Animal Welfare (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill
Introduction and First Reading
Wednesday 18th of May, 2016 – Legislative Council
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 16:19 :50 ): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Animal Welfare Act 1985. Read a first time.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 16:20 :39 ): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Animal Welfare (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2016 is a very simple bill, but it addresses quite a serious issue. Members, no doubt, would have heard through the media that a bar in Adelaide intends to have sharks in a tank as part of its nightclub. This—whilst seemingly a relic of our past and seemingly an outrageous proposal to many tens of thousands of not only South Australians but people around the world who have protested this idea—is not illegal in the state.
When I first saw the news that the Atlantis Lounge Bar on Light Square, which had its preview last Thursday night—a VIP launch—without sharks in the tank, I might note (although sharks are intended to be in those somewhat small tanks in a very noisy bar sometime soon in this state), the operators of that bar quite rightly said that they were contravening no state or federal laws. Indeed, it might seem ludicrous to think of putting a shark in a tank in a nightclub to the vast majority of people both in this place and in the community, but it is not illegal.
When this issue was first drawn to my attention—and I must thank, particularly, the work of Sea Shepherd and Geoff Cann in drawing this issue to my attention quite quickly when it was first promoted online—I raised my concerns with the RSPCA. I understand from my discussions with them that they, too, sought legal advice to discover that this contravenes no state or federal law.
I would note that, under section 58 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act, there are protections for protected animals only, but it is envisaged that this species of shark will not be one of those protected animals. There are also requirements that should these sharks be travelling across state borders there would be protection for these animals, but that does not apply in this case.
My understanding from the public statements made mainly through social media from the bar's management is that the only other protections would be that they must be secured through a professional fishing operation rather than an amateur fishing operation. Of course, there is a commercial investment that this bar is making in anticipating that people will want to come and pay money to sit and drink and dance—because there are DJs in this bar—in a bar with sharks in tanks.
The reason there is nothing that the RSPCA can do about this particular situation is that under our Animal Welfare Act 1985 hammerhead sharks are not considered animals. They do not fall within the definition of animals, so this bill amends the Animal Welfare Act 1985 to add to that definition of animal.
It also specifically ensures that an animal means a member of any species of the subphylum Vertebrata. This bill applies to all fish, but I note that it will specifically not limit the operation of the Fisheries Management Act 2007, the Aquaculture Act 2001 or, indeed, the Natural Resources Management Act 2004. This will address any concerns around the current situation where, for example, European carp should not be and are not returned to the water.
It would also cover standard fishing practice in this state and I note that it would bring our laws in this state into line with most of the laws across the country, where the definition of animals would include these sharks as animals under their animal welfare act or equivalent protections for animals, which of course allow, most appropriately and most rightly, the RSPCA some ability to monitor cruelty and welfare concerns reported to them about animals. It is also important to note the interaction with the Natural Resources Management Act. Circumstances where, for example, a dam might need to be drained to fight a fire, are addressed. Should that circumstance be necessary to fight a fire, that would not be in contravention of animal cruelty.
This bill creates a new section relating to animals kept in tanks without the minister's approval. The minister, with carriage over the Animal Welfare Act, would have the authority to grant an approval to a person to keep a prescribed animal in a tank. However, that minister could not grant approval unless the RSPCA approves the living conditions in which the prescribed animal is proposed to be kept. The definition of a tank would include a pool, a pond, a dam, a pen or other confined area. The bill defines a prescribed animal to mean a marine mammal including, of course, whales, dolphins and porpoises. A class of fish will also include sharks and rays.
I note that we cannot legislate for all occasions but, in this case, we have clearly failed to ensure protections not against illegality, in this case, but against stupidity. The stupidity of a shark in a tank in a nightclub bar has certainly captured the attention and, rightly, the concern of many citizens of this state, and I hope that it will concern members of this chamber. On a side note, this bill would not cover the issue of the proposed tuna pen at Victor Harbor, as it includes fish of the class Chondrichthyes (sharks). Tuna would need to be prescribed in regulations and certainly, we note that there are also tuna in a situation in Port Lincoln.
I want to thank those stakeholder groups I have worked with on this bill. At first, the consideration was to replicate a New South Wales piece of legislation. There, the Exhibited Animals Protection Act would have covered this particular situation. It is quite a complex piece of legislation, covering standards for the housing, fencing, caging and exercise facilities for animals; hygiene for the keeping and housing of animals; nutrition, general care and husbandry of animals; records to be kept about the breeding, health, welfare, movement, acquisition, death and disposal of animals, including that a stock and mortality register be kept; the destruction of animals and disposal of carcasses; educational and scientific requirements for animal exhibits; and transport and public safety.
I urge the government to have a look at that New South Wales legislation because, clearly, there are areas where we in South Australia lag behind in the protection of animals, particularly in the protection of exhibited animals. This bill quite simply ensures that sharks will be considered animals, will let the RSPCA do its job and will ensure that there is some ministerial accountability and discretion where stupidity appears to have prevailed over common sense.
It is a simple bill. I hope that members of this chamber and the Weatherill government can take it seriously because, while sharks in a bar in a tank seems a stupid idea, it is also so senseless and so cruel as to require some sort of swift action. I thank the RSPCA and in particular Di Evans and Tim Vasudeva. I thank also Animal Liberation, Animals Australia, the Conservation Council, and Voiceless—particularly their Emmanuel Giuffre—as well as various shark experts and Dan Monceaux.
I have noted in the media that this Atlantis Lounge Bar have said that they are consulting with animal experts and that they are taking advice on these issues. I think some of the advice would have been, 'Yes, it will get you a lot of media to say that you are going to have a shark in a bar.' Something less cruel, like people dressed up as mermaids that you had at your launch on Thursday night, will get you just as much attention and just as much enjoyment for your patrons.
Certainly, I note that when I arranged a meeting between Dan Monceaux, the RSPCA and me with the proprietors of the Atlantis Lounge Bar, they cancelled a few hours before we were scheduled to meet so we have yet to have that meeting with them. I wonder who the animal experts are that they have met with because they certainly have not met with the RSPCA. With those few words, I commend the bill to the council.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens .