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the year in legislation (2): cat bill 2011

5 January, 2012

Our review of 2011 continues, after a delay, with one of the more notorious bills introduced: the Cat Bill 2011. Members of both houses took the opportunity to tell stories about their pets, some of which are included below – there are plenty more, though, that were either quite long or didn’t have even the limited resemblance to a punchline it takes to get quoted here. The links at the bottom of this post will take you to many of the sessions featuring debates on the Cat Bill if you really want to look for more information about parliamentary cats (and dogs too).

The Cat Bill 2011 was introduced in the Legislative Assembly on 15 June 2011, and the Second Reading debate resumed on 6 September 2011:

Mr P. PAPALIA: The member for Forrestfield has had complaints about magpies. We have had complaints about ants and ibis. We have had numerous dog complaints. No doubt members on the government side havehad more dog complaints than we can poke a stick at. The question is: why is the Premier so intent on legislating
about cats; and why has he introduced this legislation above legislation such as the prostitution bill —

Dr A.D. Buti: Yes, where’s that gone?

Mr P. PAPALIA: Where did it go? As I understand, that was a promise given in the 100-day plan prior to the last election.

Mr A.J. Waddell: Perhaps he thought it was the cathouse!

Mr P. PAPALIA: Maybe he did; maybe the Premier got the cathouse mixed up with the cat house and as a consequence —

Mr J.J.M. Bowler: This is serious legislation. [1]

Mr P. PAPALIA: […] The first concern I referred to was the one in which I gave the example of my mother-in-law’s cat regarding the practicality of requiring —

Mr J.R. Quigley: What was its name again, member?

Mr P. PAPALIA: Its name is Sheba! My mother-in-law will be chuffed! I can see it going into Hansard right now! She will be printing it off and putting it on the wall! [2]

i know there’s an answer

7 September 2011:

Ms M.M. QUIRK: […] I conclude by saying that I am not a cat person, but I congratulate the government for at least trying to address the issue. […]
There is one cat, however, that I am quite fond of. I should say that no discussion of cats is complete without reference to T.S. Eliot in the Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. With the indulgence of the house, I will refer to my favourite cat, which is The Rum Tum Tugger
The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:

[…reads rest of poem…]

MR J.M. FRANCIS (Jandakot) [3.32 pm]: That will be a catastrophically hard act to follow! [3]

After adjouring on 8 September, the Second Reading debate resumed on 20 September 2011:

MR R.H. COOK (Kwinana — Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [4.11 pm]: […] I will declare at this point in the debate that I am openly a cat lover. I have two Burmese cats, so I come to this debate not as one who would be discussing the merits of cray bait and other things that I have heard people discuss from time to time, but as one who likes cats very much and who thinks that cat ownership is far and away more virtuous than dog ownership.

Mr M.P. Murray: You realise that the number of cats rose when they banned hair being in craypots.

Mr R.H. COOK: I will pause to reflect on that interjection. [4]

turbo mouse

MR F.M. LOGAN (Cockburn) [4.32 pm]: […] It is a pity the member for Jandakot is not here. Whilst we support the bill and we support the way in which the bill has been brought to the house, particularly some of the debate on the Cat Bill, it is interesting that the member for Jandakot, who quite often makes some fairly outlandish statements in this house about red tape and the nanny state, is endorsing the introduction of legislation that is full of red tape and very much in support of the nanny state. He of all persons cannot see the contradiction of what he is doing. All of us have heard him rave on—not contribute fairly coherently—about the issue of government business and how to order society. He simply just makes crazy statements about society drowning or being tied up in red tape.

Mr W.J. Johnston: Socialist conspiracy.

Mr F.M. LOGAN: Yes, that is right; often it is a socialist conspiracy. Here we have a bill which has some quite amazing powers.

A member: It’s got teeth!

