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Inquiry to probe farm trespass laws

INQUIRY ACHIEVED: Eastern Victoria Region MLC Melina Bath and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh after lobbying for the inquiry.

A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry to investigate farm trespass laws and protect Victorian farmers will be established.

While the Coalition and the Victorian Farmers Federation have welcomed the inquiry, an MP has said the inquiry could deter whistle-blowers from revealing animal abuse.

The Liberal Nationals proposed the inquiry after calls from farmers to strengthen laws and better protect farmers against extreme activists illegally entering properties and stealing livestock.

“This inquiry is an opportunity for parliament to work together to deliver the laws and penalties that our communities expect and demand,” Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said.

Eastern Victoria Region MLC Melina Bath, of Koonwarra, led debate on the Liberal Nationals’ motion in the Upper House.

Ms Bath, who is also sponsoring a petition to fix farm trespass laws that’s gathered nearly 5000 signatures so far, said the inquiry was the first step to deliver change.

“While the Agriculture Minister tried to avoid fixing this issue, ongoing pressure from communities in Gippsland and across the state has forced the government to act,” she said.

“I stand with our farmers in stating that only tougher laws with appropriate penalties will provide the necessary legal protection for our primary producers.”

Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said the inquiry would help identify the best way to strengthen laws, after outrage across Gippsland over farm invasions and lenient sentencing of activists who invaded farms and stole animals.

“This parliamentary inquiry is a win for people power as the upsurge in anger over the actions of vegan activists has forced the Labor Government to back our action,” Mr O’Brien said.

The VFF welcomed the inquiry.

“Animal activists appear determined to disrupt legal businesses, risk animal health by breaching biosecurity, and use force and intimidation against farmers in pursuit of their personal beliefs,” VFF president David Jochinke said.
“The fear of farm invasions and harassment from animal activists is very real for our members. On top of all the other challenges they are facing, farmers cannot be expected to live in fear every day.”

Mr Jochinke hoped the inquiry would lead to greater penalties to deter trespassers and those wishing to harass and intimidate farmers.

“However, it’s also important for the agriculture sector to engage with consumers to build greater knowledge about food and fibre production in Victoria, and the importance farmers place on animal health and welfare,” he said.

However Western Victoria MLC Andy Meddick said the inquiry would impede whistle-blowers.

“Many people have heard of battery cages, sow stalls and the atrocities of the live animal export industry. However, many have only recently heard of the immense animal cruelty that is rife throughout farms and slaughterhouses across Victoria,” he said.

“Without animal activists working to undercover this, the public would remain in the dark.
 “Whistle-blowers have revealed abuses of old people in aged care and illegal activity in the banking industry. Investigators have discovered donations sought from the NRA, revealed government corruption, unsafe work practices and exposed unethical corporate practices. The work of activists has reformed industries. So where do we draw the line at hindering these activities?”
The inquiry will be carried out by Parliament’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee and local people will have a chance to have their say when public submissions open. The inquiry will report back in November this year.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=28543

Posted by on May 7 2019. Filed under Rural News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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