Group on government’s radar

By Country News

Controversial website Aussie Farms will now be exposed to penalties of up to $420000 after it was brought under the Privacy Act on Saturday.

Farmers were left fuming after the animal-rights-run website published the locations and details of more than 5700 Australian farms in January, including hundreds in the Goulburn Valley and southern Riverina.

A number of the entries listed addresses and names and encouraged people to contribute images of the farms, opening farmers up to fears it would encourage trespassing and result in biosecurity breaches.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the activities of Aussie Farms Incorporated created an unacceptable risk to hardworking farming communities and producers.

‘‘The company publishes information about Australian farmers and agricultural producers including their names and addresses, exposing them to potential trespass, biosecurity hazards, and reputational damage,’’ he said.

In a post on its Facebook page, Aussie Farms said the Privacy Act was ‘‘irrelevant’’ to the map.

‘‘This is just more smoke and mirrors to keep consumers in the dark and keep the conversation away from what’s happening to animals every day inside Australian farms and slaughterhouses. Why not let people see it and make up their own minds?’’ the group wrote in a post on Friday.

The Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner previously found that Aussie Farms Incorporated was exempt from the Privacy Act because its annual turnover was less than $3million.

The change will allow the Information and Privacy Commissioner to investigate, either in response to a complaint or on its own initiative, if Aussie Farms Incorporated breaches the Privacy Act.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said he had repeatedly asked Aussie Farms to take the website down, but the group refused.

‘‘The farming families who grow our food deserve to be able to do so without fear of invasion on their property and harm to their children,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

‘‘The Aussie Farms website is intended to be an attack map for activists and it is already working as one. The fact Aussie Farms refused to take the website down when invasions began happening on farms displayed on their map shows they intend for it to be used as an attack map for activists.

‘‘Aussie Farms will now be required to comply with the Privacy Act, which includes laws against the misuse of personal information.’’

Mr Littleproud also called on state governments to beef up trespass laws to provide real penalties for trespass.

The group argues publishing the map and farmers’ contact details is aimed at giving the public as much information as possible about potential cruelty in agriculture.