RSPCA in­quiry re­port

Field and Game - - RSPCA INQUIRY -

CPI Strate­gic di­rec­tor and Field & Game Aus­tralia ad­viser Rick Brown looks at the out­come of an in­quiry into the RSPCA in Western Aus­tralia.

An in­quiry by the Western Aus­tralian Up­per House into the op­er­a­tions of the RSPCA in that state, ini­ti­ated by the Shoot­ers, Fish­ers and Farm­ers Party (SFFP), has rec­om­mended that the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Food (DAFWA) be made more ac­count­able for the ap­point­ment and per­for­mance of RSPCA in­spec­tors.

A com­mit­tee was es­tab­lished in May last year at the in­sti­ga­tion of SFFP mem­ber Rick Mazza, who chaired the com­mit­tee.

The rec­om­men­da­tions of the ma­jor­ity re­port in­cluded:

• con­fer­ring only on the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of DAFWA the power and dis­cre­tion to ap­point all gen­eral in­spec­tors un­der the An­i­mal Wel­fare Act;

• pub­lish­ing de­tails of in­spec­tors ap­pointed in the Western Aus­tralia Gov­ern­ment Gazette and DAFWA main­tain­ing a cur­rent list of gen­eral in­spec­tors on its web­site;

• amend­ing the An­i­mal Wel­fare Act to re­quire DAFWA to con­sent to an An­i­mal Wel­fare Act pros­e­cu­tion and to give DAFWA the ex­press power to di­rect and con­duct all prose­cu­tions un­der the An­i­mal Wel­fare Act;

• pro­vid­ing that all prose­cu­tions are au­tho­rised and over­seen by the CEO of DAFWA or a nom­i­nated rep­re­sen­ta­tive;

• clar­i­fy­ing the statu­tory pow­ers and lim­i­ta­tions of RSPCA WA gen­eral in­spec­tors con­duct­ing prose­cu­tions un­der the Act on be­half of DAFWA;

• en­sur­ing all di­rec­tion no­tices are re­view­able by the Min­is­ter;

• re­quir­ing gen­eral in­spec­tors to re­port their en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties an­nu­ally to the CEO of DAFWA, and for DAFWA to in­cor­po­rate this data in its an­nual re­port tabled in Par­lia­ment, and

• re­quest­ing the RSPCA WA pub­licly con­firm that no ev­i­dence of live bait­ing has been dis­cov­ered in Western Aus­tralia de­spite an ex­ten­sive coin­ves­ti­ga­tion by RSPCA WA and Rac­ing and Wa­ger­ing WA, and that the RSPCA WA'S $10 000 re­ward for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to a con­vic­tion of an­i­mal cru­elty re­mains un­claimed. The Greens and La­bor mem­bers of the com­mit­tee re­jected these rec­om­men­da­tions. They do not be­lieve there is a need to make the RSPCA and its in­spec­tors more ac­count­able for the priv­i­leged po­si­tion they oc­cupy as a not­for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion and said there was no ev­i­dence to suggest that RSPCA WA had changed its ob­jec­tives and shifted its fo­cus from an­i­mal wel­fare to an­i­mal rights.

This po­si­tion is at odds with de­vel­op­ments in the United King­dom. The Na­tional Po­lice Chiefs' Coun­cil, which rep­re­sents chief con­sta­bles in the UK, thinks an­i­mal wel­fare prose­cu­tions should be car­ried out by “a sin­gle agency, prefer­ably a statu­tory body funded by Gov­ern­ment” and the re­cently-ap­pointed CEO of the RSPCA in the UK, in his first in­ter­view, said: “We are go­ing to be a lot less po­lit­i­cal. It doesn't mean we won't stand up for an­i­mals. But we are not a po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if the WA Gov­ern­ment ac­cepts the rec­om­men­da­tions of the ma­jor­ity re­port.

Last year, the ma­jor­ity re­port of an­other Up­per House Com­mit­tee in­quiry rec­om­mended the Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duce a two-year trial of recre­ational hunt­ing on pub­lic land in Western Aus­tralia. The Gov­ern­ment im­me­di­ately re­jected the rec­om­men­da­tion of its own mem­bers and, in effect, sided with the La­bor mem­bers of the Com­mit­tee.

La­bor's en­vi­ron­ment spokesman, Chris Tal­len­tire, said that en­abling recre­ational hunt­ing on pub­lic land would en­cour­age a “gun cul­ture”.

If the Gov­ern­ment does adopt the rec­om­men­da­tions of the ma­jor­ity re­port, the spot­light will be on DAFWA to see if it takes se­ri­ously the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with which it is en­trusted or whether it sim­ply rub­ber stamps what­ever the RSPCA serves up to it.

Hon. Rick Mazza MLC

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