Mr F.M. LOGAN: This bill has teeth and it has claws. If ever there was a piece of legislation with teeth, it is this one. [5]

knives out

Mr D.A. TEMPLEMAN: […] People are coming to members opposite too, telling them they are feeling the cost increases. When this issue is raised in this
place in the context of a bill such as the Cat Bill, I think members opposite should be very much aware that the cost issue is real. We only need look at other costs that have been imposed; for example, the fishing tax. A hotly debated issue, that is now in place. When someone takes the family out in their boat, there is a requirement to be —

The ACTING SPEAKER: Member for Mandurah, I am going to give you some guidance. I am happy to give you a long bow—but fishing on a boat and cats? I cannot see the connection. I ask you to come back to the bill.

Mr D.A. TEMPLEMAN: The member for Collie–Preston might disagree with you on that, but I will not go into that! [6]

Mr M. McGOWAN: What is the latest question from the member for Swan Hills?

Mr F.A. Alban: I want to know how you’re going to euthanase 5 000 or 10 000 kittens nicely or gently or whatever way you want to do it.

Several members interjected.

Mr F.A. Alban: You don’t want this bill to proceed, so things are back to where they were before. Don’t tell us what you don’t want in our bill; tell us what you would do if you were in that position. What would you do in this position? I notice that your environmentalists on the back row aren’t saying much. What would you do if you are not happy with this bill?

Mr M. McGOWAN: The unruliness in this chamber!

The ACTING SPEAKER: My words exactly, member for Rockingham! Member for Swan Hills, the member for Rockingham is not taking your interjection. He makes a good point about the unruliness in the chamber. Member for Swan Hills, I am going to call you to order for the first time today.

Mr M. McGOWAN: An inspired ruling, Mr Acting Speaker; he is a very unruly member. He gets animated about these issues.

Mr M.P. Whitely: He’s tearing you apart.

Mr M. McGOWAN: Yes, I know. He has got his claws into me. He is causing all sorts of trouble around the chamber. [7]

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: […] The member for Mandurah and some other members also spoke about the Dog Act. The member for Mandurah is right about the Dog Act. He also mentioned that it has been in place for some time. When the Labor Party was in government, it started that process in 2002 and went as far as drafting a bill, but never got anywhere after that.

Mr D.A. Templeman: Except the kennel!

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: Except the kennel; the member is right! [8]

On the same day, the debate moved to the Consideration in Detail stage.

Mr A.J. WADDELL: It would be virtually impossible to see a registration tag worn by any long-haired cat. The minister has acknowledged that there will be defences for those people whose cats have slipped their collars, so presumably there will be a number of registered cats out without collars. Does that not then suggest that every cat will have to be caught at some point? If the rangers were to have scanners, what is the difference between the cat wearing a visual tag and the ranger waving the wand to scan the microchip?

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: Member for Forrestfield, I suspect that not every cat is a long-haired cat.

Mr F.A. Alban: There will be far fewer after this bill!

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: I really do not need those sorts of interjections, member for Forrestfield.

Mr A.J. Waddell: I disown them too! [9]

Ms L.L. BAKER: I would like a bit of an assurance here. Subclause (1) states —
The owner of a registered cat must ensure that when the cat is in a public place the cat is wearing its registration tag.
This I might say is a rather personal question. I have two Burmese cats.

Mr G.M. Castrilli: Not another one with Burmese cats! What’s going on here?

Ms L.L. BAKER: Yes; they are very popular around these parts! [10]

Mr F.M. LOGAN: Just on the same point regarding clause 9(5), I give an example. There is the example I referred to in my contribution to the second reading debate. Our family inherited the cat; it wandered in. I have no documentation to show that it has been sterilised apart from the fact that it has a tattoo in its ear, which shows it has been sterilised. What do I do? Take the cat down to Claremont Council, bung it on the counter and say, “Look, the cat’s sterilised, for crying out loud! Register my cat”? The clause states that I have 21 days to get the documentation. According to what the minister has just said to the member for Cannington, I should go to the Swanbourne vet and get documentation to show that the cat has a tattoo in its ear. I know how much the vet would charge me; they would not do it for free. Then I still have to go back down to Claremont council and provide a statutory declaration —

Mr C.J. Barnett: With your cat!

