Livestock Management Amendment (Animal Activism) Bill 2021
Tuesday, 8th February 2022
Mr McCURDY (Ovens Valley) (18:25):
I am delighted to rise and make a contribution on the Livestock Management Amendment (Animal Activism) Bill 2021. As you have heard from other speakers, we are not opposing this bill, and can I commend the member for Tarneit on her very, very good contribution then. But I also want to put on record that over the summer break I did not have any vegan sausages. I clearly want to put that on the record early in my contribution. The bill will amend the Livestock Management Act 2010 and provide biosecurity management plans for offences of contravening biosecurity measures and certain other matters of animal activism, which is growing, and which we have seen and heard about tonight.
A bit of background: as we have heard, in January 2019 Aussie Farms—a registered charity, of all things—created a website and a Facebook page to target producers across Australia, with the publication of a map and farm locations. Hundreds of farmers were listed on the interactive map, which included details on the nature of their farming operation—including pigs, dairy, beef, some abattoirs, greyhound tracks et cetera—and they were targeted. This resource was subsequently used by animal activists to target primary producers to expose supposed animal cruelty. This was the basis for those disgraceful attacks on Victorian farmers. Can I say the member for Bendigo West said it best when she said, ‘They’re not activists, they are actually extremists’, and I clearly support that view. These extremists must be stopped.
Then once the Aussie Farms website went live, a Protect Our Farms campaign was launched, calling on stronger protections for primary producers and for the charity status of the group to be revoked, and thankfully it was by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. At the same time, Scott Morrison said that Aussie Farms encouraged the invasion of farmers’ homes and properties and the sabotaging of businesses. The ACNC commissioner also noted that revocation of charity status was reserved for the most serious of cases. So it was acknowledged nationally that Aussie Farms was a serious offender.
Then the Weekly Times revealed to us that an activist was fined just $1 for breaking biosecurity laws after stealing livestock from Gippy Goat Cafe in Gippsland. Gippy Goat is—was—a legitimate, caring business that was invaded by trespassers who threatened the biosecurity of their property. This set a precedent that they could trespass other properties and get fined $1—a slap on the wrist with a wet lettuce. After much kicking and screaming, the Victorian government felt compelled to be seen to be doing something about this pitiful $1 fine for the activist concerned and set up a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of animal activism on Victorian agriculture. The inquiry went on to make multiple recommendations, in February 2020.
Again, it took some time for the government to get this to where we are today but, gladly, we are here, although somewhat later than we would have thought. But anyway, we are here now, and we are pleased that we are. This action is in direct contrast to Queensland and New South Wales, who immediately introduced stronger on-the-spot fines by the end of 2019. Other states have also implemented stronger protections, while Victoria delayed the action with an inquiry. The Nationals and Liberals were tenacious, particularly through Melina Bath in the other place, in ensuring that the government for Melbourne would finally have to face up to this wilful trespassing.
This legislation has been welcomed by many stakeholders, including the Victorian Farmers Federation’s Emma Germano. She said the legislation and the introduction of these fines was:
… a long time coming to the point we thought perhaps they weren’t going to put them into place.
They are meaningful fines and not only a deterrent, but they demonstrate we value farmers and it’s not an appropriate form of protest to trespass onto farmers’ property.
We always find groups that are opposed to this legislation. I shook my head in disbelief when I listened to the member for Melbourne. Only the Greens can defend illegal trespass and then go on to blame The Nationals and the Liberals for the terms of reference. Most of all what surprised me was when she said that this bill should be including animal welfare measures. Well, no. This bill should not include animal welfare measures. This bill is about stopping people from trespassing and putting in deterrents so that they do not trespass. Nobody likes it if somebody trespasses into their home because they do not believe they are bringing up their family the right way or they are not making their bed in the right direction. If an activist can come in and invade your private space—this is exactly what happened with trespassers at the Gippy Goat Cafe, which was the precedent that was set.
The member for Melbourne went on to say that she supports biosecurity but was concerned about the confusion that might come with the signage. Let me tell the member for Melbourne and any other activist or extremist: if it is not your property, get off it. Do not get on it in the first place. Stay away. It is as simple as that. It is not that hard to understand. She also said that they are proud to support activists—well, they are extremists, as we said earlier. Finally, she went on to say that this bill threatens the right to protest. No, it does not. It threatens activists’ right to invade property. That is what it really does.
Ultimately, the livestock management amendment bill will introduce some of Australia’s heaviest fines—on-the-spot fines of $1272 for individuals and a bit over $8000 for businesses. As you have heard from the member for Murray Plains, we would like to see those doubled. We just need to send a really clear message to these people that you cannot trespass, you cannot invade people’s property. Whether you are a farmer or a family or whatever, trespassing is just not on. I know the member for Gippsland South wants to make a contribution, so I am going to finish my contribution there because it will give him a couple of minutes at the end of the night. But we really need to send that signal that trespassing is not on, theft is not on and the penalty must reflect the crime.