With all the madness emanating from Australia’s Federal Parliament, one might forget that there are some decent politicians amongst the crowd. Andrew Wilkie, Independent Member for Denison, Tasmania, is such a politician with integrity. A voice of reason and compassion. Last month, he spoke at the RSPCA’s Animal Welfare Seminar 2015. His topic was “Why animal welfare matters to me”.
I want to highlight some of the points he made.
Mr Wilkie expressed the view that governments, and in particular the Federal Government, need to take stronger action to protect animals.
There is clearly a greater need for greater government intervention when it comes to animal welfare. There is no doubt in my mind. And in my mind it needs to be a Federal Government intervention, which we’ve barely seen. Self-regulation does not work. … And what better example than the recent exposé of the greyhound racing industry.
And voluntary model codes of practice don’t work either. How many different interpretations are there when it comes to free-range chickens.
So why are governments so weak on animal welfare, and why is it so hard to make political progress? There are many reasons, but Mr Wilkie pointed in particular to the fact that governments are beholden to vested interests, to political donors. He suggested that political donations are a corruption of good governance.
There are also conflicts of interest. For example, in Australia an estimated $4 billion each year is gambled on greyhound racing, and $16 billion on thoroughbred racing. Governments, mainly the state governments, benefit from this. So it presents an enormous conflict of interest.
But animal welfare is important to the Australian people. Wilkie reports that of all the issues he is involved with, animal welfare is raised with him most often, and animal issues attract the biggest response to him personally and to his office.
Of all the issues I am involved in, the issue that consistently attracts the strongest response from the community and the biggest response is when I open my mouth about animal welfare. So I think the polls are right. I think the vast majority of people in this country really care about animal welfare, and would really like to see governments intervene more and ensure that our animals are treated better. I have no doubt.
We need to keep the pressure up and keep chipping away.
The change will come. Change does come.
It’s an uplifting talk. A good video clip to watch when you’re despairing about the state of politics and our politicians.
All the presentations from the RSPCA’s Animal Welfare Seminar 2015 are available online.