Today the Australian Senate passed the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill, meaning tough new penalties for those who incite trespass, property damage or theft on agricultural land will soon become law.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) congratulates the Government for its decisive action on introducing the Bill and the delivery of an election commitment to better protect farmers from illegal trespass activity.
“The farm sector makes a valuable contribution to the economy and to society at large. Our farmers already face significant challenges, from the vagaries of the weather to commodity price fluctuations, pests and diseases,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.
“Farmers should not have to contend with trespass activity, harassment and intimidation, theft or damage to their property.
“We are delighted that this legislation has been passed and recognise the expediency with which it was dealt. On behalf of all farmers, we thank Members and Senators from all sides of politics for their support.”
Mr Mahar said the Bill sent a clear signal to anti-farming activists that the invasion of farms and harassment of farmers, their families and workers, running lawful businesses, would not be tolerated.
The Bill includes important protections for journalists and those who are making lawful disclosures of information, such as whistleblowing.
“We are not in the business of suppressing free speech or shielding those who fail to meet the regulated standards of animal welfare from scrutiny” Mr Mahar said.
“The NFF supports the right of individuals to engage in lawful and respectful protest. Unfortunately many anti-farming activists have chosen to express their views by trespassing, harassing and putting at risk the safety of farming families, their workers and their livestock.”
The measures in the Criminal Code Amendment Bill provide some comfort to farmers that there are now real consequences for those who incite this behaviour, which we hope will provide a strong deterrent for this criminal conduct
The Bill was recently subject to inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, which reported that while there are existing Commonwealth and state and territory laws that may be used to prosecute incitement to commit crimes on agricultural land, there is inconsistency in the application of these laws and the penalties associated with the offences.
The Committee viewed the Bill as a proportionate response that would complement efforts underway in some states and territories to strengthen existing trespass laws.