States get tough to protect farmers from extremists

This week New South Wales and Queensland mobilised to protect farmers and their families from the extreme activities of radical protesters.

Early in the week the NSW Government revealed its intention to introduce a ‘Right to Farm’ Bill that could see farm trespassers face fines of up to $22,000 and three years in prison. 

The Bill will also include a new offence for inciting trespass, and new aggravating factors for activities such as trespassing as a group, damaging property and wilfully or negligently releasing livestock. Offenders could also face new biosecurity fines introduced by the Government in July.

“The community has had a gutful of farm invasions and have said existing penalties of up to $5500 in fines are just a slap on the wrist,” NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said.

We’ve listened to that and we will now establish the toughest penalties in the nation for farm invasions.

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall

NSW Farmers President James Jackson welcomed the strong and quick response to protect farmers.

“Farmers have been terrorised by the criminal actions this year, with their farms being invaded and safety of their animals, families and employees jeopardised,” Mr Jackson said. 

“The Government has shown decisive and fast action to ensure any further criminal actions are appropriately penalised.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also didn’t mince her words and has vowed to protect her state from the actions of increasingly extreme protest methods.

For some weeks, the Brisbane CBD has been brought to a halt by protesters using ‘locking devices’ to affix themselves to roads and railways lines blocking transport routes.

“You can tell yourself your cause is worth gluing yourself to a road but you’ll never explain to a grieving family why your politics are worth stopping an ambulance from reaching a hospital,” Premier Palaszczuk said.

At times protesters have put their arms in steel cylinders and drums filled with concrete. 

There have been instances where cylinders and drums were booby-trapped with glass fragments and butane gas containers — so that anyone trying to cut a protester free could be injured or worse.

Under the new measures proposed by the Palaszczuk Government these so-called locking devices would be made illegal and police would have new powers to search protesters that they believe to be in possession of the devices.

This significant action by governments comes after farms and agriculture supply chain businesses have been the target of farm invasions. In January, an online map published the addresses of more than 3000 homes and businesses and the radical group behind the map, hosted a national day of action allegedly encouraging people to simultaneously invade farm premises.

“The right to peaceful protest is a key tenent of our democracy,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) CEO Tony Mahar said.

“This right doesn’t extend to putting the safety and wellbeing of others in jeopardy as we’ve seen with these ‘radicals’ entering farms unlawfully. Nor does it extend to disrupting people going about their working lives in a legal and ethical manner.”

“Farmers are law abiding citizens going about their daily jobs of producing the food and fibre that Australians depend on.

National Farmers’ Federation, CEO Tony Mahar

“They have to put up with droughts, fire and floods. The last thing they need it to put up with these radical extremists.

“Our collaborative efforts will now see justice been brought to extremist groups who threaten the peaceful and genuine lives of our Aussie farmers,” Mr Mahar said.

Laureta Wallace

Laureta Wallace

Laureta is the General Manager, Media and Communications at the National Farmers' Federation. As part of her wide-ranging role, Laureta oversees the NFF's Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.

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