Koala Habitat Protection Adjournment Speech

Australia and New South Wales have been exposed once again as environmental destroyers. We are the only developed nation on the World Wildlife Fund's 2021 world list of deforestation hotspots, with eastern Australia named and shamed alongside Colombia, Peru, Laos and Mozambique. This should not come as a surprise. Land clearing in New South Wales has risen nearly 60 per cent since this Government relaxed our native vegetation protection laws in 2017. Now there are 980 threatened species and over 100 threatened ecological communities here in New South Wales. We are losing biodiversity at an alarming rate and Australia now has one of the highest rates of extinction in the world, yet this Government is refusing to act.

Good outcomes for animals and the environment clearly are not being achieved under the current laws. Assessing and listing threatened species is not good enough, because a lot of the time that is all we are doing. Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, there is no requirement to implement a species recovery plan or to report on progress and the outcomes achieved. Where plans are made, they generally are not backed by the necessary action to implement them. Under these arrangements our failures have been made abundantly clear. The list of threatened species and communities has increased over time and very few species have recovered to the point that they can be removed from the list. Koalas are a key example of this. These iconic animals continue to face extinction in New South Wales because of the Government's ongoing failure to take action.

Nine years ago koalas were listed as a vulnerable species requiring a recovery plan, which was supposed to be developed and commence in 2014. Now, in 2021, there still is no recovery plan for koalas. There is not even a threat abatement plan for koalas. Their populations continue to decline. Why? Because developers can still clear what little remains of koala habitat. While they may be required to "offset" what has been lost, government audits have found environmental offset programs often have been ineffective and have worsened the plight of endangered species. To make matters worse, in New South Wales offsets can just involve paying an additional fee. The Black Summer bushfires took a devastating toll on koalas. Approximately one‑third of koalas living in New South Wales were killed, and up to 70 per cent of the North Coast population was wiped out. The scale of loss is now understood to be so high that koala populations may now be upgraded from vulnerable to endangered. I say it again: Koalas face extinction in New South Wales.

Yet recently this Government has taken another step backward on koala protection. After finally updating the 25‑year‑old State Environmental Planning Policy for koalas in early 2020 to include improvements for koala protections, the Government then undercut any positive change this may have achieved for koalas by introducing the Local Land Services (Miscellaneous) Bill. This bill was referred to as the "koala killer" bill for a reason: It watered down the definition of "core koala habitat" and enabled land clearing for the majority of agribusiness without any provisions or restrictions. Thanks to the brave actions of the Hon. Catherine Cusack and her ongoing commitment to koala protection, the bill did not pass. But with the Government now reverting to a 25‑year‑old policy that continues to provide little protection for koalas, something needs to urgently change.

I say to this Government: Any new policy developed in 2021 must put in place genuine protections for koala habitat. Our failure to protect these animals cannot continue. Last week nearly 100 community members stood outside Parliament and tied messages to the fence line begging the Premier to protect these animals. Koalas have a right to survive. By creating the Great Koala National Park, ending native forest logging and ending the clearing of koala habitat for agriculture, mining and urban development, we can ensure they do. It is time the members of this House acknowledged other species' intrinsic value and their right to exist. What is faced by koalas is not unique. The Bellinger River snapping turtle, northern and southern corroboree frog, regent honeyeater, beach stone‑curlew and long‑footed potoroo are just some species facing a similar fate. We must act before animals become endangered and we must intervene to prevent extinction, because their lives should not be an afterthought. Their extinction and their suffering is caused by us.

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"Free-range" Cruelty Adjournment Speech

When you think of free range hens - what do you picture? Hens surrounded by green grass, dust bathing with space to roam?

This could not be further from the truth.

Let’s start with male chicks in the egg industry. Males are considered an unwanted by-product of the egg industry, as they don’t lay eggs.  So at just one day old they are thrown into a giant blender and macerated while fully conscious.

The females escape live maceration, but their fate isn’t any better. They’ll be transported to a so-called free range farm where they will stay until they die onsite or no longer lay enough eggs to be considered worthy of keeping alive.

And how much space do these hens have?

