Animal Justice Party: The Truth Behind The Rhetoric

This piece is being written to further expand on points that I have raised in different discussions on Facebook that seem to have been overlooked or deliberately ignored by the Animal Justice Party and it’s supporters.

The content in this piece will only come from the Animal Justice Party’s website, and public comments made by it’s president, Prof Steve Garlick, and vice president, Mark Pearson.

Australian Constitution

Section 51 of the Australian Constitution states the legislative power that are granted to the Federal Parliament, and as such, if it isn’t included in that section then it becomes the ‘responsibility’ of the State/Territories and laws cannot be made in the Federal Parliament regarding it.

For the Commonwealth to have jurisdiction over something that is the responsibility of the States, they need to all agree to hand that power over to the Commonwealth. We have seen this happen with industrial relations and the Commonwealth’s Fair Work Act 2009, the registration of business names has been given to ASIC instead of the relevant Dept of Fair Trading, and we have seen the State’s hand over Heavy Vehicle registration to the newly created National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

The States have not handed over power to the Commonwealth with respect to their responsibility to Health, Education, Housing or Police, to name a few. This is why there is the duplication of a Federal and State Minister for Health, Education, Housing, Police, etc.

The Constitutional ‘legality’ of Commonwealth programs can be challenged in the High Court of Australia, and we have seen this happen with the National School Chaplaincy Program case. The final decision of the Court was that the program went beyond the executive power of the Commonwealth.

The only time that the Commonwealth has been successful in a High Court Constitutional challenge from the States was in the 1983 Franklin Dam Case. I will not go into detail about that case, as it is easily found in the internet. The  reason the Commonwealth was successful in this case is because they argued that had jurisdiction under s51 (xxix) of the Constitution external affairs.

This was only successful because the Commonwealth was a signatory to UNESCO’s Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, and had passed the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983.

I highly doubt that regardless of what back room deals may be done, that a minority party will be able to get the Commonwealth to launch a possibly lengthy and expensive challenge to make their policies legislation.


In their policy on Animal Law, they claim that the RSPCA is a private and unaccountable organisation. This is simply untrue. The RSPCA is a charity, with a board of directors and is answerable to it’s members via General Meetings.

What is also missing from the animal law policy is whether the respective Department of Primary Industries will still be responsible for investigating breaches of their animal welfare legislation.

If they want the respective State and Territory Police Force/Service to become responsible for the investigation of breaches of relevant animal ‘welfare’ legislation, will the Commonwealth pay for it, or will the States and Territories be expected to? I am also guessing that the States would expect the Commonwealth to assist in the added costs that will be involved in prosecuting these cases too.

A Voice For The Animals

The party themselves, and their supporters claim that the Animal Justice Party will be a voice for the animals in Federal Parliament, though as you read through their policies it is easily discovered that they will only be a voice for certain animals.

Constitutional issues aside, they claim they will bring in laws to protect dingoes, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, flying foxes to name a few. Yet they are happy to allow the continued killing of wild dogs, and animals for food. Though I wonder what would happen if the wild dog that they allowed to be shot was discovered to be part dingo? And what percentage of dingo heritage does a wild dog need to have to be classed as a dingo?

There are no policies that mention legislation to ban the killing of other animals for food, instead they just want the ‘treated’ better, by banning practices that are deemed to be ‘cruel’.

What is interesting is that under their policy on farming, they acknowledge that the constitution the States and Territories have jurisdiction of matters of animal ‘welfare’, yet this isn’t mentioned elsewhere.

In the interview with Katrina Fox that appeared in the Animal Effect magazine, president and founder of the Animal Justice Party, Prof Steve Garlick, said that the main aim of the party is to “improve the well being of animals”.

To me, this means that we can keep doing what we want to them, using them in whatever ways we decide to within the confines of the law, just so long as the ‘well being’ of that animal is improved. This could be a bigger cage, or getting killed and processed here in Australia rather than being exported alive. After all, both of those are an ‘improvement’ on the ‘well being’ of the animal.

In a similar interview with Katrina Fox, the vice president and lead NSW Senate candidate, Mark Pearson, said that the party was based on the writings of Peter Singer in his book Animal Liberation.

It has been a number of years since I read that book, and to the best of my knowledge, nowhere in that book did he actually say that we shouldn’t use animals. What he has said, and continues to say is that we need to treat them ‘better’.

With Mr Pearson also being the Executive Director of Animal Liberation (NSW), and more focused on ‘truth in labelling’ than animal ‘liberation’, I have serious doubts of his ability to seek justice for other animals.

Then again, maybe the Animal Justice Party is another one of those groups that won’t be able to live up to their name, only choosing it because it was catchy and bound to hook a few people in.

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