Tough new law to stop activists

By Country News

Extreme vegan activists who incite destructive farm invasions could face up to five years in prison, under tough new penalties being pushed by the Federal Government.

During the federal election campaign, Prime Minister Scott Morrison put dealing with the activists on par with terrorists.

He promised people who trespassed on farms would be thrown behind bars or fined up to $12600.

Attorney-General Christian Porter insisted the new laws were needed, despite trespass onto private property already being an offence.

‘‘Trespass onto agricultural land has the potential to cause food contamination and breach biosecurity protocols,’’ Mr Porter said while introducing the legislation into Federal Parliament on Thursday.

‘‘It can also lead to farmers and their families feeling unsafe on their own land.’’

The legislation includes two new offences, the first invoking up to one year in prison, while more serious aggravated offences could result in five years behind bars.

The lesser offence involves someone inciting others to trespass on agricultural land, while the more serious crime includes instances when activists incite others to damage property and steal livestock.

‘‘This offence, and the substantial penalty proposed, reflects the gravity of these more serious forms of conduct and the substantial loss of income that could follow,’’ Mr Porter said.

The issue exploded earlier in the year after animal rights group Aussie Farms published details and addresses of producers in an online map.

Aussie Farms refused to take the page down, arguing it was promoting transparency in agriculture and fighting animal welfare abuses.

NSW Farmers Association has welcomed the legislation, calling it ‘‘swift action’’.

‘‘Farmers have been terrorised by the criminal actions this year, with their farms being invaded and safety of their animals, families and employees jeopardised,’’ association president James Jackson said.

‘‘The government has shown decisive and fast action to ensure any further criminal actions are appropriately penalised.’’