Animal Law in the Spotlight: Federal Election 2016 result

Arguably one of the more diverse election campaigns in recent history, the 2016 Federal Election proved to be a strong platform to speak out on animal protection issues with new political voices supporting animal welfare initiatives along with stronger positioning from the major parties.

As part of Voiceless’s Federal Election campaign, we contacted all of the major political parties and Independents and sought their policy positions on the key federal animal protection issues.

Remarkably, our supporters also sent out more than 25,000 emails to the leaders of the major political parties, urging them to commit to a ban on live export, the introduction of an independent office of animal welfare, and a ban on the commercial killing of kangaroos.

In addition to our email campaign, Voiceless joined forces with other major Australian animal protection groups calling for political action  following the horrific ABC’s 7.30 exposé on live export cruelty in Vietnam.  

Voiceless also dedicated its national Animal Law Lecture Series to the growing international movement to represent the interests of animals in politics, and how this movement has resulted in significant legal and policy developments in the animal protection space globally.

How did the political parties stack up heading into the 2016 election?

Given the policies of many of the political parties, it is clear that animal advocates have been effective in putting animal issues on the political agenda.

For the first time, all of the major parties incorporated pro-animal initiatives into their policies. This was also the case with some of the minor parties, including the Animal Justice Party and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party.

This promising new discourse reflects an awareness by our political leaders that voters are willing to support parties that put forward progressive animal protection policies.

The Coalition

While the Coalition did not have an animal welfare policy, it did commit to a ban on the testing of finished cosmetic products and ingredients on animals, as well as the sale of animal-tested products, in Australia. Given its bipartisan support, we can expect the ban to take effect from 1 July 2017, and will bring Australia into line with other countries who have already committed to such a ban, including the member states of the European Union.

The Australian Labor Party

In addition to banning the sale and import of cosmetics tested on animals, the ALP put forward a significantly more progressive animal welfare policy than it has previously, committing to the introduction of an Inspector-General of Animal Welfare, an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, a review of the live export regulatory framework (ESCAS), and an update and renewal of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy.

Following the Vietnamese live export exposé, the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten further strengthened its model for an Independent Office, which would not only have an advisory role, but also be responsible for overseeing compliance with the live export regulatory framework and investigating potential breaches.

Critically, the ALP also acknowledged that their Independent Office would have responsibility for providing oversight and advice on such animal welfare issues as the killing of kangaroos, the first time ALP policy has directly recognised the need to consider the welfare of kangaroos killed for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

The Australian Greens

Of the major parties, the Greens had the strongest animal welfare policy, committing to a ban on live export, an end to intensive farming of meat, dairy and egg products, and a ban on inhumane farming practices (such as on-farm mutilation practices and the treatment of bobby calves in the dairy industry).

Among other initiatives, the Australian Greens also committed to establishing an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, the development of a comprehensive and enforceable definition and standard for “free range” farming, and increasing community understanding of the impact of animal agriculture on the environment.

For the first time, the Greens’ policy also singled out the treatment of kangaroos, calling for a more independent and robust examination of the evidence informing the shooting of kangaroos. The Greens also noted that they would be working to improve habitat conservation to ensure the protection and survival of all native wildlife, including kangaroos.

Minor Parties

Encouragingly, a number of the minor parties and independents put forward progressive animal protection policies in 2016.

The Animal Justice Party led the charge, being the only party to focus solely on protecting the interests of nonhuman animals. Despite failing to secure a representative in the new parliament, the AJP was successful in doubling its vote from the previous election, and increased its vote across every jurisdiction.

Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party also went into the election with a strong animal protection policy platform, focusing on harsher penalties for animal cruelty, a ban on live animal exports, and a ban on the commercial killing of kangaroos. Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party successfully secured one seat in the Senate and will prove a key voice for animals in parliament.

The Nick Xenophon Team secured one representative in the House of Representatives and three in the Senate. While Nick Xenophon has previously been strong on opposing live export, his position appears to have weakened since the 2011 Indonesian exposé.

Election results – what’s in store for animals?

A further three-year term of the Coalition Government is not an ideal outcome for animals. The Coalition continues to oppose the introduction of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare and the implementation of structures that will strengthen federal government leadership in the animal protection space.

Further, with the support of Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, the Government will undoubtedly continue with its unwavering support for, and expansion of, the live export industry despite ongoing cruelty and the vast majority of Australians vehemently opposing the trade.

Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that animal protection has become a significant political issue. As the movement continues to grow, community expectations around the treatment of animals is progressing. This will undoubtedly lead to better, more compassionate, policies from our political parties.

In the meantime, Voiceless will continue to lobby our decision-makers for legislative reform, both by utilising existing relationships and by developing new ones within parliament.

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