Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (17:08): I rise to support the farm trespass bill 2019. I think it is a reflection of what has happened in our communities across Australia in recent times that legislation across the country has had to be beefed up (no pun intended) to take on people who want to disrupt legitimate businesses—people who not just run legitimate businesses but in many cases, and in most cases, live on those businesses and it is their home, as I do at my farm at Coomandook.
It is a severe invasion of privacy when these animal liberation groups, these vegan groups—some would say rabid nutters—think they can walk into your front yard, your backyard and swarm over your property. If you did this where some of these people who have been committing these offences live, they would be outraged, and rightly so. People should think about what they are doing when they think they are acting for the greater good. It is alright for people to have lively debate—we would be a poor society if we all agreed on everything—as long as they can have proper, active debate without disrupting people's lives.
What would these people, who put up maps online showing where mainly commercial piggeries and other intensive farming operations are in Australia right across the board, think if we found their addresses? I cannot remember the name of the organiser of that, but apparently he lives in Melbourne. Perhaps we would like to get their addresses and work out whether or not we would like to visit their premises. That is an illegal activity, so I will not be doing that any time soon in the way that these people are and have been venturing onto farm properties.
It is interesting that it has backfired rather heavily on some of these protagonists, notwithstanding the fact that they have had the light-fingered touch at times in some jurisdictions in regard to invading people's properties. Far be it for me to partially agree with the member for Kaurna, but if we are going to make any legislation work, including this legislation, we need to make sure that police and judges do their part. Several months ago, I witnessed a situation in Queensland—it was there for everyone to see because these people like filming their events—where protestors walked onto a farm (I think it was a feedlot) and moved across a paddock essentially, and the police stood back and supervised what was happening.
I mentioned that to one of my local police officers and he explained the situation and how many police it would take if you started arresting people and the visuals of that. I found that an interesting answer. I do have a lot of respect for the police force, but if we are going to make any of these laws work we have to take proactive action. It does not matter whether it is a primary production premises or whether it is your home, it is the same thing. For 99 per cent of the people involved in primary production, it is their home and they deserve the right to live peaceably and not be invaded, and that is exactly what is going on here.
These people walked across a property, essentially being escorted through, and they got their footage. Another time there was a cafe—I think it was in Victoria, but I could be wrong—run by a fairly green-orientated couple who had a goat taken. Eventually they were pressured to close down. In another situation, a sheep was so-called 'liberated' from a mob of sheep. I heard from one of these events that the liberated animal died because those who liberated it would not have known how to care for it.
The crux of the matter is that farmers and people involved in intensive agriculture do know what they are doing and do know how to look after animals, because that is what you have to do if you have to turn a profit, and when you are in the private sector that is how it works. I think it really went backwards for the protagonists when they took their protests to the cities and held up trams in Melbourne, held up traffic around the place—not much different from Extinction Rebellion activists; they could be the same people—and at least in some cases we have seen some arrests being made.
I am pleased that we are taking strong legislative action because this is exactly what we need in this sphere. We saw an activity several years ago at one of my abattoirs near Murray Bridge, Big River Pork, where some activists broke in and went about 10 metres down into the chamber where the pigs are gassed, essentially, before they are processed. It is all a very calm way to do it. These people broke in and they ran the very real risk of being gassed themselves, and there would have been outrage if that had happened. You do not wish that on anyone, but you just have to be careful what you wish for if you want to break into premises and do that kind of activity.
As the member for Kaurna indicated, there was a recent time when people at the Strathalbyn abattoirs were on the roof and doing a sit-in and protesting at what went on there. The issue is that we have seen over time in different jurisdictions across Australia where people are arrested, which I support, but then they go before a judge and get a $1 fine; well, that is absolutely pointless.
What we need for these people is a conviction, because a conviction stays for life. That is the way we need to manage this, because if people want to take this sort of rabid action into their own hands and invade people’s homes—because that is what they are doing—the right action should be taken, and in regard to not just the invasion itself but also the biosecurity risks that happen with this kind of process.
You see it with intense piggeries, and there are quite a few in my area at Coomandook, and also with intensive chicken farming in my electorate of Hammond across the board. There are a whole heap of biosecurity protocols in place to make sure that those animals are raised in a safe and healthy way and that they are also raised in compliance with RSPCA guidelines.
When these people invade these places they are actually causing harm to animals, and this legislation being put in place will put a stop to some of this activity. If it does not stop the activity when this legislation is made into law and becomes an act, I want it see it acted on appropriately by the police, and when people are put in front of a judge they are slapped with the appropriate penalty.
In terms of its detail, this bill would create a new standalone aggravated farm trespass offence with significant penalties and also increase the existing penalties for trespass-related offending on farms. The amendments include the creation of an aggravated farm trespass offence to penalise a person who has entered unlawfully or is unlawfully on a primary production site and gives risk to disease, risk to primary production or cause damage to an operation. This offence carries a maximum penalty of $10,000.
There is an amendment to allow for compensation for any commercial loss or damage experienced through this aggravated trespass. There is also an increase in the penalties for the summary offence of general trespass from $2,500, which it is currently (or six months' imprisonment, which it is currently) to $5,000 (or up to six months' imprisonment).
