THE National Farmers Federation says a fine handed to farm intruders in Western Australia last week makes a joke of Australia’s soft trespass laws and should be a wakeup call for Australia’s politicians.
Repeat trespasser James Warden (left) went before the Magistrates Court in Mandurah, WA, last Friday, following a two hour break-in to a WA piggery which he live-streamed on Facebook.
Despite the conclusive evidence and brazen nature of the offence, the Court allowed Mr Warden to walk free with just one third of the maximum fine.
On Saturday an estimated 100 animal activists trespassed onto a Darling Downs feedlot and harrassed workers but as yet none of those responsible has been fined or received a penalty.
President of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Fiona Simson said the WA example last Friday sends a disturbing message to would-be intruders.
“Farmers are rightly alarmed that their farms can be invaded in the dead of night, streamed live on the internet, only for offenders to walk away with a slap on the wrist.
“We’re talking about private property, often a stones’ throw from family homes where farmers and their families are sleeping.
“This is not just a matter of basic privacy. These intruders are placing the biosecurity of our farms and the welfare of our livestock at risk,” Ms Simson said.
Friday’s decision follows a string of even weaker decisions around the country, including:
• a $1 fine for activists who stole a goat in Gippsland, Vic; and,
• a $200 fine for a piggery break-in on the Sunshine Coast, Qld (a 2nd time offender).
“The law is clearly not keeping up with what’s happening here.
“These people are not well-intentioned pranksters. They form part of a coordinated assault on family homes and businesses, being led by militant and well-resourced activist groups.
“They’re garden variety crooks, and need to be treated as such,” Ms Simson said.
Many offenders never count the cost of their crimes, with activist groups meeting the cost of legal expenses and fines.
Federal leadership needed
The NFF is calling on all parties to commit to action heading into the Federal Election.
“This is clearly a national issue, and warrants a decisive national response,” Ms Simson said.
“The Federal Government needs to show leadership, and get state and territory leaders in the room to design stronger laws.
“We’re seeking a commitment from all parties coming into the Federal Election that they will act decisively and protect our farms from these trespassers.”
The NFF is calling on people who share its concerns to sign an online petition at farmers.org.au.
Industry welcomes transparency, but safety must come first
Ms Simson emphasised that the industry welcomes transparency, and has nothing to hide.
“We’re as concerned as anyone about the disconnect between our farms and our end customers.
“We’re proud of how we farm and love to show it off to those who are interested.
“I’d encourage you to visit a real farm – it’s a fantastic experience – but do it safely and legally,” Ms Simson concluded.