Farmers fume over who opens the gate

By Chris Thomson | posted on July 12, 2018

CHANGES to the Animal Welfare Act that would give a new class of inspector appointed by Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan power to enter a farm at any time, with no notice and no reasonable suspicion of an offence, have split Labor and Opposition members of a Parliamentary committee.

On June 28, a majority of the Standing Committee on Legislation recommended the above changes be removed from a Bill introduced by Ms MacTiernan.

Currently the Director General of Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries is the only person who can appoint inspec- tors. Those inspectors can only enter a farm with reasonable suspicion of an offence, a warrant, after serving a notice that a land- holder may object to, or with permission of the land-holder.

Contrary to the majority position, two La- bor members of the Opposition-controlled committee, Chair Sally Talbot and South Metropolitan MLC Pierre Yang, condition- ally supported the Bill in its current form.

Dr Talbot, whose South West electoral region comprises the Southwest region and Great Southern municipalities of Albany, Denmark and Plantagenet, told The Weekender the committee’s “opinion broke” down party lines.

“The Government’s very keen to see new measures introduced and I think that this Bill was one of the mechanisms of doing it,” she said.

President of the Stud Merino Breeders As- sociation of WA Wayne Button urged Ms MacTiernan to implement the committee’s majority recommendations.

“I think the recommendations are common sense and hope that they are taken on board by the relevant parties,” he said.

“Farmers are reasonable people and we try to adhere to all the rules and regulations but I don’t think we need to have any extra things put on top that the general public doesn’t have.

“The analogy was used about people’s backyards, with their pets; inspectors are not allowed to wander through there whenever they feel like it.”

Mr Button said uncontrolled access by in- spectors might also compromise biosecurity protocols required by national livestock as- surance standards.

Ms MacTiernan previously said the Bill, if passed, would enable the State to enforce national livestock standards, bringing WA into line with most of the nation (‘Concerns over right of entry’, May 31).

She added the national standards were a shift from an ad hoc focus triggered by cruelty complaints toward a “more modern” animal welfare approach – and that a new inspection regime was integral to ensuring compliance.

Now, she has told The Weekender that WA remains the only state that has not given legal effect to endorsed national standards and guidelines on animal welfare.

“There is no point having national standards if they cannot be enforced – and this is in- consistent with the position taken by Liberal and National members of the Parliamentary committee,” she said.

“We acknowledge that the Bill could be improved and we will look at amendments to address some of the issues raised by the committee.

“We would hope that these amendments will see the Bill supported in Parliament to bring our state into line with the rest of the country and to provide more certainty to industry.”