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Trespass legislation passed

New laws incoming: Animal activists found to be trespassing will now face on-the-spot fines of more than $1000 after The Livestock Management Amendment (Animal Activism) Bill passed Victorian Parliament on March 22. Photo by Kimberley Price

Animal activists face on-the-spot fines after trespass legislation finally passed Victorian Parliament, but the state Opposition says the fines aren’t tough enough.

The Livestock Management Amendment (Animal Activism) Bill 2021 was introduced to the Victorian Parliament on December 1.

The legislation includes on-the-spot fines of $1272 for an individual or $8178 for an organisation.

Further penalties of up to $10,904 for an individual and up to $54,522 for an organisation could apply for more serious offending.

The Opposition had called for the maximum fine for an individual to be doubled to $21,809 in line with NSW trespass legislation but the amendments failed to pass either house.

Opposition Agriculture spokesperson Peter Walsh said Labor had teamed up with the Greens and independents to block the changes and “instead implement a fine that’s among the lowest in the nation”.

“Doubling the maximum fine would have sent a strong message to anyone considering trespassing on a farmer’s private property that Victoria won’t tolerate illegal farm invasions,” Mr Walsh said.

“These fines could have been much stronger to deter militant activities of law-breaking activists.”

The proposed legislation was in response to animal activism activities in 2018 and 2019 in Victoria that led to an official inquiry into the impact of activism on farmers.

Victorian Farmers’ Federation president Emma Germano welcomed the passing of the legislation.

“The VFF worked with parliamentarians back in 2018 to get the inquiry off the ground at a time when we were faced with an unacceptable situation where animal activists were getting off virtually scot-free,” she said.

“This is a big step in providing better protection for farmers from law-breaking animal activists.”

In order for the on-the-spot fines to be applicable, farmers will need to implement a biosecurity management plan.

Ms Germano said the VFF would work with Agriculture Victoria to assist farmers to put these plans in place.

“At a time when we are dealing with significant human and animal biosecurity outbreaks, our rigorous farm biosecurity systems have never been more important,” she said.

“The biosecurity management plans will not only protect farmers from unacceptable harassment by animal activists, but also from potential biosecurity breaches.”

The new arrangements will come into effect later this year.