Also, there is an increase in the penalties for summary offences of interference of farm gates, from $750 to $1,500. That penalty is quite significant. People may think they are being smart by coming to a property and leaving the gates open, letting cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens or whatever wander on their own, but that does nothing for the welfare of those animals and it does nothing for the cause of those people who are aggravating the situation; it just creates another animal welfare issue.
Amendments in the bill broaden the scope of the farm gate tampering offence to also cover damage to fences, enclosures and cattle grids to ensure all acts of interference with a farm property that could see animals leave the area are covered. 'Primary production premises' in the bill means premises used for the purpose of primary production activities, which is defined to mean agricultural, pastoral, horticultural, viticultural, forestry or apicultural activities.
It includes poultry farming, dairy farming or any business that consists of the cultivation of soils, the gathering of crops or the rearing or processing of livestock. In that regard, it is everything to do with agriculture, whether it is the growing of stock, the cultivation of soil or the gathering of crops. It also covers commercial fishing, aquaculture or the propagation or harvesting of fish or other aquatic organisms for the purposes of aquaculture, and an activity prescribed by regulation.
As I indicated earlier in my contribution, across the country there has been a surge in antifarm activism. While we have been fortunate to some degree and have not seen the level of activism as in other states, our farmers have experienced trespass, halting primary production and impacting on their ability to manage their farms. I indicated where we have seen illegal activity in processing facilities as well. Those who seek to be negligent and damaging to our farmers and primary producers must take responsibility for their actions and their impact on our local farmers.
South Australia's primary industries are a vital part of our state's economy. Spread across the state, South Australia's grains, livestock, horticulture, wine, seafood, forest and dairy sectors are a significant contributor to our exports. Numerically—we had to get some numbers around this—in 2017-18, primary industries and agribusiness supported 152,000 jobs and contributed $19.7 billion to the state's economy, which is generated out of that powerhouse: regional South Australia. That means that where many of our primary producers are—in fact, the most—contributes about $25 billion annually to the state's economy, with just 29 per cent of the state's population.
I will give a bit of background on the legislation. The commonwealth Attorney-General (Hon. Christian Porter MP) wrote to our Attorney-General on 8 April 2019 and requested that we consider taking action to strengthen penalties and enforcement of criminal trespass offences and to consider the adequacy of present trespass and unlawful entry offences.
Subsequently, very broad consultation on the bill occurred over September this year through a YourSAy page. There were also round tables hosted by Primary Industries and Regions South Australia and targeted communication. The stakeholders consulted were in the broad primary production industries, as well as justice sector stakeholders and the general community, including:
Australian Chicken Growers Council;
Australian Lot Feeders' Association;
Australian Meat Industry Council;
Commercial Egg Farmers Association of South Australia and Tasmania;
Commissioner of Police;
Law Society of South Australia;
Livestock South Australia;
Minister for Environment and Water;
National Farmers' Federation;
Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia;
Primary Industries and Regions South Australia;
Pork South Australia;
Primary Producers South Australia;
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA); and
South Australian Dairyfarmers' Association Inc.
So there has been broad consultation on this legislation. This legislation is vital for our primary production sector, who have seen it tough enough, especially in the last couple of seasons—and some for three seasons. Sadly, drought is part of life. We are the country of drought and flooding rains and, sadly, massive bushfires, as we are seeing on the east coast and also in our own area, on Yorke Peninsula and Eyre Peninsula. I pay tribute to all the firefighters not just in this state but all those across the nation who are doing their bit to keep our communities safe.
People do not need to be targeted by those who are just up to mischief and who quite blatantly want to break the law just because they think it is a great thing to do. As I said, farmers are doing it tough enough. Last year was exceptionally tough for a large section of the state. Some sections in the South-East and at the bottom end of Eyre Peninsula and on Yorke Peninsula were not too bad. When you get to this season, it is really, really tough where I am at Coomandook and Karoonda, or north of Murray Bridge around Sedan and Cambrai. The last thing people need is people invading their homes and their properties to aggravate the situation that much more.
I commend what we do in animal production. In fact, I went to a feedlot the other day, and I tell you what, I have never seen such well-fed beef. There were lots of them. There were hundreds and hundreds, probably thousands, in that feedlot. They were looking very prime, some of them on 120 days' feed and some on 240 days, and getting ready to be processed down the track. We have sheep feedlots in the area, we have millions of chickens being raised and we have the pork industry that has had some very tough times in recent years, especially in light of the outbreak of African swine fever overseas.
The whole biosecurity issue is another reason why we have to keep people off properties. We have to do all that we can to keep African swine fever out of Australia. Some people looking at it think that it is only a matter of time. I hope that they are wrong. I hope that we can keep African swine fever out. Our pork producers are having a little win at the minute but, like every bit of agriculture, it fluctuates up and down. We have to make sure that we can keep these producers going, not just in that industry but also in the grain industry, the chicken meat industry, the beef industry and the lamb industry—we just have to make it work.
I reflect on the assistance that we as a government, together with the federal government, have given to community infrastructure to get the up to $400 million build at Thomas Foods, near Murray Bridge, back on track so that we can get 2,000 jobs and 4,500 jobs supporting them. I commend the bill, and I urge its speedy passage through the parliament.
Be the first to comment
Sign in withFacebook Twitter