The Federal Government’s free-range egg standard came into force in April 2018, allowing animal agribusiness facilities to pack up to 10,000 hens into one hectare, leaving just one square metre of room for each bird. The standard does not specify that hens must actually go outside to be considered free range: in fact as long as they're provided access to the outdoors, the free range label still applies.

The outdoor space may not provide any shade or shelter from predators, or there may be so few openings on the side of sheds, some hens may never get close enough to an exit to venture outdoors. Drone footage from free range facilities in NSW have shown dry open spaces not used by fearful hens where no grass or covering is provided and with very few openings in the sheds. Footage has also shown that often the doors are never opened to provide outside access and this can be for a variety of reasons- worming, age of hens, suspected weather, or perhaps, dare I say, a day off for farm hands.

Inside these industrialised sheds the floor is often not cleaned until the hens are sent to slaughter, meaning faeces will build up over months. As a result of the ammonia, hens often develop breast blister and bumble foot”.

The bar has been set so low for a free range hen that when consumers find out the truth, many are unlikely to feel reassured by the label. And if you think that the lives of free-range hens sounds horrific - the lives of chickens in the meat industry are arguably worse.

For meat chickens, there is no legal definition of the term free rangeand standards can vary enormously. Free range broiler chickens are usually the same genetic freaks as factory farmed chickens: they are bred to grow at an unnatural rate, often collapsing under their own body weight. Experts say that meat chickens are in chronic pain for the last days of their lives.

For birds raised under the Free Range Egg & Poultry Australia standards, there can be approximately 15 birds living on floor the size of a small card table.

And while these chickens are expected to have eight hours' access to the outdoors, due to the cramped conditions, it can be difficult for them to make their way outdoors and once they reach a weight where it is painful for them to walk- outdoor access is simply impossible.

When these young birds reach 'slaughter weight', chicken catchers will grab them by their legs, stuff them into crates, and transport them to the slaughterhouse. Here they will be gassed, or dipped into an electrified bath before their throats are cut. If any chickens miss the stun bath, they face the blade fully conscious and ultimately drown in scalding water. There are no free range slaughterhouses. All farmed animals meet the same brutal and terrifying end.

This is the horrifying reality behind the "free range” label. To put it simply “Free Range” is a fraud. It has to be said- if you buy free range anything, you are being duped. There’s no such thing as an ethical egg or ethical animal flesh.

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Pig Farming Members Statement

In 1995 Babe graced our screens and stole our hearts. So much so that when the movie was released the sale of pig meat products dropped by 25 per cent in the United States. The human star of that film, James Cromwell, who played Farmer Hoggett, chose to go vegan during the film. He said:

I cared about their welfare and then, of course, you have lunch and it's all there in front of you, and I thought, I should go the whole hog, so to speak.

Of course, many pigs like Babe are being farmed in the New South Wales animal agribusiness industry. Many of those pigs are in sow stalls, which are small metal cages in which sows can barely take a step forward or backward, let alone turn around. Sows live—if it can be called living—in that tiny, squalid space after being forcibly mated or artificially inseminated. Sows cannot move, so their muscles and bones deteriorate, which causes intense physical pain. A week before a sow is due to give birth, she will be moved to another shed, filled with hundreds of other sows, where she will be imprisoned in a farrowing crate. She is held there for up to six weeks, unable to carry out her natural nesting behaviours.

Harrowing footage and photographs taken from sow stall sheds and farrowing crates in New South Wales show pigs biting at the bars of sow stalls, frothing at the mouth and suffering from horrific injuries, including swollen limbs, lameness and open wounds. I have seen footage over the years that showed sows lying dead, imprisoned in farrowing crates, rotten skin decaying over skulls as starving piglets lay beside their mothers. Dead sows can be seen across one piggery, some with their eyes eaten out by rats. Outside, open sacks are filled with yellow and pink dead piglets. This Christmas we must remember that severe animal cruelty is part of the unpalatable reality of piggeries. That is just a small insight into what goes on behind closed doors in the animal agribusiness industry. I urge the House to consider the horrors that those sows endure and to remember that compassion should spread to both human and non-human animals, because it takes nothing away from a human to be kind to animals.

