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 after it was recommended by a parliamentary inquiry into farm trespass.
Asked for an update this afternoon in State Parliament, Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas was forced into an embarrassing admission that she still hasn’t done the work to deliver laws that better protect farmers.
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh slammed the lack of progress, saying it left farmers and their families exposed to theft and people illegally entering their property.
“The Agriculture Minister bizarrely tried to claim today that the delay doesn’t matter because farmers are protected by existing laws – but flaws in existing legislation is exactly why these reforms are needed,” Mr Walsh 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 today, Ms Thomas would only say that “work is well underway” and legislation will be introduced “in due course”.
Mr Walsh said the Minister’s efforts to avoid giving a timeline could only mean one thing – that the new laws were not ready.
“Other states have already done the work to draft, introduce and pass legislation for on-the-spot fines,” Mr Walsh 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.”