Trespass laws beefed up

Jacinta CantatoreHarvey-Waroona Reporter

A new round of laws introduced by the Federal Government last week have beefed up protection for farmers and primary producers in the South West.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 introduced new offences for the incitement of trespass, property damage, or theft on agricultural land.

The legislation would make it a criminal offence for activists to incite illegal activity online and would carry a penalty of up to five years imprisonment.

Under the bill, it would be illegal for groups and individuals to promote events aimed at trespassing, property damage or theft on agricultural land.

The bill also extends to other private agricultural businesses such as fishers and foresters.

Exemptions have been included for journalists and whistle-blowers exposing animal cruelty.

Forrest MHR Nola Marino welcomed the government’s commitment to protecting South West farmers and primary producers bringing the laws into Parliament in the first sitting week.

She said incidents of trespass by animal activists had impacted on South West farmers and their businesses, particularly in the Shire of Harvey, prompting stronger action to deter people who incite this kind of behaviour.

“Prior to the election we promised these new laws as a priority and we are delivering them as a priority,” Mrs Marino said.

“These laws are necessary to protect farmers from potential property damage, theft and biosecurity breaches.”

Nationals WA Leader Mia Davies backed the new legislation, saying it proved the concerns of the agricultural sector were being taken seriously.

“Federal Agricultural Minister Bridget McKenzie has recognised the seriousness of this issue, which is impacting farms and businesses right across Australia, and has taken action to protect farmers from unlawful activity,” Ms Davies said.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said farmers should not be subjected to the illegal invasion of their property and their privacy and believed there needed to be consequences for “unacceptable behaviour” .

“The bill introduces serious criminal penalties to ensure that farmers and their families are protected, with offenders facing up to five years’ imprisonment,” he said.

“The bill includes exemptions for journalists and whistle-blowers who expose instances of animal cruelty.”

National’s agricultural spokesperson Colin de Grussa said the laws would deter criminal activists and associated groups using social media to promote disruptive and illegal events.

“It is clear these criminal activists are using the internet as a tool to incite their anti-agricultural agenda,” Mr de Grussa said.

“Farmers and their families deserve to be protected. They aren’t the ones breaking the law.”

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