Statutes Amendment (Attorney-General’s Portfolio) (No. 2) Bill

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I will not take up too much of the council’s time as this bill is being passed as a matter of some urgency. This bill is being passed more swiftly than would ordinarily be the case, and certainly more swiftly than would ordinarily be tolerated by most members, contrary to the convention that would ordinarily hold. While I, of course, point out that I understand there are instances where that does need to occur for the safety of the public and so on, or the continuity of service provision, there are many recent cases that I could point to where bills have passed unduly swiftly despite there being no public interest for that to happen, such as the petroleum bill very recently and also increases to MPs superannuation.

The Hon. M. Parnell: Good examples.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Indeed, ones that I do not think anyone in this place or any member of the public will forget too quickly. So, while I understand that there are instances where passing bills very quickly is in the interests of the public, and I certainly believe that this is one of those times, it would be remiss of me not to point out that, unfortunately, we have seen many circumstances where that has not been the case and for that reason I would not want to see this becoming something of a habit for this council.

Nevertheless, I would draw members’ attention to those provisions of the bill that relate to therapeutic and assistance animals in community title and strata properties. It is extremely encouraging to see positive change in this area, particularly given the difficulties this council faced only recently when unravelling similar issues in the government’s new residential tenancies legislation. Dignity for Disability is certainly very worried about the government’s lack of general understanding of the benefits that assistance animals bring to the lives of many people with disabilities.

I had amendments drafted to the aforementioned residential tenancies bill and was prepared to move forward with them to ensure that assistance animals were not excluded from being protected under the legislation. In the event that the pet bond issue arises again, I will certainly proceed with those amendments.

It is great to see these changes happening, not just changes in the definition of assistance animals, to move away from the long out-of-date provisions referring only to dogs assisting with a particular function, but also a shift away from the archaic and patronising (to say the least) language of disability as ‘suffering’ contained in the legislation. I think many in the disability community would argue that we do not suffer from our conditions: we suffer from society’s ignorance. So, it is certainly a positive step forward; however, as I have just mentioned, I think we have a long way to go when it comes to this government’s understanding of assistance animals, particularly in this context.

That is work that Dignity for Disability certainly looks forward to doing since the debacle that became the pet bond issue under the Residential Tenancies Act, that would have seen people using assistance animals such as guide dogs potentially charged a bond for that animal despite the fact that it is not a pet. That would certainly indicate that we cannot rely on the government to do that work. So Dignity for Disability certainly looks forward to continuing that work.

All that being said, I commend these measures to the council and a number of other commonsense changes contained in the bill and certainly indicate that Dignity for Disability supports the bill.