News in brief

By Country News

Stiffer penalties for Queensland activists

Animal rights activists who trespass on Queensland farms and abattoirs to protest will be slapped with fines worth hundreds of dollars under regulation changes that will take effect in days.

Fines of more than $600 will be issued by police or biosecurity officers as part of a Queensland Government crackdown on a spate of protests that began last year.

The government announced last week the Biosecurity Regulation 2016 will be amended to include the penalty for those considered to be a threat to biosecurity and animal and worker welfare.

Activists could also face trespass charges and potentially jail time, but only after farmers and business owners make a complaint to police.

‘‘We take animal welfare very seriously and so does an overwhelming majority of our agricultural businesses,’’ Queensland Agricultural Industry Development Minister Mark Furner said.

The protests began late last year when animal rights activists entered dairy, pig and poultry farms without permission.

That action has continued along with protests in other states, leading Mr Furner to claim activists might have imported foot-and-mouth disease from Indonesia.

Medicinal cannabis cultivation trials

Eight different varieties of medicinal cannabis are being grown by the NSW Government in a high-security facility in a secret regional location.

The NSW Government was the first in Australia to receive Commonwealth permission to cultivate medicinal cannabis, and is now working out the best growing conditions for the crop.

The research is being conducted in a secret, $2million state-of-the art facility in a rural area.

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said the government was working to develop farming practices that ensured the cannabis could be produced year-round.

‘‘Our aim is to determine the best growing conditions to produce the safest and most useful crops for patients,’’ Mr Marshall said.

Hop grower fined over worker’s death

A Victorian hop grower has been convicted and fined $130000 over the death of a worker who fell from a trailer being towed by a tractor.

Neville Victor Handcock pleaded guilty to a rolled-up charge of two breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, following the death of the Thai worker, aged 47, in 2017.

The Wodonga County Court heard Handcock failed, so far as was reasonably practicable, to provide a safe system of work by directing workers to ride on loaded hop trailers, rather than providing another means of transport.

He also failed to give workers information on the hazards of driving tractors down steep hills.