LABOR has failed Victorian farmers and the agriculture industry, according to Nationals MP Melina Bath.
The Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Activism on Victorian Agriculture delivered its final report last week.
The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath said Parliament had tasked the Inquiry with assessing the effectiveness of Victorian legislation in preventing and deterring illegal animal activist activity on Victorian farms.
“Instead, Labor MPs drove the Inquiry in another direction altogether delivering recommendations to indulge the ideological agenda of law-breaking activists,” Ms Bath said.
“After receiving hundreds of submissions supporting stronger farm trespass laws and the emotional and financial distress caused by animal activists in Victoria, Committee members have largely ignored farmers.
“Our farmers have suffered greatly at the hands of animal activists, but this isn’t reflected in the report.
“The Liberal Nationals had no choice but to deliver a minority report to address shortcomings.”
Ms Bath said livestock farming in Victoria is highly regulated and governed by Australia’s comprehensive animal welfare laws, but this was not captured in the report.
“Farming is fundamental to our regional, state and national economy and supporting the industry should be a priority for any government,” Ms Bath said.
“But participating Liberal Nationals Committee members had to fight for a recommendation supporting on the spot fines for farm trespass, despite farmers unanimously seeking this action.
“Furthermore, the report did not address community expectations for minimum penalties to be applied to individuals who commit farm trespass, steal livestock and harass farmers.
“The Liberal Nationals will continue to advocate for greater protections for our valued primary producers and hold the State Government to account.”
Ms Bath said she brought the issue to Parliament’s attention after the shocking farm invasion, livestock thefts and harassment experienced at The Gippy Goat Café and Farm.
Ms Bath’s advocacy led to the Inquiry being established in May 2019.
Gippy Goat owner John Gommans said farmers will be particularly concerned by the recommendation to ‘codify public interest exemptions’.
“The 50,000 farming families who grow the food and fibre that feeds and clothes our state are now faced with government-sanctioned surveillance,” Mr Gommans said.
“It will mean anyone caught breaking into a farm and installing cameras can argue they were acting in the public interest – even though trespass is breaking the law.
“I’m calling on the Andrews Government to urgently reject this recommendation.”