MOTION | FUR INDUSTRY

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan) : I too rise to speak on motion 217 moved by Mr Meddick in relation to the sale of real fur from raccoon and raccoon dogs labelled as fake fur.
The Victorian government is aware of consumer concerns about products that are alleged to have been made overseas from raccoon or raccoon dog fur. The government is also aware of calls to ban the sale of real fur. The welfare of all animals in Victoria is protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986. The keeping of fur species in Victoria other than rabbits requires a permit under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 and would not be granted for fur production. Species farmed for their fur in other parts of the world, such as minks and raccoon dogs, are not permitted to be imported or kept in Victoria.
The Australian live import list, made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, does not list minks, raccoon dogs or raccoons, thereby preventing the import of these species into Australia. The importation of cat and dog fur is also prohibited under commonwealth law—namely, the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958—except with the permission of the federal Minister for Home Affairs. I must agree that there are significant animal welfare issues associated with fur production overseas. It is a very serious matter that consumers are being misled by the mislabelling of real fur products as fake fur.
Globally each year more than 100 million animals are killed for their fur. Most of the animals farmed for their fur are minks, foxes, raccoon dogs, rabbits and chinchillas. The caged housing of animals on fur farms overseas appears to be restrictive and it appears that these cages do not meet the biological and behavioural needs of the species farmed. As Mr Meddick said, many global fashion brands have decided to stop using fur for their designs. The Andrews Labor government has been a very progressive government when it comes to the welfare of animals.
We are proud to have made significant improvements to animal welfare, with plans for further reforms well advanced. We legislated to ban puppy farms and provided $5 million to the RSPCA to investigate and shut down illegal puppy farms through a special investigations team. We passed laws that enshrined tenants’ rights to keep pets. Animal cruelty charges have been increased, including doubling of some penalties.
We removed the requirement for pet greyhounds to be muzzled and have delivered a new welfare code for racing greyhounds. We have developed Victoria’s first Animal Welfare Action Plan. The plan was the result of an 18-month engagement with industry, stakeholder groups and individuals to reflect the community’s expectations for animal welfare. We established Animal Welfare Victoria, a dedicated unit within the department. Animal Welfare
Victoria has brought together domestic animal and animal welfare research, policy, legislation, education and compliance functions. We reformed the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to ensure government receives expert advice to support our busy animal welfare agenda. This was all on top of an amendment, within our first six months of being elected, to the Code of Practice for the Operation of Breeding and Rearing Businesses to require dog breeders to obtain a veterinary health check for all female dogs prior to each mating cycle. In 2015 we strengthened ministerial powers for the immediate seizure of animals in current or imminent animal welfare emergencies.
We have also put in place stricter penalties for those who are found guilty of animal cruelty offences, introducing the ability for the courts to ban someone from owning or being in charge of animals for life. The Andrews Labor government has also delivered a promised $3 million boost to animal welfare grants in this year’s budget, and we are working on what will be important reforms to our animal welfare laws. Labor is committed to modernising Victoria’s animal welfare laws to support better harm prevention, improved education, a more effective regulatory response and effective penalties.
As part of the consultation Labor will consider which animal welfare codes are to be mandatory and which are to be advisory. We will recognise the sentience of animals as underpinning the new laws, because we know and need to recognise that animals feel pain. The Australian Consumer Law is applied to protect consumers across Australia. The Australian Consumer Law came into force on 1 January 2011 and is a national law applied in Victoria under state legislation. The ACL provides consumers with a set of guarantees for the goods they buy, one of which is that they will be of ‘acceptable quality’. However, the national ACL does not regulate the availability of any product. The only powers that state or territory ministers have under the ACL to restrict the supply of any product are in relation to safety issues that a product may pose to consumers.
Under the Australian Consumer Law it is unlawful to make false or misleading representations about products and services when supplying, offering to supply or promoting products and services. This includes representations made on product labels about what a product is made of; its quality, history or price; or its place of origin. Product labels must be accurate, regardless of the intention of the business, and a representation can be misleading even if it is partly true. Making false or misleading representations is an offence. The maximum criminal penalty is $500 000 for individuals. For companies the maximum penalty is the greater of one, $10 million; two, three times the value of the benefit gained from the offence; or three, 10 per cent of annual turnover if the benefit gained from the offence cannot be determined.
Civil penalties for the same amounts apply, along with injunctions, damages, compensation and disqualification orders. Consumers with concerns about possible false or misleading representations should contact Consumer Affairs Victoria for advice. Consumer Affairs Victoria has power to deal with false or misleading product labels, and in response to consumer concerns the minister has requested that Consumer Affairs Victoria conduct inquiries into the labelling of fur. I have been informed that the Honourable Marlene Kairouz, the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, has also asked Consumer Affairs Victoria to liaise with Mr Meddick of the Animal Justice Party to obtain any relevant intelligence and testing results. Further, we have been advised that Consumer Affairs Victoria has contacted Mr Meddick to obtain further information. Following consideration of this information, Consumer Affairs Victoria will undertake marketplace inspections where required to ensure that traders adhere to their labelling obligations under the Australian Consumer Law. I would like to conclude by saying thanks to Mr Meddick for bringing this motion to the house.