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Licence to Harm Members Statement

As we head into yet another bushfire season, the horrific Black Summer bushfires are front of mind for many people in New South Wales. Across Australia 18.6 million hectares burned and over three billion animals died in fires of an intensity and scale that had never before been seen in living memory. Yet despite the extreme devastation and loss of life, the New South Wales Government continued to hand out over 2,000 licences to harm over 180,000 native animals. Wombats, kookaburras, kangaroos, possums and emus are among the native animals the Government was sentencing to death during the previous bushfire season, allowing private landowners to claim up to 500 lives under a single licence.

These licences are easy to obtain by simply filling out a form online and having a phone conversation with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Properties do not even have to be visited to verify claims. Under this weak and destructive system, hundreds of thousands of native animals are left to die at the whim of private landowners, despite much of their habitat having been burned to the ground. It is hard to think of a reason to justify this slaughter, especially given the critical work of wildlife carers who were fighting day and night to save as many victims of the bushfires as possible. Despite their best efforts to protect suffering animals from further harm, all their hard work was being undone by bullets fired with the support of the Government.

Actions like this make it hard to believe the Government's claims that it is supporting wildlife recovery and conservation after the Black Summer bushfires, especially when we now know the truth about the appalling death toll and that these licences are still being distributed. With temperatures once again beginning to soar, animals are facing threats from all sides during the long, hot summer ahead. I call on the Government to take action to protect animals and ensure these callous licences to harm native animals are not among them.

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Cat and Dog Meat Adjournment Speech

Here’s a nauseating fact: Eating cats and dogs is legal in Australia. Our friends at World Dog Alliance in Hong Kong have reached out to us to help close this loophole and join the majority of other countries around the world that have prohibited eating cats and dogs. The last thing we need is another species of animal on the plate.

Cats and dogs are beloved family members in countless homes across NSW, so you would be forgiven for thinking that it is illegal to eat them.

It isn’t.

The reality is that only in South Australia is it illegal to consume cats and dogs. Here in NSW only the sale of cat and dog meat is illegal, meaning that killing these animals at home and eating their flesh is not. This creates a loophole where people can eat these animals provided they are not taking payment.

Our animal protection laws only protect cats and dogs from being killed in an explicitly cruel manner prior to being eaten. It is only when the slaughter caused the animal unnecessary pain or leads to the animal to have a prolonged death, can it constitute an offence under the general cruelty provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 or the Crimes Act 1900.

In other words, even if the RSPCA is made aware of cats and dogs being eaten, unless they can prove cruelty, there is little they can do. There are no laws to stop it.

These loopholes occur across the country and lead to sickening incidents.

In 2015 a skinned Cavalier King Charles spaniel was found at Raby, in Sydney. A vet confirmed the dog had evidence on her head of a captive bolt pistol, a device used for stunning animals prior to slaughter usually in an abattoir, leading to speculation that this incident was linked to an underground market for dog meat.

Just last year in Tasmania the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania served up a dish of dead cat as part of an art exhibit.

The fact that this is still allowed to occur is in stark contrast to community expectations.

Each year we see widespread condemnation of the controversial Yulin dog meat festival, or action taken against the continuing sale of dog meat in holiday hotspots. People are horrified to find out that every year millions of dogs and cats are bred, stolen and slaughtered around the world for their flesh.

It has now been a year since I introduced a petition of more than 500 signatures requesting that the Government introduce legislation to completely ban the consumption of cats and dogs in New South Wales. It has been a year, and yet the Government has taken no action.

We cannot wait any longer. It’s time to close the loopholes allowing this brutal underground activity to be carried out, because while it remains, all cats and dogs in NSW will remain at risk.

But consider this too: Finger pointing at other cultures is easy — what’s harder is recognising that no animal wants to suffer and die for our palate. Fish or chicken or pig or dog- they have the same ability to feel pain, the same ability to suffer, and the same capacity to experience joy.

Yes, let’s be outraged by the legal loophole that allows companion animals to be eaten in Australia. Let's push to close that loophole. But let's also extend this compassion to all animals, and leave every species off the plate.