Mr F.M. LOGAN: — with the cat, plonk the cat on the counter—it is deaf anyway; it does not know where it is; it does not know why it is there—and I pass the cat and the statutory declaration over the counter for the purposes of registering the blooming thing. If I do not do that within 21 days, according to clause 9(6), the
council may refuse my application and will probably put the cat down. They will come around, bust my door down, as under the other provision, wreck the joint, grab my cat and kill it!

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: The member will not have the cat put down; he can just give it to the member for Collie–Preston and he will use it for cray bait! That is what his concern was.

Mrs C.A. Martin: I reckon he would, you know!

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: Or I should say, as I said before, marron bait!
If the cat has tattoo on its ear that is sufficient proof that it has been sterilised.

Mr F.M. Logan: I know, but it is not documentary proof, which is what clause 9(5) requires.

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: Take a photo of the cat with its tattoo and take it to the local government!

Mr F.M. LOGAN: That is the whole point we are making. It is a fairly esoteric debate we are having in this place, because we do not really know how councils will implement this provision in practice. [11]

Mr W.J. JOHNSTON: […] I want to make clear what could happen. Say I do not like my neighbours; I am having an argument with them. I leave out a bowl of milk so that their cat comes to my house. I stick the bowl of milk in the shed. The cat goes in the shed and I shut the door. I ring the ranger and say, “There’s a cat here that does not belong to me. Come and seize it.” The ranger comes out and seizes it. They run the wand over it and say, “Oh, my god, it belongs to your neighbour.” The neighbour has their cat seized by the council and then they go through the provisions that we are going to deal with later on. They have to pay a bill to get back their cat that their neighbour drew into their property. That provision allows that to occur.

Dr K.D. Hames: Very sneaky.

Mr W.J. JOHNSTON: The Minister for Health interjects. That is the problem. These are things that actually happen in neighbourhoods. How long has the minister been in the Parliament? He has probably had some pretty crazy people come to him and make representations about all sorts of issues, and I do not even know any of them, because that is the nature of the business we are in. These things do happen.

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: I am not sure how to answer the member for Cannington. His mind must work pretty well in certain circumstances, but I am a bit worried about him sometimes. Yes, it is a possibility that it would happen. [12]

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: I move —
Page 20, lines 5 to 8 — To delete the lines and substitute —
(a) if the operator believes on reasonable grounds that the cat —
(i) is feral, diseased or dangerous; and
(ii) has caused or given, or is likely to cause or give, serious injury, or serious illness, to a person, another animal or itself; or

Mr A.J. WADDELL: Again, minister, congratulations. I was very concerned. I saw this as the mouse clause, under which a cat could be known for killing mice and therefore every cat would potentially be up for immediate destruction. The only real question I have remaining is: What will be defined as dangerous? Is that dangerous to a person or is that dangerous to another animal, in which case, obviously, a cat is dangerous to a mouse?

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: It is serious illness to a person, another animal or itself. I think the clause is linked to both. Is that what the member wants?

Mr A.J. WADDELL: Cats were originally bred not as companions but because they took care of rodents, and I doubt that there are many cats at all within our society that are not a physical and imminent danger to any mouse that runs across their path. Is the minister’s intention then to say that if a cat is dangerous to a mouse, it can be destroyed?

Mr G.M. CASTRILLI: I am basically trying to tighten up the provisions to ensure that a domestic pet that exhibits normal cat behaviour is not destroyed. [13]

Mr P. PAPALIA: Minister, it is not an outrageous suggestion to say that a lot of cat owners are elderly, single women who may be vulnerable to the suggestion by an authorised person to enter their house lawfully; without a warrant but just come into their house.

Mr G.M. Castrilli: What are they going to charge them with?

Mr P. PAPALIA: Once they get in the house, they are empowered to do all this stuff. It does not matter why they got in there. It does not matter why they entered the premises. Once they get in there, the minister is empowering the individual to seize any document, film and photograph —

Mr G.M. Castrilli: They can only enter if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been committed.

Mr P. PAPALIA: The clause states —
… any premises lawfully entered, as is reasonably required in order to investigate or collect evidence that an offence is being …

Mr G.M. Castrilli: “Investigate or collect evidence”.

