The Queensland State Opposition’s proposed introduction of a Private Members Bill for harsher penalties for animal extremists has been welcomed by state farm organisation AgForce.
The Opposition is proposing three new criminal offences: Aggravated Trespass, Serious Criminal Trespass and Organised Trespass* and AgForce chief executive Michael Guerin said that if these proposed laws were supported by the current State Government, it would provide a much stronger deterrent than the current, soft, on-the-spot fines for trespass.
“While the State Government’s introduction of on-the-spot fines last month was a step in the right direction, the amount, $652.75, was manifestly inadequate,” Mr Guerin said.
“Significant fines, lengthy jail time, these are the only ways to stamp out this sophisticated, calculated, illegal behaviour. If we’re actually going to get the attention of these criminals and make them experience some genuine consequences for their actions, we need harsher penalties,” he said.
“Let’s not forget that we’re talking about militant animal rights activists who have been trespassing on to family farms and terrifying the people who live there.
“They’re frightening hard-working farmers who take the issue of animal welfare and biosecurity very seriously, who are going about the business of working from their homes, their farms, to feed and clothe the rest of us. That they can’t do that safe in the knowledge that Government has their back in times of trouble is astounding.”
Mr Guerin said he believed that community and other industry groups would also welcome the Opposition’s announcement.
“Anyone who cares about the people who work our land, who do it tough in times of drought and flood, the true environmentalists of this land, the backbone and lifeblood of this country, will support these proposals,” he said.
“These so-called animal-lovers actually cause a great deal of distress to the very animals they say they’re trying to protect.
“They also pose a significant threat to biosecurity, which is bad news for everyone. Imagine what would happen if these short-sighted, misguided activists got their way, or if all the farms and farmers disappeared?
“Imagine a world where you couldn’t walk into your local supermarket and buy the food we take for granted?
“That’s what the animal activists want, and we need sufficient measures to stop them.”
Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage said action from government had been a long time coming for the sector – too long for those farmers who have already been targeted by animal activists.
“The radical and unjustified actions we have seen from animal activists invade farmers’ privacy, threaten the welfare of their animals, pose unacceptable risks to their businesses and have implications for food security,” Mr Armitage said.
“QFF and member industries have been constructively working with the Queensland Government and Opposition for some time to better address this issue.”
“It is incumbent upon the Parliament to ensure it works together to deliver adequate protections for Queenslanders running businesses without the threat of this disruptive, costly and damaging unlawful behaviour from a minority element in the community.”
* Current Trespass laws
- General Trespass – Maximum penalty—20 penalty units ($2,600) or 1 year’s imprisonment.
- Trespass on farmland: Maximum penalty—10 penalty units ($1,300) or 6 months imprisonment.
State Government Trespass fines (biosecurity regulations):
- On the spot fines of $652.75 – no imprisonment.
State Opposition proposed Trespass penalties:
- Aggravated trespass: maximum of 3 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of 100 penalty units ($13,055)
- Serious Criminal Trespass: maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of 3000 penalty units ($391,650)
- Organised Trespass: maximum fine of 10 years imprisonment or 3000 penalty units ($391,650).