Harsher penalties wanted for farm activists

By Rodney Woods

VFF president David Jochinke has asked for farm trespass penalties to be strengthened to $220000 for individuals and $400000 for organisations, and $1000 on-the-spot fines.

Mr Jochinke was presenting at the Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism and said current penalties did not go far enough.

“Earlier this year, more than 70 activists stormed the Gippy Goat Café, intimated staff, entered stock yards, and repeatedly stole livestock,” he said.

“The ringleader of this group received a grand total of two $1 fines.

“Another activist was found guilty of theft but received zero penalties from the court.

"The purpose of the inquiry is to determine if current laws are effective in preventing and deterring activists from trespassing on farms.

“How could they be effective when the courts are handing out such pitiful penalties?

“Tougher laws are required because trespass on farm properties presents particular risks that do not exist in other workplaces such as risks to personal safety, animal welfare, biosecurity and public health.

“Most importantly, farm trespass is akin to home invasion.

“Farms are not only a place of work, but are the homes of our farming families.”

Member for Eastern Victoria Jeff Bourman agreed that the penalties weren't enough.

“The Federal Government cannot directly deal with trespassing laws as the relevant legislation is a state matter and has to be amended at a state level,” he said.

“That is why I have presented my trespassing bill to the Victorian Parliament.”

Mr Bourman said extremist animal activists had been taking advantage of Victoria’s archaic trespassing laws and invading farms and businesses with impunity and then receiving sentences that were clearly inadequate by community standards.

“This (my bill) is Victoria’s chance to get it right and lead the nation on how to deal with these criminals.

Inquiries are restating what we already know: the activists are uncontrolled and causing havoc and it is time to stop that, and this is how we can do it.”