Mr P. PAPALIA: “I am going to go in. I do not like cats.”

Mr J.M. Francis: Why not?

Mr P. PAPALIA: No, this is a scenario; I do like cats.

Mr D.A. Templeman: He is role-playing now.

Mr P. PAPALIA: I am role-playing. I am on the moggy patrol; I have got up in the morning and put on my long boots; I am wearing my peaked cap and tailored trousers and jacket with the brass buttons; and I have gone around to an old lady’s house because I heard she has a cat. She answers when I knock on the door and I look authoritative and stand taller; I am much bigger and younger than she is. I say to her, “I’m the moggy patrol, can I come into your house?”

Mr G.M. Castrilli: Tattoos everywhere, long hair, knuckledusters on! Go on; keep going!

Mr P. PAPALIA: She says, “Oh, yes you can”, because as someone of her generation, she is a reasonable person who wants to comply with the request of someone in authority. I go into the house and say, “Right, any document I want in this house I can seize; I want to film you; I want to take your photograph; I want to audiorecord you; I want to compel you to answer any questions I ask of you; and I want to do anything else that I think is reasonable.” Once the authorised person is inside her house lawfully, this bill empowers such a person to do that. It does not matter whether the lady has done anything wrong. [14]

The Legislative Assembly completed the Consideration in Detail and adjourned after midnight, with the Third Reading debate taking place on 21 September 2011:

Mr A.J. WADDELL: […] A clause in the original bill, which I called the mouse clause, stated that if a person in authority felt that a cat was a danger to another animal, they had the right to instantly destroy that animal. Name a single cat that is not a danger to a mouse. The minister saw the virtue in that argument and sought to amend the bill. He amended the bill to cover diseased and feral animals that are a danger to other animals. In other words, if there is a feral cat that is a threat to a mouse, it is the big house for it! If there is an owned cat under the protection of a human being, it gets a getout-of-jail-free card, but it should not look at a mouse twice!

Mr J.M. Francis: Maybe you should bring in a mouse bill to protect some mice!

Mr A.J. WADDELL: No doubt, in 50 years people in this room will be arguing about things that we would consider to be most ridiculous today, but they will be the issues in 50 years. [15]

The bill was read for a third time and then transmitted to the Legislative Council; the First and Second Reading in the upper house took place that night (21 September 2011), with the Second Reading debate resuming on 28 September 2011:

HON LJILJANNA RAVLICH (East Metropolitan) [7.47 pm]: […] I thought I might share with members my experience with cats, because I have had an experience with a cat.

Hon Max Trenorden: Am I old enough to hear this tale? [16]

come, come, Mr. Bond, you get just as much pleasure from naming cats as I do

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: […] I suppose I should confess at this point, since we are talking about cat stories, that I am a cat person. I grew up in a dog-person family, but when I lived out in Caversham in the table grape–growing area, I needed a cat for the rats. I made my first visit to the Cat Haven and Cleo joined my family. Cleo was in my family for 11 years and served well as a ratter. When Cleo left me, I had Mr T. Mr T passed on only last year. So I have had two cats in
the time I have lived in Australia, and I have known them to be excellent companions. I know that they would be proud of me standing here in Parliament and speaking in favour of this legislation that will stop the unnecessary deaths of so many of their kind.

Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich: Do you think there is a cat heaven somewhere?

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I think there is a Cat Haven.

Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich: No; do you think they go to heaven?

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Potentially. [17]

pet name

Resuming on 29 September 2011:

Hon GIZ WATSON: […] I have a country property, as members are probably aware, and I will tell my little cat story on that property now that we have heard other members’ stories. The cat in this story does not have a name, I am sorry.

Several members interjected.

Hon GIZ WATSON: I did not know the cat long enough to get its name! [18]

Hon Robyn McSweeney: I take it you don’t own a cat?

Hon GIZ WATSON: Not at this point in my life, no! I have owned dogs and I have owned a cat. I do not have any pets. I have some worms, but that is something else! I have a worm cafe; they are great! They are wonderful; they eat organic waste and produce wonderful soil conditioner.

