Voices of Art III

(6.45pm 3 May 2012, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation Paddington)

Welcome everyone and thank you.

I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

We are here because we share the Voiceless vision of a world where animals are treated with compassion and respect.

Animals feel physical and emotional pain, and as a civilised, just and humane society, we should aim to remove that pain. Yet animals suffer immeasurably because of the actions of humans. Our animal protection laws are filled with loopholes to promote profit over welfare. Most cruelty is sanctioned and institutionalised.

But it doesn't have to be like this. Australia is behind world's best practice in its treatment of animals which are farmed for food; exhibited for entertainment; or sold as pets.

In Parliament I have repeatedly called on successive governments to ban sow stalls, battery hen and broiler chicken farming, kangaroo hunting, pet shop sales and the use of wild animals in circuses, and to make CCTV mandatory in abattoirs.

I have submitted petitions, moved motions, asked questions, given speeches, introduced private members bills and amendments to government bills. Over the years I have seen small changes but so much more is needed.

Few members of Parliament believe animal welfare is a priority and the political parties are gutless in the face of industry pressure. (Who will lead when I am forced to step down following recent Government legislation (shooters) to make it illegal for an MP to also serves as a Councillor?)

How do we get reform? Reform only happens when there is a strong community and media pressure and understanding about what changes are needed.

There is no doubt Australians are animal lovers and would be appalled at how animals are treated for profit, but most people don't know what goes on or don't know what they can do to stop it.

Voiceless is a strong defender of animal rights. It closely monitors existing law and enforcement and proposes changes.

A large part of its work is education about animal law for the legal and professional communities - these are our current and future leaders, those who will be able to help achieve the reform so urgently needed.

I really commend Voiceless on this work.

Voices for Art is not only an important event to help raise funds for the great work Voiceless does, it is in itself an opportunity for the business community and the art community to learn about the plight of animals in this state and to push for more humane treatment of animals.

Tonight is about that - learning about how animals are really treated in this country and celebrating the achievements of Voiceless.

I hope it is a catalyst for many of you to take action.