New laws for trespassing on farms in Victoria could see animal activists facing fines of almost $11,000 if they're caught illegally entering property.
The new legislation comes as part of the livestock Management Amendment Bill and is focused on reducing biosecurity risks and the spread of disease on Victorian farms.
It follows last year's Inquiry into Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture, which found illegal activism posed a biosecurity risk and 'spread misinformation'.
The state government supported 13 of the report's 15 recommendations in full.
The new penalties will see activists hit with on-the-spot fines of $1,272 - or $8,178 for organisations - if they are found to be posing a biosecurity risk by trespassing.
Over 6500 signatures on #TheGippyGoat petition tabled in state parliament demanding gov fix Vic's farm trespass laws & introduce stronger legal protections to support law abiding Victorian farmers from animal activists. The message is clear @VicLabor must act. #springstreet pic.twitter.com/zYyJA1jJNs
- Melina Bath (@MelinaBathMP) August 28, 2019
Further fines of up to $10,904 for an individual or $54,522 for an organisation can apply in cases of more serious offences, which includes 'interfering with livestock'.
Farmers will also be able to implement their own biosecurity management plans, including measures that will require consent before entering a property.
The piece of legislation was brought forward following the arrests of six activists after they removed three goats from a dairy farm in Victoria in 2018.
They were fined a total of $2 for the event.
Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said farmers shouldn't be scared in their workplaces.
"Farmers and the agricultural industry should be able to do their work without fear of being targeted by animal activists," she said.
"This sort of activity is highly distressing for farming families and puts the biosecurity and safety of the animals that activists purport to protect at risk.
Pleased to introduce a Bill into Parliament today that will protect our farmers and agricultural businesses from the biosecurity risk of trespassers. New penalties will be among the heaviest in Australia - including on-the-spot fines. https://t.co/6SnwAATN8O pic.twitter.com/lg1dGrMMgP
- Mary-Anne Thomas MP :syringe::syringe: (@MaryAnneThomas) November 30, 2021
"Victorian farmers work hard to keep their animals safe and protect them from pests and diseases with robust biosecurity systems. This new legislation will deter behaviour that puts that hard work at risk."
Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick told the Herald Sun he was 'deeply disappointed' by the introduction of the Bill.
"I will obviously be opposing this Bill and encouraging my colleagues to do the same," Meddick said.
"It was clear from the inquiry into animal activism in Victoria that the government needs to actually address the root cause of the problem - the real reason people are entering properties: animal cruelty."
@VicFarmers welcomes the Vic Government's intention to legislate on-the-spot fines to protect farmers from animal activists that choose to trespass onto people's farms & homes.
We hope this will see the end of token $1 fines for farm invasions that we have seen in the past. https://t.co/r1ivKM60AW
- Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) (@VicFarmers) November 30, 2021
As part of last year's inquiry, a recommendation was made for CCTV to be implemented in slaughterhouses and an independent office established to protect animals.
"I look forward to them acting on these recommendations also - to cherry-pick would be hypocritical," Meddick said.
Nationals leader Peter Walsh threw his support behind the bill, describing it as 'slow action'.
He said the party had 'continued to work closely with farmers over past two years' to make sure the 'law was fixed'.
At long last...!@TheNationalsVic @MelinaBathMP has continued to work closely with farmers over past 2yrs to make sure the law is fixed. Reform is finally on the way. It's a step fwd, but Labor's slow action means farmers still to wait more than 6mths for protections #agchatoz https://t.co/BV2CjaiZsu
- Peter Walsh (@PeterWalshMP) December 1, 2021
"Reform is finally on the way," he added.
According to the Herald Sun, Walsh also accused Labor of a 'cosy relationship' with Meddick.
"Labor's slow action sends the wrong message to extreme animal activists who will doggedly go to any lengths to destroy the livelihood of hard-working Victorian farm families," he said.
The new arrangements will come into effect in 2022.
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