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Committee chair Adam Marshall (Nats) address the puppy farm inquiry.

The NSW puppy factory inquiry was set up to produce a whitewash report favouring pet breeders — and much of that was the National Party's doing, writes Peter Wicks.

In NSW, there has been a parliamentary Inquiry into companion animal breeding practices going on for the last few months. Better known as the "puppy factory inquiry", the Inquiry tabled its recommendations in parliament last week.

Those recommendations have seen the Inquiry mocked and criticised by many within the industry and the only ones left cheering being the puppy factory owners that the public had mistakenly assumed the Inquiry was meant to drive out of business. Just as they thought the last time around, in 2012, when the same government held an inquiry into the same thing and ended up ignoring their own recommendations, only to repeat some of them again this time around the mulberry bush.

So, with a public up in arms over the seemingly endless reports of cruelty and depravity at the hands of breeders, one wonders what the political motivation would be in letting these breeders carry on their vile trade.

Those pondering that question would need to ask the Coalition for an answer. In particular, the National Party which as a Party would appear to have a commitment to not only the cruel treatment of animals but the cover up and censorship.

In NSW, the Parliamentary Inquiry came under the jurisdiction of Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair, chairman of the National Party.

Niall Blair has been making a name for himself for being seemingly surgically attached to Barnaby Joyce, as well as sprouting Barnaby’s words pushing for what is known as Ag-Gag legislation. This legislation seeks to send people who expose acts of animal cruelty to gaol and heavy fines.

Adam Marshall with his mentor, Agriculture Minister Niall Blair (Image via adammarshall.com.au)

So, when it came to the appointment of the chairperson for this Inquiry, Blair chose wisely. Enter political newcomer Adam Marshall, a 31 year-old National Party MP who was preselected after the previous member in Northern Tablelands seat, the Coalition supporting "Independent" Richard Torbay was disgraced and forced out. This occurred as part of the dodgy donations scandal that was investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and went through Coalition members like a dose epsom salts after a dodgy curry. Torbay’s home and electorate office were raided while he was alleged to be hiding out in Coffs Harbour.

No stranger to controversy himself, Adam Marshall is known for showing his care for his electorate and its citizens by driving through it after a bender and blowing over double the limit when breathalysed. 

Adam had also shown that he was on top of the issue at hand by being blissfully ignorant of the four puppy factories exposed in his own electorate.

Nevertheless, Blair appointed Marshall as Chair. Thx Niall Blair.

One could speculate that Blair appointed Marshall because he wanted someone he could use as a sock puppet. Someone wet behind the ears, with some baggage and someone who could be easily controlled. Someone desperate to prove themselves and someone who would owe him big time. Someone like Adam Marshall. Thx Niall Blair.

Maybe it was a means of thanking Marshal for doing so little, or maybe it was in the tradition of dodgy dollars though a National MP in the electorate, but in the last three months of the Inquiry alone, Adam Marshall was able to secure State Government funding of at least $377,900 for his electorate. This was secured through Niall Blair. In fact, there may have been even more, however this is the amount that Marshall specifically thanked Niall Blair for on Twitter over that period, using the three most common words he uses on Twitter, 'Thx Niall Blair'. Thx Niall Blair.

That’s works out a cool $31,491 a week — that we know of. Thx Niall Blair.

Anyway, three months is as far back as I could stomach, perhaps ICAC may venture further? Thx Niall Blair.

When it comes to money, however, the NSW Government’s administration team behind the Inquiry weren’t so keen to put a figure on what the whole exercise in futility cost the taxpayer. Phone calls and emails were of no use, with the standard response being that it bore no cost to the taxpayer as the MP’s are in Parliament at any rate.

Committee manager David Hale responded in one email:

The NSW Legislative Assembly has an aggregated budget for its several committees and does not isolate individual committee expenses.

The Assembly publishes overall budgetary information in its annual reports, which are published in the latter part of each calendar year and are available on the Parliament’s website.

Everything was about downplaying any cost. And no figures were going to be given. Nor were any hours spent by the numerous staff involved going to be delved into, with every question on the number of hours being downplayed and dodged. In the end, I sought an answer straight from the horse's mouth and asked Adam Marshall how many hours all the members, their staff, and admin staff spent on Inquiry matters, Marshall responded.

“Heaps!!”

Something that would have cost the taxpayer heaps is the field trips, including one to of the major centres in Marshall’s electorate, Armidale in Northern NSW, involving an overnight stay.

You see, while animal advocates paid out of their pockets to travel to the NSW Parliament, some from interstate, the puppy factory owners got the privilege of a visiting parliamentary entourage at the taxpayers expense.

Puppy farms visited were given more than ample notice to clean up shop and make sure there was no filth, mangy animals with hideous injuries, or corpses lying around in plain sight.

Thx Niall Blair.

I’m sure MP’s and their staff were given the tour of the area by Marshall, you know: this is where I had my boozy benders, here’s where I was busted, there’s the police station I was charged, here’s the court where I was found guilty and so on.

Lucky for all concerned, Adam Marshall didn’t come across a family coming the other way on that night.

With fingers such as these pulling the strings it is no wonder we ended up with the piss-weak recommendations from the Inquiry.

What I am hoping for is a political party with the backbone to stand up and say they think the recommendations are crap and, as such, should have been tabled on toilet paper.

Instead, we have people going along the lines of: We welcome the recommendations as a step forward although there are a couple of issues blah, blah, blah….

The response should be the other way around, something like: We are hugely disappointed that the public has been let down so savagely by these recommendations. Recommendations that despite having a couple of odd slight improvements included, do absolutely nothing to resolve the major issues.

Despite a promising media release from the Greens spokesperson on the matter from Mehreen Faruqi, nobody else from her Party have come out swinging at all. Interesting that on an issue they talk big on, when it comes to the crunch, the best they can manage is an email to the media. Maybe we’re not close enough to the election yet?

Labor are as yet to do any better. Despite having the most detailed, comprehensive and thorough animal welfare policy in the country, there has yet to be any real response, despite the some of the recommendations being the complete opposite of Labor's policy, such as the sale of animals in pet stores.

While in Victoria Labor are charging ahead with legislation and changes to industry codes that has the puppy factories set to put their tails between their legs and flee north, in NSW we wait in vain for a raised voice or two.

Let’s hope both Labor and the Greens are brewing up some sort of storm. Preferably one that’s not in a teacup. After all that’s why we elected them…

In finishing this piece up, I’d just like to thank the academy and, of course, Niall Blair.

Thx Niall Blair.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy.

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