This week has the potential to be a turning point in realising greater legal protections for farmers, and more appropriate punishments and deterrents for the disruptive and extreme actions we have seen from animal activists over the past couple of years.
The Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee is holding hearings for the LNP's Criminal Code (Trespass Offences) Amendment Bill, which proposes three new trespass offences, and the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee is holding hearings for the state government's Agriculture and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, which includes amendments to three Acts to enhance the potential to prosecute persons who trespass or inappropriately protest. In Canberra, the Senate is debating the coalition government's Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill, which would introduce two new offences relating to the incitement of trespass or property offences on agricultural land.
QFF recognises and respects the right of individuals and groups to meet and engage in peaceful protest to pursue common goals. Animal welfare and liberation movements have been around in Australia for a long time; however, in recent times there has been a disturbing change in the behaviour of animal rights groups in pursuing their cause. Peaceful protesting and marches on public property have been replaced with highly organised and threatening invasions of livestock farms and processing facilities. The distress these actions have caused to law-abiding farmers, and the risks to biosecurity, food safety, animal welfare, workplace health and safety, and business disruption are completely unacceptable.
Encouragingly, it appears that the major parties at state and federal levels have recognised this change and that the current laws to address this behaviour are no longer fit-for-purpose. It is now incumbent on the Parliaments to deliver the right laws for today in the interests of realising a properly functioning society. A bipartisan approach to getting the right balance of ideas would also realise the greatest acceptance from the community for legislative changes made.