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Shark Finning Adjournment Speech

Millions of sharks are still being slaughtered for their fins, suffering prolonged and painful deaths for the sake of a disturbing so-called delicacy—shark fin soup. Finning a shark is not only a death sentence but the process is also extremely cruel. Fishermen slice off sharks' fins while they are still alive, holding them down as they writhe in pain and slowly suffocate on deck before dumping them overboard and leaving the traumatised animals, who are now unable to swim, to sink to the ocean floor. The horrific practice of finning sharks at sea is done exclusively for profit because fishers can bring in more fins than they would be able to if they took the full body of each slaughtered shark. Shark fins are still being sold in Sydney for a hefty $1,000 price tag. In Australia live shark finning is illegal, yet because legislation differs between various States and the Commonwealth it is extremely difficult to monitor fisheries' compliance with shark finning legislation and sharks continue to be at risk of illegal finning.

In 2015 a boat was apprehended in Queensland waters carrying 3,200 shark fins most likely destined for the black market. The fine given for the death of the 641 finned sharks was only $7,750, putting the penalty for each animal at just $12. That is hardly a deterrence for others thinking of engaging in such a horrific practice. In 2017 in New South Wales fisheries officers located and seized 40 kilograms of illegally obtained shark fins, revealing that hundreds of sharks are still being finned in our waters. Yet while live finning may be illegal in Australia our laws continue to support and condone this cruel industry by allowing the export and import of shark fins. In the 2011‑12 financial year Australia exported 178 tonnes of shark fins which is the equivalent of approximately 89,000 shark fins. Australia also imported 41 tonnes of shark fin, which is the equivalent of another 20,500 fins.

Those figures are horrifying not only because they put into perspective how destructive the industry is—Australia ranks sixteenth in the world for imports of shark fin—but because they make clear the number of horrific live finning deaths we are sponsoring, given that we continue to allow the importation of shark fin. Genetic research has revealed that a high proportion of globally traded fins come from species that have serious conservation risks. By importing shark fin from overseas we are directly contributing to the slaughter of those endangered species, given our weak regulations on the labelling or mislabelling of those so‑called products. Keep in mind it is an industry that is not only condemning millions of sharks to cruel and traumatic deaths but is also destroying our oceans. It is well‑recognised among experts that the international shark fin trade is responsible for the decline in shark populations. Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing because of their slow growth and relatively low rates of reproduction.

It is no wonder that nearly one‑third of oceanic sharks are listed as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Sharks, which are dying in their millions, are apex predators. It is they who keep the critical balance of our oceans in check. Without them delicate ocean ecosystems will suffer and are already suffering unpredictable and devastating consequences, including the loss of marine diversity and declining food sources for scavengers. With sharks continuing to die in their millions and the future of our oceans at stake, we cannot continue to support this cruel and inhumane industry. It is time Australia took action to address the worldwide decline in sharks caused by the devastating shark fin trade. We must ban the import and export of shark fins. We must legislate and enforce tougher penalties for those who illegally kill for shark fins. We must make it an offence to sell food containing shark fins in New South Wales.

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Gulf Livestock1 Members Statement

Earlier this month 42 crew members and nearly 6,000 cows lost their lives when the live export ship Gulf Livestock1 capsized in the East China Sea. It is impossible to imagine the fear that both the crew—which included an Australian vet—and the cows would have felt when they were caught in a typhoon in the middle of the ocean, trapped aboard a sinking ship. The search for survivors has been called off. This horrifying event is not the first live export shipping catastrophe in recent years, nor will it be the last. Live export is a brutal and high‑risk trade that puts the lives of both humans and animals in serious danger and has been defined by a series of disasters. Nearly every year we hear of a live export shipping tragedy. Over 13,000 sheep died when the Queen Hind capsized at port, 3,000 sheep burnt to death off the coast of Somalia and over 28,000 animals and 44 crew members died when a ship sank off the coast of Lebanon.

