The Marshall Liberal Government has today announced new measures to better protect farmers and primary producers from trespass by animal activists and other protesters.
A new aggravated farm trespass offence and significantly increased penalties are among a suite of measures included in a draft Bill now open for public consultation.
The Attorney-General Vickie Chapman, Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone and Member for Finniss David Basham made the announcement to strengthen trespass laws today at a dairy farm in the Barossa.
"We intend to consult with key industry stakeholders about the changes, but we are also keen to open it up to the general community to hear from all South Australians," said Ms Chapman.
“This is an issue that is likely to generate strong feelings from many in the community, which is why we will be encouraging people to have their say now that a Bill has been drafted.”
The draft Bill focuses on creating a new offence specifically for farm trespassing, carrying greater maximum penalties and increasing other penalties which exist in current laws.
“The new aggravated farm trespass offence would penalise a person who trespassed on primary production land and interfered with the conduct of primary production activities on the land, or did anything that puts the safety of people on the land at risk,” said Ms Chapman.
“These are serious crimes and we recommend the penalties match – a $10,000 fine or 12 months imprisonment, along with compensation to the farmer.
“We are also proposing an increase to the penalties applying under a number of trespass offences that already exist under the Summary Offences Act 1953.”
Currently under the Act, the maximum fine for trespassing is $2500. To further deter trespassing on primary production land, the penalty is proposed to double to a maximum of $5000 where trespassing occurs on a farm.
Other farm-related offences are also proposed to be changed. The penalties for interfering with farm gates would double to $1500 and penalties for disturbing farm animals would increase from $750 to $2500 or a prison term of six months.
Ms Chapman said vigilante activists who trespass onto a farm to promote their cause are unquestionably breaking the law and must be held accountable for it.
“These changes strike the right balance between people’s right to protest and free speech and the need to ensure adequate legal protections for this important part of our economy,” said Ms Chapman.
“Animal rights activists are tremendously passionate about their cause but trespassing and causing damage on private property is not an acceptable way of getting a message across.”
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said farmers in South Australia deserve adequate protection from activists and protestors.
“The proposed new aggravated trespass offence and stronger penalties will send a message to protestors or activists that in South Australia, if you break the law and put our farmers and supply chains at risk, you will be penalised,” said Minister Whetstone.
“I’ve been working with the livestock and other agricultural industries to better understand the impact of farm trespass and options to create stronger deterrents to protect the farming community.
“Our primary producers are critical to the state’s economy and that’s why we are strengthening our trespass laws to recognise the additional risks that these protesters can have on primary production – which could lead to potential food contamination or biosecurity risks.”
Member for Finniss David Basham, who has been a key driver for change in this area, welcomed the moves.
“Regardless of the objections of animal activists, livestock farming is a legitimate industry meeting consumer demand domestically and overseas, substantially contributing to our State’s economy,” said Mr Basham.
“Farms are not merely business operations which put food on our tables. They are family homes, where in many cases several generations have lived. They must have the protection of laws which effectively deter illegal attacks against their livelihoods, illegal invasions of their property and illegal interference with their animals.
“I’m proud to have helped lead this charge in our Parliament and I look forward to consulting with the sector, and local farmers in the Finniss electorate on the Government’s draft Bill.”
The draft Bill is available on the YourSAy website.