Hon Lynn MacLaren: You can’t take them for walks!

Hon GIZ WATSON: I have tried taking them for a walk, but they are not really conducive to walking too far! [19]

HON ALYSSA HAYDEN (East Metropolitan) [12.53 pm]: I rise to put my few bobs’ worth on the Cat Bill. I will not use any puns, as other members have done; I think we have heard enough!

Hon Robyn McSweeney: Have you got a cat?

Hon ALYSSA HAYDEN: I have to confess I am a cat owner. I think the members who are cat owners will need to have a meeting so that we can discuss things.

Hon Michael Mischin: The parliamentary friends of cats!

Hon ALYSSA HAYDEN: The parliamentary friends of cats would be a good committee to start! [20]

18 October 2011:

HON HELEN BULLOCK (Mining and Pastoral) [3.35 pm]: How can I not support the Cat Bill 2011 after all these passionate speeches on cats? I am truly surprised at the passion this bill has evoked in members; I would have thought it was a simple bill. Its essence is to ensure that cat owners take responsibility for caring for their cats. After listening to all these passionate speeches, I thought I might have missed something—something of great importance to our society or something of great importance to this state—so on the Friday of the last sitting week I found myself in a coffee shop with two pink copies of Hansard, the bill and the explanatory memorandum, trying to understand the origin of this passion for cats.

Hon Robyn McSweeney: Have you got a cat?

Hon HELEN BULLOCK: I will come to that.

Hon Robyn McSweeney: Oh, right! Oh, you have got a cat. I was just wondering.

Hon Ken Travers: Just wait!

Hon Robyn McSweeney: I can’t—it’s the Cat Bill!

Hon HELEN BULLOCK: I have told the minister that so many times—she just never listens!

Hon Robyn McSweeney: What; that you’ve got a cat? You’ve never told me you’ve got a pussy!

Hon Sue Ellery: All right; let’s not go down this path again.

Hon Robyn McSweeney: Well, a cat. [21]

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: […] One of the frequent ways for financial institutions to protect the identity of a customer is to record something that should be known only to the customer, such as the name of the first pet or something like that. I have therefore been appalled at the laxness with which some members of this place have given away the important information that the name of their first cat was Tiddles or Pussy.

Hon Max Trenorden: Or Diva or Shiva.


Hon Ken Travers: I think you are breaking the tradition and custom of the house here by not naming your cat’s name.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: I will not tell the house the name of the first one, then. The more recent ones were Roxanne, Rhonda, Jason, Christopher and Priscilla. There have been a few, and they were obtained from —

Hon Ken Travers: They’re very boring cat names. Did they get upset with you?

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: No, these are pretty exciting cat names actually. They had many adventures but I will not seek to regale the house with them. I just mention them, as many other members have, to reinforce the fact that this bill and the behaviours it seeks to govern are not only about cats but also about people. [22]

HON JON FORD (Mining and Pastoral) [5.28 pm]: For the record, my first three cats were Tiger, Buster and Bunty. In particular, Tiger’s regular gifts to the household were red-bellied black snakes.

Hon Ken Travers: They are the characters of children really!

Hon JON FORD: I had nothing to do with the naming of them; I was too young. [23]

HON ROBYN McSWEENEY (South West — Minister for Child Protection) [7.47 pm] — in reply: I thank all members for their contributions to the Cat Bill. Seventeen members spoke: Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich, Hon Max Trenorden, Hon Lynn MacLaren, Hon Matt Benson-Lidholm, Hon Linda Savage, Hon Giz Watson, Hon Michael Mischin, Hon Alyssa Hayden, Hon Kate Doust, Hon Alison Xamon, Hon Ed Dermer, Hon Sue Ellery, Hon Helen Bullock, Hon Ken Travers, Hon Simon O’Brien, Hon Jon Ford and Hon Sally Talbot. In the 10 years I have been a member of this place I do not know of any other bill on which there have been so many speakers.

Hon Donna Faragher interjected.

Hon ROBYN McSWEENEY: I think my memory might be dimming, but yes, there have been a few bills on which many people have spoken.

