Posted on 10. May, 2012 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I note that there has been much excitement involving the previous speaker, but I can assure members that my contribution will be low key and that I will stick to the script. I wanted to say from the outset that there would not be too much excitement, because I know this bill is very much a housekeeping bill. I am very pleased to be making a contribution to debate on the Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. This bill amends three acts of the Victorian Parliament — namely, the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992, the Domestic Animals Act 1994 and the Livestock Management Act 2010. As the amendments to the livestock act are minor and of a technical nature I will direct my comments to the amendments to the first two acts.

This bill makes some amendments of a technical nature to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992 relating to the use and control of veterinary and agricultural chemicals. Section 69(3) of the principal act deals with infringement notices and prescribes the penalty for an offence under the act as not exceeding 2 penalty units. However, clause 7 of this bill substitutes 2 penalty units with 5 penalty units, effectively doubling the penalty units, yet there has been no explanation from the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security. All the minister said in his second‑reading speech was that the amendments to the principal act are minor. Why then does the bill provide for a 150 per cent increase? Both Parliament and industry are entitled to an explanation. Is there a problem? Has there been a substantial increase in offences? Are the offences becoming more serious? Presumably these are the reasons one would consider for such a massive increase in penalties. Surely penalties of any kind are for the purposes of, firstly, acting as a deterrent, and secondly, punishing illegal behaviour. However, the minister has not outlined a problem; he has said only that the amendments are minor.

Perhaps the hiking of penalties has been imposed upon him by the Treasurer, and he is too embarrassed to admit this to the Parliament. As this do‑nothing government takes the state into recession it may be banking on a penalty‑led recovery to balance the books. This government should be investing in infrastructure, which would promote economic activity and lead to growth and jobs and increased revenue. Relying on increased penalties is regressive, and Victorians expect this government to meet its commitment to keep charges down. It has been interesting to hear over the last couple of days members make contributions concerning the budget, particularly from the other side of the house. Government members tend to blame the international environment. They forget that when Labor was in government we had to deal with the global financial crisis, and we came out of it with flying colours. However, that fact seems to be completely ignored or overlooked.

The other amendments this bill makes are to the Domestic Animals Act 1994. Firstly, the bill increases from 17 to 18 years the minimum age a person needs to be to be the legal owner of a cat or dog. The rationale behind this is to avoid offences being heard in the Children’s Court, which is understandable. I assume the government expects that children will still have pets but that their parents will be the legal owners. I hope it will not lead to a reduction in the involvement of kids with pets. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has this to say about children and pets:

For children, it has been shown that growing up with pets (particularly dogs) during infancy helps to strengthen the immune system and reduces the risk of allergies linked to asthma.

Children who have pets including dogs, cats, fish and birds are also less likely to miss days of school.

I add that owning a pet encourages responsibility in children, which is hopefully something positive that can be taken into adulthood.

The other amendment to the act relates to the payment of concessional rates for the registration of cats and dogs. This is to be removed for new owners but will be grandparented for existing owners. This is fair enough, as it was understood to be a temporary measure to encourage microchipping. However, the grandparenting provision will not apply to people who move municipalities. They will end up paying an additional $30 for their existing pets, which is yet another way the government is finding to slug people. What should be a reasonable bill has become another example of this government’s incapacity to give Victorians a full and frank explanation, and it shows that the promise to keep down charges is on the never‑never. I have said enough. I hope the minister will take all of this into consideration.


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