New on-the-spot fines for extreme activists who trespass on Victorian farms and threaten the safety of farm families still aren’t in place, nearly two years since the protective measure was recommended.
In June 2020, the Andrews Labor Government committed to introducing hefty on-the-spot fines for biosecurity breaches in response to pressure from The Nationals.
But during an embarrassing admission in Parliament last week, Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas confessed she still hasn’t done the work to deliver laws that better protect farmers.
Member for Euroa and Deputy Leader of The Nationals Steph Ryan slammed the lack of progress, saying it left farmers and their families exposed to theft and people illegally entering their property.
“The Agriculture Minister has bizarrely claimed that the delay doesn’t matter because farmers are protected by existing laws – but flaws in existing legislation are exactly why these reforms are needed,” Ms Ryan said.
“When current laws see criminal actions by extreme animal activists resulting in a fine of just $1 it’s clear the system isn’t deterring illegal trespass or protecting hard-working, law-abiding farm families.
“The Minister’s failure to introduce this important legislation only emboldens extreme animal activists to trespass on and steal farmers’ private property.”
In January this year, the Minister told media: “Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic… engagement across government and industry will take place this year”.
But last week, the Agriculture Minister would only say that “work is well underway” and legislation will be introduced “in due course”.
Ms Ryan said the new laws were not ready because the Andrews Government had not made them a priority.
“Other states have already done the work to draft, introduce and pass legislation for on-the-spot fines,” Ms Ryan said.
“If the Andrews Labor Government still needs some pointers, it could look to New South Wales, South Australia or Queensland.
“Farming is fundamental to our regional, state and national economy, and supporting the agriculture industry must be a priority, but the Minister’s lack of action shows Labor’s priorities are all wrong.”