An historic Right to Farm Bill was passed by the NSW Parliament last week, bringing in tough new penalties, such as three years imprisonment, for farm trespassers.
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said it was an historic day for agriculture that would put a stop to trespassing as well as threats to biosecurity.
“I have been out there and the fear is real. These laws will give farmers confidence they can get on with their production without interference,” said Mr Marshall.
“Farmers are under siege across our State – they are battling drought and fires right now. They do not have the time and do not deserve to also be faced with a battle against illegal trespassers driven by lunatic ideology.”
The decision came following last weeks announcement that radical group Aussie Farms was stripped of its charity status. The group, which has been responsible for releasing the personal details of over 3,000 farmers across Australia, has published illegally captured photos and video content on its website which sparked concerns over farmer safety.
Under the new laws, trespassers could face up to three years’ jail time if found guilty of illegally entering farms, letting stock out or tampering with cattle grids. Farmers will also be protected from nuisance injunctions from neighbours.
The Right to Farm Bill will increase penalties and introduce new offences under the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901 (ILPA) including:
- Increasing the penalty for aggravated trespass from a maximum of $5,500 to $13,200, including a new 12 month imprisonment (or 3 years if committed in company);
- Increase the penalty for the aggravating trespass which causes a serious safety risk by introducing a 3 year maximum imprisonment term;
- Introduce new offences to better address common trespass activities including: an aggravating offence for damaging property in the process of the unlawful entry and wilfully or negligently releasing stock in the process of the unlawful entry; and an offence for inciting, directing, counselling, inducing or procuring the commission of the offence of aggravated unlawful entry on inclosed lands by another person ($11,000 and/or 12 month imprisonment);
- Introduce standalone legislation that provides a defence for agricultural producers against common law nuisance claims and immediate injunction orders.
NSW Farmers’ Chief Executive, Pete Arkle, said the Bill was a win for farmers and local food and fibre production.
“The debate around new laws has clouded their intent. They are simply about providing some protections for our family farms from invasions of animal activists and illegal trespassers,” said Mr Arkle.
“Farms are a home and farms are a business, and just like residential homes and businesses, farmers want some laws imposed on people who enter their property without any notification.
“That is why NSW Farmers has had a loud voice on this issue over many years. It was a key part of the state election campaign and it is fantastic to see this support for farming families delivered.”
The Bill will now be sent to the Governor for sign-off and will come into force early next year.
As farmers across NSW welcome the historic news, farmers in Tasmania are hoping a bill going to their parliament next week will yield similar laws.
The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association is currently working to ensure new laws clamping down on ‘illegal’ protesters are passed by both houses of Government.
The proposed laws could see activists who invade farms or industry operations and businesses face up to 21 years in jail.
The laws are expected to be considered by the Tasmanian Parliament next week.