Ag bill not a gag: Back

04 Mar, 2015 01:00 PM
Senator Chris Back.
Where is the test of human decency in an action that fails to protect the wellbeing of animals?
Senator Chris Back.

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.”

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


5/03/2015 6:43:24 AM

I oppose the bill because reporting cruelty as you witness it doesn't work. You get fobbed off, ignored etc. What Animals Australia did with the Live Export video is the only way to get anyone to listen. Dr. Back is not on the side of mistreated animals and I think he should 'fess up about who's pocket he's in.
5/03/2015 7:30:35 AM

Lulu maybe you need to report your sightings to the appropriate authorities and not just your politically driven mates. And while you're at it report any cases of illegal trespassing, biosecurity breaches, etc. try not being so selective about which law you respect and your credibility may be established.
angry australian
5/03/2015 7:33:20 AM

Lulu that's a cop out and you know, selectively picking the case you want to highlight! PETA sat on a video for months,so did AA with the greyhounds.Where are the sworn complaints to the authorities in these cases,where are the eye witnesses prepared to stand up in court? If the agencies charged with protecting animal welfare aren't doing their job, and in many States it's the RSPCA predominantly, then you should strongly complain to your local MP or Ombudsman. In my opinion AA and PETA only use these videos as a way of raising revenue, otherwise they'd offer the evidence to prosecutors
Jo Bloomfield
5/03/2015 7:55:31 AM

Animals Australia claim to be the voice for animals, RSPCA for all creatures great and small. How ironic that they only see the need to actually abide by those ideals when it suits their own purposes of self advertisement for more funds. They both equated LE to human suffering, funny how they haven't done that with the animals live baited. Maybe these groups only hear what they want when they want. Good on you Senator Back, this bill is desperately needed before someone gets killed, because thats what it will take for some to realise they have gone to far.
Katrina Love
5/03/2015 7:48:37 PM

angry australian - the police were involved with the operation that has seen (so far) 70+ greyhound industry individuals identified. Had Back's Bill already been in place - the charges laid in relation to the criminal activities of these staff, trainers and greyhound owners and identities would not have been possible - sometimes it takes weeks or months to build a case and prove guilt. The end justifies the means - outlaw the abuse, not the exposure of it; the abusers are the criminals, not those who bring the abuse to light.
Melanie Eishou
5/03/2015 8:04:56 PM

I strongly oppose the bill. What sense does it make charging the person who is trying to expose the animal abuse at hand, instead of the person/organisation who is doing the abusing? Chris Back pull your finger out! It's clear who your protecting and it's not the animals!
Cattle Advocate
5/03/2015 8:07:04 PM

In the UK during the great depression AR activism delayed the use of diptheria vaccine and from1925-40 it killed 53,558 people there. In Jan 1925 when diptheria a horrible death was killing 12-13K pa in US an epidemic hit Nome Alaska and a relay of 150 sled dogs did a mercy vaccine dash in temps of -50 from the south with some dogs giving their lives.They have an annual sled race from Anchourage to Nome to honnor this bravery. In 1918-19 Spainish flu killed about 50pc of Nome's native people. AR activism continues to hinder welfare progress are the blatant misquotes final acts of desperation?
angry australian
6/03/2015 6:42:35 AM

Katrina, your comment is a load of garbage.I do not support ag gag as such, for I am passionate about freedom of speech. But I am just as vehemently opposed to vigilantism and dropkicks who believe "The end justifies the means". No it DOES NOT, we have laws that have stood the test of time, we have enforcement agencies ie police,RSPCA etc. People have the right to go about their lawful business without zealots like you wanting to trample over human rights.We have a right to not have their property trespassed upon, and to secure against damage. We don't live in Napoleon's dictatorship
6/03/2015 9:51:10 AM

Katrina you won't mind me breaking into your house to check your not abusing animals or people will you? I can secretly film your every move as well if you like, just in case you may do something wrong. What ever medication you are taking isn't working. Well done Senator, those against you clearly don't care about animal welfare. We all know they are about shutting down all animal production and cashing in on donations for their own benefit.
Just me
6/03/2015 9:55:25 AM

Angry Austraian, I agree with you to a point but I'm not an absolutist and I for sure think that sometimes the end DOES justify the means. Women/Gay activism just to name a few examples. I'm against Ag Gag.
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