There can be no question that, as members of Parliament, the care we have for our communities extends to all the living creatures that play a part in our lives. I am pleased to support the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill and share some of the concerns around animal welfare raised by my local constituents in the Summer Hill electorate. The bill amends the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. It increases maximum penalties to certain animal welfare offences and promises a simpler, stronger and more transparent regime to protect the welfare of animals by better aligning the Act with the Crimes Act. It is a sad fact that currently New South Wales has the weakest penalties for cruelty to animals in the country. The bill changes that. In fact, the Minister claims that New South Wales will now have one of the strongest penalty regimes when it comes to the harm and negligence of animals.
Fines and penalty infringement notices will be significantly increased—in some instances up to eight times the rate of existing penalties—for offences including failure to provide food, drink and shelter; acts of cruelty; and acts of aggravated cruelty. Prison terms for offences will also increase. The bill also allows a court to make an interim order prohibiting a person from owning an animal if it believes that person may commit an act of animal cruelty. The bill removes the maximum penalty available in proceedings brought before the Local Court. As my colleagues have outlined, Labor does not oppose the bill. I note that the bill has been introduced at the same time as a similar bill by the Animal Justice Party in the other place. I acknowledge and commend the Animal Justice Party members of Parliament for their principled and passionate defence of animal rights and animal welfare. There can be no doubt that this bill would not be before the House today if it were not for their advocacy and the principled positions the NSW Labor Opposition has put forward over successive election campaigns.
I am proud of Labor's leadership on animal rights and welfare. We took a comprehensive policy to the 2015 and 2019 State elections. I particularly mention the work of my friend and colleague the Hon. Mick Veitch in the other place. He put together a package of important reforms that would have seen increased funding to animal welfare agencies, a ban on the sale of puppies in pet stores, cracking down on puppy farms, mandating CCTV in all abattoirs and combating native wildlife crime by establishing a native wildlife protection squad. Federally, Labor built on our principled policies on live animal exports with a six-point plan to confirm Australia as a leader in our region for the care and protection of animals, including the establishment of an independent inspector‑general of animal welfare. We continue to push for critical protections for native animals, including koalas. I note that the Government's obsession with land clearing has our precious native species on a collision course with extinction.
We know that our local communities expect and want us to protect our native species and all the animals that enrich our lives and share our planet. While I acknowledge the work done to strengthen transparency around companion animal breeding and the establishment of the NSW Pet Registry, the fact is that the Government has dragged its feet when it comes to implementing its own promises on animal welfare. In 2018 it released its Animal Welfare Action Plan, which, amongst other reforms, promised to increase penalties for animal cruelty by the end of that year. Back in June 2018 a discussion paper from the Department of Primary Industries identified specific concerns with the relative weakness of the penalties for animal cruelty in New South Wales. The fact that the Government is updating penalties over two years later speaks to the priorities of the Liberal‑Nationals Coalition when it comes to the rights and welfare of animals. That is incredibly disappointing and many of my constituents have raised how long it has taken; the pace of reform does not meet the expectations of our community.
Inner westies and those who live in our cities are passionate about animal welfare and I am very pleased that constituents continue to raise these issues with me. Animals are supported by incredible organisations in my part of Sydney and I love visiting many of them. They include Maggie's Rescue in Marrickville; WIRES Inner West, a fantastic volunteer organisation; the Tempe Birdoes; the Inner West Environment Group; and neighbouring organisations such as the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home in Strathfield and the Cat Protection Society of NSW Adoption Centre in Enmore. Local residents want to see these organisations properly funded and supported, as well as animal welfare agencies including the RSPCA.
Some of the other issues raised by local constituents include the need to act on illegal puppy farms, supporting abandoned pets and cracking down on blood sports, which is a very disturbing practice in our community. They want to see pet bans in strata schemes and rental properties lifted and for companion animals to be able to travel on public transport, as is the case for many global cities around the world, such as New York. My constituents want to be able to take their pet on a short train trip, in particular, so that they can be together and they can exercise them at local parks. Residents have raised concerns about animal testing on cosmetics and for commercial purposes and also want to see stricter protections when it comes to testing for scientific purposes.
Despite what some others claim, inner west residents care deeply about farmers and do not want to see the ethical treatment of animals and agricultural production as a zero-sum game. They support our farmers and agricultural industries and are also passionate about issues like live export, transparent standards for free-range egg production, and ending the practice of chick shredding. One resident recently wrote to me requesting that glue traps be banned in our State, as is the case in Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. Residents have also written to me in large numbers calling for exotic animals to be banned in circuses and the exhibition of whales and dolphins to be stopped. I note that the Minister has indicated further legislation to improve animal welfare in New South Wales and I recommend these particular issues to him for consideration. No doubt residents in my electorate will continue to advocate for urgent action on these issues to be included in those reforms.
Local residents are passionate about protecting wild and native animals. The bushfires in 2019-20 killed more than a billion native animals and have moved a number of species closer to extinction. Inner westies have been vocal in their condemnation of the Liberals' and The Nationals' record of land clearing and their politicisation of koalas. I specifically acknowledge students from Marrickville West Public School and Canterbury Girls' High School, who have formed a group to protect koalas, putting forward ideas about how we can improve conservation efforts. They have run very successful fundraising drives to support koala hospitals and I commend them for their advocacy and work.
Local residents want to see an end to commercial whaling and they want to see the protection of shark species. They know that unless we act on habitat loss, feral species and climate change, we will continue to see in our country the highest decline of mammal species in the world and the catastrophic loss of insects, birds and marine life. In our own backyards, inner westies want to see greater investment in protecting our local rivers, our waterways and our bushcare sites. These small pockets of urban wilderness support countless local birds, insects, animals and wildlife and too often they are being lost again and again to overdevelopment.
Whether it is our native animals or the companion animals we love and cherish, we must treat them with dignity and respect. We must acknowledge the richness they bring to our lives, especially to those in our community who are older, more vulnerable or isolated, for whom companion animals are often a lifeline. In so many ways, animals give us so much more than we could ever give them—more love, more companionship and more joy. The least we can do is provide them with laws to keep them safe, a regulatory framework that treats them ethically, and a safe and healthy environment in which they can thrive.