People who use a carriage service such as websites and social media to incite others to break into farms could be sent to jail under new laws passed through Federal Parliament.
- New laws make it an offence to use a carriage service with the intention to incite trespass on agricultural land
- A new offence has passed for the incitement of damage, destruction or theft of property on agricultural land
- The laws provide certain exemptions for journalists and whistleblowers
The Coalition made a pre-election promise to introduce the laws after a website published the details of thousands of Australian farms earlier this year.
Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said farmers should feel safe at home and at work.
“Animal activists who seek to incite others to trespass and break the law are on notice, as of the Royal assent being granted to the legislation passed through the Parliament today, they’ll be subject to up to five years’ jail time,” Ms McKenzie said.
Protections in place
The laws were opposed by the Greens but following amendments had the support of Labor.
The Law Council of Australia had raised concerns that the laws could hinder press freedoms, and welcomed the amendments.
“The amendments strengthen the protections available to journalists under the legislation by removing the requirement that a journalist must prove disclosure of ‘offending’ material was in the public interest,” said Law Council president Arthur Moses.
This map appeared on a website and provided information on each listed property. (Image: Aussie Farms)
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Extended to timber industry
The forestry industry also welcomed amendments which will see the new laws apply to timber and pulp mills under the definition of primary production businesses.
The Australian Forestry Products Association’s Ross Hampton said the new laws sent a strong message to timber workers “that they should be allowed to go about their lawful business without fear of having their livelihoods compromised by illegal protests”.
“For decades, forest workplaces have been subject to aggressive and damaging interference from activists with disastrous financial impacts on lawful businesses, despite Australia having some of the most sustainable, regulated forestry practices in the world,” Mr Hampton said.
The National Farmers’ Federation has also welcomed the laws.
The NSW Government has amended its biosecurity laws so that a person found to trespass on farm in that state could be fined more than $400,000.