Agriculture | February 11, 2020

Agriculture trespass inquiry leaves farmers high and dry

The Nationals Member for Lowan Emma Kealy is furious Labor has ignored farmers seeking protection from illegal animal rights activity.

The final report in the Inquiry into the impact of animal rights activism on Victorian agriculture was released last week.

The Liberal Nationals moved to establish the inquiry after calls from farmers and communities for better protections against activists trespassing and stealing livestock. The inquiry was designed to consider the prevalence of unauthorised activity on Victorian farms and its effects; safety and biosecurity risks; and provide recommendations for how the government and industry could improve protections for farmers’ privacy and businesses.

But Ms Kealy said Labor MPs had failed to support and protect farmers, and instead opted to strengthen protection for activists.

“The inquiry committee received more than 500 written submissions and chaired seven public hearings, including one in Horsham. Many of the submissions called for stronger farm trespass laws, but the committee has largely ignored this,” she said.

“Instead, the recommendations would see our farmers tied up in more red tape, while animal activists would be given a ‘get out of jail free’ card if they trespass on a farm to set up surveillance equipment and claim it is in the public interest.

“Instead of going in to bat for our farmers, Labor MPs have sided with recommendations that only help law-breaking activists to further push their extreme anti-agriculture agenda.”

Ms Kealy said despite evidence showing courts were not meeting community expectations when it came to handling cases of farm trespass and theft, the report recommendations failed to address this.

She said the committee’s Liberal Nationals members had to battle for the final report to include a recommendation for on-the-spot fines for farm trespass, something farmers had universally backed.

“Our region is built on the agriculture industry, and our farmers should be able to feel safe and supported as they work to provide food and fibre for our communities, but this report and its recommendations do not give them those assurances. That has to change,” she said.

“The Labor government has six months to respond to this report. Daniel Andrews needs to seriously rethink some of the recommendations because they will not help our farmers one bit – they will only serve to make dealing with illegal activism even harder.”

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