Today the Attorney General, Christian Porter introduced the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill to the House of Representatives, delivering on a 2019 election commitment to protect farmers from trespassers.
This year has seen a surge in anti-farm activism, including highly distressing incidents where farms and supply chain businesses have been invaded by large groups who harass and intimidate law abiding farmers, in pursuit of an extremist agenda.
This new law will provide a strong deterrent to those who coordinate these attacks on farmers, by making it a criminal offence to incite trespass, property damage or theft on agricultural land.
National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Fiona Simson congratulated the Government on taking such decisive action.
“It’s fantastic to see that the Government – which has a significant legislative agenda - has made this a first order of business for the new Parliament.”
“This sends a strong message to farmers, who are under pressure at the moment on a number of fronts, that the Government understands how serious this issue is and is prepared to act.”
“It also sends a strong message to those extremists who are actively rallying volunteers to go on to farms and harass and intimidate, that their antics will not be tolerated.”
The new criminal offence comes with penalties of up to five years imprisonment, and follows an earlier move by the Government to prescribe activist group Aussie Farms under the Privacy Act – exposing it to potential penalties of up to $2.1 million if found to be in breach of the Act.
“The NFF of course respects the right of an individual to engage in protest in a respectful and lawful way.
“What we don’t support is hard-line groups like Aussie Farms promoting extreme views that misrepresent farmers and actions that amount to invasions of businesses and family homes.
“These actions risk the well-being of those farmers, their families and workers, and the animals in their care.
“Our industry takes the community’s expectations very seriously and where we don’t meet them, we commit to doing better.
“We welcome visitors, arranged through the appropriate channels, and are more than happy to engage with those who take an interest in farming – but trespassing on private property is not the right approach.”
Ms Simson said she hoped Labor would support farmers and back the legislation.
“Like many issues in farming, this is too important for partisan debate.
“We fully acknowledge that this Bill is not a silver bullet. It is however an important measure that will deter criminal behaviour and give some comfort to primary producers.”