal Welfare Bill 2021

 

 

This bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the bill

 

The Independent Office of Animal Welfare Bill 2021 establishes a new Commonwealth statutory authority with responsibility for the development of animal welfare policy at the Commonwealth level. The Office will have a leadership role on matters of animal welfare, as well as the ability to conduct inquiries and reviews into the effectiveness and implementation of our animal welfare laws. The Office will be a trusted source of information and play an important role in science-based standard setting.

 

The Office will have review and regulatory functions relating to animal welfare issues which impact the Commonwealth. For example, this includes oversight of the live export trade including the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, the development of Australian Animal Welfare Standards, and inquiring into animal welfare compliance and enforcement under the Agriculture Department. The Office will also undertake inquiries, commission research and prepare reports about a range of issues including the commercial killing of kangaroos, importation of animals and animal products, introduced species, and development of Commonwealth animal welfare policy.

 

Human rights implications

 

The bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.

 

Conclusion

 

The bill is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues.

 

 

 

 

Andrew Wilkie MP