Member for Benambra Bill Tilley has thrown his support behind the coalition in condemning animal activists who trespass on Australian farms, and hopes that farmers have come forward and made submissions to assist with the Victoria’s inquest.
Mr Tilley joined Nationals member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy last week in encouraging people to come forward and make last minute submissions to the Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture, before submissions closed on Friday.
“I fully support and stand alongside my colleague Mr. McCurdy and the Coalition in condemning the criminal actions of some, in an attempt to bring down our Primary Producers and their livelihood,” Mr Tilley told The Free Press.
“It is imperative that anyone affected by the wanton criminal behaviour of these individuals imposing their views and values, and willing to do anything to disrupt honest hardworking people without due regard nor respect for our Primary Producers, and the ultimate flow on effect to our State and Nation, step up and have their say.”
The Member for Benambra said the views will help provide critical evidence to the committee’s final recommendations and will hopefully lead to harsher penalties for trespassers.
“These crimes are not just crimes against individuals, but crimes against the state and should be met with the full force of the law,” he said.
Agriculture makes a vital contribution to our state each year. In 2017-18, it contributed $15 billion to Victoria’s economy – a quarter our national total – and supported nearly 90,000 jobs. The gross value of agricultural production in the Hume region, which includes the Ovens Valley, was $1.1 billion, which was 7 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in Victoria.
Farm trespass became a major concern across rural Australia in January when animal rights group Aussie Farms published an interactive map with the locations of hundreds of rural properties across the country, including livestock farms, meatworks and dairies.
Farm invasions followed the release of the map and the Morrison government responded by listing Aussie Farms under the Privacy Act (which carries fines up to $2 million) and pledging tough new laws.
Farmers and livestock facilities are distressed by the heightened risk of trespass, while Aussie Farms has refused to remove its map.
Mr McCurdy congratulated the Federal Liberal Nationals Government for moving to strengthen privacy laws, including penalties for anyone using technology to incite trespass on private property.
“Our farmers deserve to be protected against these keyboard warriors who encourage lawbreaking activists to trespass, steal livestock and publicly bring down our hard-working farmers’ reputation,” Mr McCurdy said.
The NSW government has moved swiftly to implement harsher penalties for perpetrators caught trespassing on farms by last month amending the NSW Biosecurity Act.
Under the new amendments people who trespass on farms that have biosecurity plans will be hit with $1000 on-the-spot fines, with the potential for fines of up to $220,000.
Corporations could also face fines of $440,000 for inciting trespass on farms such as those conducted earlier this year.
The new penalties started on August 1, and are the first stage of a “broader suite of measures being developed to protect NSW farmers’ right to farm,” NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said last month.
Farmers must have a biosecurity plan and appropriate signage to instigate the legal action against alleged offenders.