Ships capsizing, sinking and colliding, along with fires, mechanical failures and rough weather are to blame for the deaths of animals and crew members on live export ships. The most recent incident makes it abundantly clear that the live export trade is not only cruel but also dangerous and unnecessary. Without action to end the industry, those tragedies will continue to occur. The New Zealand Government has suspended all live exports in the wake of this horrific incident. I urge the Australian Government to do the same. For too long humans and animals have suffered the ultimate consequences of the high‑risk live export industry, which will stop at nothing in its pursuit of profit. If this tragedy tells us anything, it is that it is time to end the cruel live export trade for good.

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Immunocontraceptive Darting Members Statement

Kosciuszko National Park is an important natural environment that is home to unique native animals that must be protected. However, the Animal Justice Party is equally concerned about the welfare and wellbeing of the wild horses that presently occupy Kosciusko. Let us be clear: No species of animal is planning an invasion and no species of animal has an evil intent. The wild horses that reside in Kosciusko did not ask to be brought here. I urge members of this House to think compassionately and consider the interests of all species of animals involved in this situation. A wild horse has the same capacity to feel pain and fear as a native animal and their lives deserve the same level of dignity and respect. Immunocontraceptives have successfully been used in the United States to reduce horse numbers for over 15 years. It is time for Australia to catch up.

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Live Export Adjournment Speech

This past Sunday was “Ban Live Exports International Awareness Day.”

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, thousands of people banded together online to voice their opposition to this cruel industry, which tortures and kills millions of animals every year.

Australia’s continued involvement in the live export industry is a national and international embarrassment. The views of the community are clear. 75% of Australians want to stop the live animal export trade.

This is because they have seen expose after expose, showing the shocking conditions in which sheep and cattle are kept on these ships. They have seen how animals are packed so tightly they can’t lie down and rest, or access food and water.  They have seen animals suffering from extreme heat, exhaustion, rough seas, poor ventilation, and surrounded by millions of litres of untreated waste. They know that many of these animals will die along the way from heat stress, broken bones, dehydration and other illnesses -- while the “lucky” survivors are painfully slaughtered when they arrive at their destination.

For just a moment, put yourself in these animals‘ position. Imagine it was you on one of these ships, on your way to die. It is terrifying on a scale that is hard to comprehend. And yet, in Australia, it is entirely legal to do this to sentient animals that feel pain and suffering in the same way we do.

A few weeks ago, six crew members on a live export ship in Fremantle tested positive for coronavirus. This meant a planned shipment of 50,000 sheep to Kuwait was delayed.

In response, the exporter – who already has a notorious record on animal welfare – submitted an application to the Government to export the sheep on a delayed timeframe, departing after 1 June.

Just 2.5 months ago, the Government introduced regulations banning live export ships from travelling to the Middle East after 1 June, recognising that Northern Hemisphere summer is the hottest and most dangerous time for animals to travel.

After initially rejecting the application for an exemption, the Government back flipped 10 days later, happy to break their own rules and risk many of these 50,000 sheep being boiled alive in the blistering heat.

A last minute injunction sought by Animals Australia was sadly unsuccessful.

This is truly disgusting conduct from a Government that has shown time and time again that it will always put profit above the suffering of a living being.

But the people of Australia will not stop fighting for these animals. The Animal justice Party will not stop fighting for these animals. To every single animal forced into the brutal live export trade: I see you, I hear you, and I will continue to fight for you.

Live Animal Export will end. Our fight is to make that sooner rather than later.

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Fish farming is animal cruelty

Fish farming is animal cruelty

Imagine being imprisoned in a tiny space with hundreds of others, packed together so tightly that you can barely move, struggling as others attack you and parasites eat away at your flesh. Imagine if the only way you can escape this torture is when you are gutted alive or left to slowly suffocate to death. This is the reality for fish in intensive fish farms, one of the most overlooked forms of animal cruelty. Fish feel pain, they are self-aware, they remember, they build relationships and exhibit emotional responses. Deliberately inflicting pain and suffering on these animals is inexcusable. For too long the suffering of these sentient animals has gone unnoticed by governments all around the world. The Animal Justice Party is going to change that.

Posted by Emma Hurst - Animal Justice Party MP on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

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