Animal Testing of Cosmetics - Speech in Parliament

When I was first elected as member for Scullin, something that really surprised me was the depth of feeling right across the Scullin electorate on issues of animal welfare. It continues to amaze me how often I receive correspondence around the full gamut of issues which go to concerns about the treatment of animals in Australia and overseas. In particular there has obviously been a focus on concerns expressed in respect of the live export industry, but the concerns go across the full spectrum and I think they show that across the communities I represent—and this is a pattern which is consistent right across the Scullin electorate, from Hurstbridge to Thomastown—we, in this place, ensure that we do give a voice to prevent suffering for those who are otherwise voiceless if we do not take that action. I think that is particularly important in the case of a motion such as this, when the suffering is on any of you, entirely unnecessary, as I think the member for Hotham expressed with characteristic clarity.

I am very pleased to be able to support the motion moved by the member for La Trobe today and to join with the member for Hotham and the member for Swan in doing so. I think it is important that, in this place, we give expression to issues that are so important to so many of our constituents and do so in a bipartisan manner, where we can look at the evidence, look at the moral framework around this issue and step forward, hopefully, as one parliament. In doing so, I do hope that members opposite—and I know the member for Swan touched on this quite generously in his contribution—pay heed to the work that has been done by the member for Hotham at the request of the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, because I think the consultation she touched upon in her contribution should be more widely read. It is not a particularly partisan document but it does express two really important things: (1) the depth of interest right across the Australian community in these concerns—six well-attended forums and 14,000 submissions received—and (2) the fact that she has also worked through, with the benefit of these contributions, some of the complexities that go to really dealing with these concerns in an effective way. She has not simply introduced a private senator's bill for the sake of it; she has tried to tidy up all the regulatory issues and all the practical concerns to give effect to the values that this motion expresses.

I think this goes perhaps to a couple of wider concerns and, for my part, I would like to acknowledge the importance of the advocacy of groups like Animals Australia and World Animal Protection in bringing together concerned citizens to aggregate and articulate these concerns effectively. It is critical, in my mind, that we build together a confidence that formal politics, not just community activism, can make these concerns, which are so genuinely and passionately felt, something that not only drives conversations in the community but drives real outcomes in this parliament and works through these issues, where appropriate, with industry and manages the parliamentary process and the process of government to bring it better in line with the legitimate expectations of the Australian people.

On that point, the member for Swan touched upon the role of consumers, and this, of course, is important. But labelling and consumer awareness can only take us so far. It is a responsibility of this parliament and the Australian government to do more. I think, with the very limited time that is available to me, I should make clear how pleased I am to be able to support this motion. I thank the member for La Trobe for putting it on the Notice Paper. I am very pleased to stand with the overwhelming majority of the Australian community and trust that the assistant minister will do likewise in the very near future.


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