Farm-invading activists face new penalties

Many farmers and agricultural business owners in the Southern Tablelands are pleased with the increased penalties for extreme farm-invading activists.

Goulburn Branch Chair of NSW Farmers Margaret Cameron said the introduction of the new Bill into the house of representatives was timely.

In parliament.

In parliament.

"It is a great start. I absolutely welcome it," she said.

"The fact that they introduced it so swiftly shows they understood the concerns that farmers have with trespassers and associated risks with workplace health and safety. Going onto farms puts the workers at risk and the families who live there. It also affects biosecurity."

The Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 makes it a criminal offence to incite trespass, property damage or theft on agricultural land.

Under the proposed laws, offenders face penalties of up to five years' imprisonment for damaging property, or theft, and up to 12 months for trespassing and fines as high as $12,600.

The Bill was introduced into the lower house on July 4.

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

A series of farm invasions aimed at highlighting cruelty in agriculture prompted the coalition to talk tough against the activist group.

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

Amid a bitter impasse between farmers and vegan protesters, the Morrison government promised to crack down on "green-collar" criminals.

A spokesperson from the Attorney General's department said the Commonwealth offences target those who encourage others to commit these offences using a carriage service (such as the Internet) to incite trespass or property damage on agricultural land.

"Those engaging in the primary offence of trespass or property damage would still be subject to state and territory criminal laws," the spokesperson said.

"As with almost all Commonwealth offences, these federal offences would be prosecuted in state and territory courts."

In April, nine animal activists were charged after trespassing and chaining themselves to machinery inside Southern Meats abattoir in Goulburn.

The NSW Farmers Association also welcomed the swift action by the coalition government.

"We need a strong and national consistent approach to ensure all farmers have equal protection," NSW Farmers president James Jackson said. "These protections are desperately needed."

NSW Farmers Yass branch chair Carolina Merriman also welcomed the approach.

"Our farmers are the backbone to Australia. Farmers have enough on their hands with drought, floods, fires, the stock market constantly going up and down."

Trespassing: Activists chained themselves to a Goulburn slaughterhouse in April.

Trespassing: Activists chained themselves to a Goulburn slaughterhouse in April.