THE RSPCA WA has labelled a parliamentary inquiry into its functions as “infuriating and insulting”.
There were some heated moments during proceedings as RSPCA WA president Lynne Bradshaw responded to some hard line questioning from some inquiry committee members.
At one stage she said the inquiry had placed a “financial, resource and reputational burden” on the organisation and was a “politically motivated campaign”.
“The RSPCA is disappointed about the time and resources that are tied up in this inquiry,” she said.
“In the 126 submissions and two days of public hearing we haven’t seen or heard anything that substantiated the allegations against us.”
The inquiry is investigating concerns the animal welfare group may be transitioning into an animal rights group.
It is chaired by WA’s Shooters and Fishers MP Rick Mazza, who called for an investigation in 2013.
Ms Bradshaw and RSPCA WA chief executive David van Ooran and chief inspector Amanda Swift this week testified before Labor MP Sally Talbot and Greens MP Lynn MacLaren, Nationals MLC Paul Brown and Liberal MLC Nigel Hallett, who asked questions about the group’s focus, training, structure, WA government funding, objectives and powers.
Ms Bradshaw said the line of questioning at the hearing was “interesting”.
She said while they were tempted to feel the hearing was a hostile environment, she remains proud of the organisation and what it does.
“The RSPCA has done nothing wrong,” she said.
“We will continue to do what we always do and that’s prevent cruelty to animals.
“We feel it was a waste of taxpayers’ money and I think, so far, there is no substantiation to the allegations being put forward.
“But we don’t feel threatened as such.
“Some of the submissions have come from vested interest groups, such as farm lobby groups. It’s just a list of accusations but there is no foundation and no substance.
“I am sure the RSPCA will come out of this inquiry stronger and it will continue to do the work it does.’’
During the inquiry, Ms Bradshaw described allegations against the animal welfare group as “malicious”.
“Over the past year or so the RSPCA has been subject to what could only be characterised as a malicious campaign that aims at creating suspicion and doubt,’’ she said.
“Examples of the faceless nonsense aimed at our organisation includes claims that the RSPCA is lurching towards activism, that our inspectors, who are public officers, are abusing their powers, that we are anti-farming and misusing government funding.
“If it were not for the fact these allegations were so serious in imputation, they would be laughable.
“But what is more disturbing to our organisation is that they are being used as a justification to this inquiry.
“It is our submission that there is nothing that has been presented in this inquiry to justify any of these faceless allegations.”
During the tense hearing, Mr Brown questioned Ms Swift about the RSPCA WA’s training and processes.
This included discussion on the signing of a directions notice ordering Geraldton vet Matt Carrick to erect a shelter for his horses without an RSPCA inspector nor Ms Swift inspecting the animals herself.
Ms Swift said the RSPCA had received cruelty reports about the horses that were allegedly left without shelter and based her decision on photos and a vet report.
She said she was left with no alternative but to sign the notice as Mr Carrick had thrown out the original and refused to speak with the inspector on site.
She said it was alleged that the Carricks had threatened the inspector.
Mr Brown said this was the first time he had heard these allegations after extensive discussions on this case.
“The Carricks will be given ample opportunity when they speak at the next inquiry, to expand on what was said today and give them an opportunity to defend themselves in regards to these allegations,” Mr Brown said.
“This has never been raised before in any of the communications we have had previously.
“The Carricks had a witness when the inspector turned up, so the allegation of threats to the inspector is not true at all, there was no threat.”
Mr Brown believed this case was just one example of the organisation’s “outrageous breaches of process”.
Ms Bradshaw defended the inspectors and the organisation and said it was like any other organisation.
“I seem to get the impression that we are being targeted as some trigger happy bunch of amateurs, with malicious intent, and that’s really not the case,” she said.
“We are what we say, we are a professional charity, with a high standard of corporate governance.”
The scheduled 90 minute inquiry ran over time, sitting for more than two hours.
Mr Brown said all the committee members had many questions, including some that had not yet been asked about the organisation’s involvement in anti-live export campaigns.
“We could have had a whole day with the RSPCA WA, as there were so many questions,” he said.
“There will be another opportunity to ask them questions and I will be using that opportunity.”
The Carricks and representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Food will appear at the next inquiry sitting on Monday.
The committee is due to report by the end of the year, but could be extended until next year.
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