Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016

I take pleasure in joining the debate on the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016.

Mr Clark — On a point of order, Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that there is no minister at the table or indeed anywhere in the house, and I submit to you that that is a grave discourtesy to the house by the government and one that I have never come across in my previous experience in this house. I draw that to your attention, Speaker, for you to take such action as appropriate to ensure that the government observes the normal courtesies and ensures that it does have a minister present in this house.

The SPEAKER — The house will pause while a minister arrives in the chamber.

Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER — I ask the members for Gippsland South and Essendon to cease their conversation across the chamber.

Ms Asher — On the point of order, Speaker, we have paused for a moment and there is still no minister at the table. Having been a member of the other place, I know it is the custom of that house to adjourn. I would suggest to you that this is unprecedented, as the member for Box Hill has said, and I think you should take matters into your own hands. Given the ministers of this government are not showing the house due respect, that is a reason for shutting the house down.

The SPEAKER — Order! I thank the member for Brighton for her information about the practices of the other place. We are not in the other place, and my attention has been drawn to standing order 31, which talks about the circumstances under which the house may adjourn. That circumstance is not listed under the standing orders, and there is now a minister at the table. I call the member for Yan Yean.

Ms Green — As I started to say, I am pleased to join debate on the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016. Before I start my contribution I want to place on record my congratulations to the member for Northcote on her election to this place and the inaugural speech she gave in the last half hour. It is certainly of enormous significance that the first Indigenous woman has been elected to this place.

On the bill before the house, I speak in support of the bill with the amendments proposed by the manager of government business. I oppose the reasoned amendment from the opposition which seeks to say that the bill needs to be redrafted after more consultation. This bill has sat in abeyance while further consultation has occurred, and we now have a bill that certainly enacts what was our election commitment, which was to hugely improve the welfare of dogs that have been bred in the most appalling of circumstances in what have become known as puppy farms.

I want to say at the outset that I congratulate the many volunteers across this state who give of their time to support animal welfare, particularly in domestic animal shelters. The member for Pascoe Vale spoke before lunch, and there is good reason why she received the animal lovers award in our caucus. She is a member of Parliament who walks the talk. She said in her contribution that she has, I think, two rescue cavaliers at the moment, but I think she has had a passing parade of many others.

My house has Bella, a rescue dog that we got at the start of last year. She is an American staffie who is about four now. I thought I wanted a little lapdog; that is what I was intending to get, but somehow I got a big, beautiful, lovable American staffie. I really want to say thank you to the Ararat animal shelter and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) staff who found Bella in a DHHS property with a DHHS client and determined that her welfare was in jeopardy. I know that DHHS staff do a great job. They have an incredibly difficult job to do in supporting their clients. It was great to see that that staffer went the extra mile to actually look after Bella, a domestic animal that she felt was in danger. We think we offer Bella a wonderful home; she seems pretty happy. She gets out on the road with me a lot in my work in my electorate and in regional Victoria. I really think she thinks she is a person. At the moment I have got a husband convalescing at home. I am not there to nurse him during the day, but Bella the dog certainly is; she is stuck to his side like glue.

I really want to thank Dogs Victoria for the statement they issued today. They say they do not oppose the amended bill and that they have had conversations and negotiations with the minister. I quote their media statement:

If passed, the new laws will set out a revised regulatory framework for the breeding and sale of dogs and cats in Victoria. New restrictions will also make the commercial breeding of puppies and kittens unviable and make it more difficult for illicit puppy mills to operate without detection.

Dogs Victoria has worked with the government to achieve several vital changes to the bill to ensure that reputable, registered Dogs Victoria breeders can continue to breed healthy pedigree dogs in Victoria.

Their position statement says:

These changes have come about as a result of 12 months of hard negotiating with the minister and her department by Dogs Victoria, and we are pleased that the government has taken on board most of our concerns.

I represent an electorate that is very familiar with dogs and animal welfare. I probably have one of the highest number of operators of boarding kennels, given the proximity to the airport and the amount of open space. In my experience they are very well operated. I remember that the current Minister for Mental Health and Minister for Creative Industries, when in a previous role as the chief of staff to a former Minister for Agriculture, visited one of my kennels, and he said it was certainly better than most backpacker places he had stayed at and that he would even be happy to have his children stay there, it was a such a good and well-operated business.

In my lifetime there has been much change in Victorians’ attitudes to animal welfare. Both of my parents came from farming backgrounds. We always treated our animals well, but dogs were working dogs and they were to stay outside. I never in a million years thought that I would be in the sort of household that let the dog inside, let it on the couch and let it on the bed. I certainly did not think that my uncle Geff Couch, a longstanding dairy farmer and certainly a person who believed that dogs belonged outside, would now have a cacophony of little dogs around him — and they are also on the bed. In our family we have talked about how we are like most Victorians in that we have certainly moved with the times and we see our dogs as much more than working dogs; we see them as our companions. They really are man and woman’s best friend.

I am pleased to be part of a government that has delivered on its election commitment. I congratulate the minister, her staff, the departmental officials and the organisations that have been consulted in the development of this bill and have provided input, including RSPCA Victoria, Dogs Victoria and many others. I commend the bill to the house and wish it a speedy passage.