Hon Sue Ellery: Do you remember the debate in which you told us the story about your dog?

Hon ROBYN McSWEENEY: Yes; I do. I did not expect that 17 people would speak on the Cat Bill. Some of the cats’ names have been very interesting, to say the least. Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich just had plain old Pussy.

Hon Peter Collier: Puss Puss Puss.

Hon ROBYN McSWEENEY: That is right, Puss Puss Puss; there was also Mr T, Cleo, Tiger, Bunty, Malcolm—who calls their cat Malcolm?—Pandora, Jellico, Priscilla and Jason. Jason is the name of my son. Jason for a cat; I do not know!

Hon Simon O’Brien: A pretty virile and active cat he was too!

Hon ROBYN McSWEENEY: There was also Rudolph, Roy, Muffins. Oh, my goodness, here we go. Others were called Rosie and Millie.

Hon Peter Collier: That’s my new cat—both my cats.

Hon ROBYN McSWEENEY: Your new cat! Then there was Bruiser, Gray One, Lovey—I think that was Michael’s cat—Dory, Shoki, Noam, Lulu.
I thought I had better tell members about my old cats. I have two cats; one is called Mimi and the other is called Mow–mow—very original to say the least!

Hon Simon O’Brien: Mimi is a Kiwi word isn’t it?

Hon ROBYN McSWEENEY: I do not know. I suppose it got that name because one of the little ones could not say pussy cat and starting calling it Mimi. I forgot Claudius. [24]

That same day, the bill entered the Committee stage, resuming on 19 October 2011. The amendments were adopted on 20 October 2011, and the Third Reading took place on 1 November 2011. The bill was returned to the Legislative Assembly with amendments for further Consideration in Detail on 2 November 2011:

MR P. PAPALIA: […] I think it fair to say that the Cat Bill was the sleeper legislation of the Western Australian Parliament in 2011.

Ms L.L. Baker: Let sleeping cats lie!

Mr P. PAPALIA: Who would have thought that a bill about moggies would have resulted in such an expansive debate and such engagement by the public of Western Australia in both the media and —

Mr W.R. Marmion: The member for Maylands!

Mr P. PAPALIA: Yes. The member for Maylands, perhaps, but who else would have predicted that? The member for Maylands is often prescient in her vision of what is important in the state, and this is yet another example of that.

Ms L.L. Baker: Thank you. [25]

The amendments were agreed to, and the bill was assented to on 9 November 2011.

[1] Hansard reference: pp. 6792-6793 [online (pdf)]
[2] Hansard reference: p. 6796 [online (pdf)]
[3] Hansard reference: pp. 6962-6963 [online (pdf)]
[4] Hansard reference: p. 7272 [online (pdf)]
[5] Hansard reference: p. 7275 [online (pdf)]
[6] Hansard reference: p. 7280 [online (pdf)]
[7] Hansard reference: p. 7284 [online (pdf)]
[8] Hansard reference: p. 7288 [online (pdf)]
[9] Hansard reference: pp. 7291-7292 [online (pdf)]
[10] Hansard reference: p. 7295 [online (pdf)]
[11] Hansard reference: pp. 7299-7300 [online (pdf)]
[12] Hansard reference: pp. 7309-7310 [online (pdf)]
[13] Hansard reference: p. 7311 [online (pdf)]
[14] Hansard reference: pp. 7321-7322 [online (pdf)]
[15] Hansard reference: p. 7489 [online (pdf)]
[16] Hansard reference: p. 7863 [online (pdf)]
[17] Hansard reference: p. 7868 [online (pdf)]
[18] Hansard reference: p. 7969 [online (pdf)]
[19] Hansard reference: pp. 7972-7973 [online (pdf)]
[20] Hansard reference: p. 7978 [online (pdf)]
[21] Hansard reference: p. 8089 [online (pdf)]
[22] Hansard reference: pp. 8108-8109 [online (pdf)]
[23] Hansard reference: p. 8109 [online (pdf)]
[24] Hansard reference: pp. 8114-8115 [online (pdf)]
[25] Hansard reference: p. 8826 [online (pdf)]


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