WESTERN Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back has returned fire at “vitriolic” attacks over his Bill to curtail extended delays in reporting video evidence of animal cruelty allegations.
In a Senate speech yesterday, Senator Back said his Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill was tabled on February 11 – but since then he and his proposed legislation had faced a “vitriolic, not surprising attack” by animal activists.
He also took a major swipe at an advert which appeared in The Australian newspaper yesterday.
“In this particular advertisement ... they go on about the term 'ag gag', which I take to mean legislation that would stop people from actually reporting,” he said.
“How can you apply that (term) to a Bill that far from gagging a person requires them, if they see what they believe to be malicious cruelty, to go to a responsible authority and present that information?”
The advertisement contained an open letter to the Australian public signed by Voiceless, Animal Liberation, Compassion in World Farming and the Animal Welfare League Australia.
It said a recent ABC television report into the greyhound industry reaffirmed why undercover investigations are “absolutely necessary, in detecting and prosecuting animal cruelty in Australia”.
“Alarmingly, a dangerous new Bill has been introduced to the Senate that will, in our opinion, stifle such investigation into how major animal industries operate in this country,” it said.
But Senator Back said in regards to people who might be trying to covertly obtain information, “I only make this point: nothing in my bill prevents or precludes any person from acting legally”.
“If they wish to protest, if they wish to gather outside a facility, all of that is legal,” he said.
“Any person in this country can act legally - but we must not take the law into our own hands.
“The legislation provides that a person would report that. This is either about cruelty or it is not. It is about a moral obligation to act.
“It is, in my view, the concern of the welfare and the wellbeing and the protection of animals. I am at a loss to know how holding that footage for three months works.
“Where is the test of human decency in an action that fails to protect the wellbeing of animals?”
Senator Back said nothing in his Bill prevents a person acting legally “in any way at all”.
“Once a person has presented that material, together with the evidence, they can go to the media and continue to collect more evidence,” he said.
“In fact, nothing at all under this Bill prevents a person from carrying on in a legal, lawful way to gather more information, to go to the press or to do whatever they want to do -contrary, unfortunately, to the vitriol and the stupidity which have been visited upon me.”
Senator Back also critiqued another media article on the Bill, written by RSPCA policy officer Jed Goodfellow and Professor Peter Radan.
He said the two critics had said his Bill “has nothing to do with animal protection”, and retorted: “What an amazing statement from two people of supposedly superior legal capacity”.
“They say, ‘By inhibiting those inconvenient investigations that have been so successful in exposing animal cruelty’ (but), nothing in my Bill prevents a person from continuing investigations,” he said.
“What I am trying to do - as, indeed, is the role of CCTV in hot-spot areas in different locations around Australia - is to provide visual imagery so that responsible authorities actually have something with which to prosecute people.”