Local farmer supports new act to protect farmers
SOUTH Burnett land owner and AgForce president Georgie Somerset has welcomed the passing of the The Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill this week.
The new laws will strengthen farmer protections against the escalating illegal protests by militant animal rights activists.
The bill criminalises the action of publishing material, via a carriage service, with the intention of inciting trespass, property damage or theft on agricultural land, with punishments including imprisonment of up to five years.
Mrs Somerset said she was pleased action had been taken.
"AgForce really welcomes it. We've been saying this needed to happen for years now,” she said.
"There has already been too many illegal protests and criminal action taken against our hard-working farmers.
"Farms are not just businesses or places of work. I think these criminal activists forget that they are actually family homes too.”
Mrs Somerset said everyone deserves to feel safe in their family home, no matter someone else's beliefs regarding their livelihood.
"This new bill is so important in protecting our homes and making us all feel safe. It's also important for property biosecurity and stopping crime in general,” she said.
"Because what these protesters have been doing is illegal and it is a crime. It's putting our farmers at risk.
"If you're putting up a website or information online to organise a breach of privacy it is illegal and a crime. It doesn't matter why you're doing it or if you think your cause is above the law.”
Mrs Somerset said she hoped these new laws would see the downfall of the Aussie Farms Website.
The website, which surfaced at the beginning of the year, features an interactive map of Australia and has marked every factory farm, slaughterhouse, farm, and supposed 'animal exploitation facilities'.
More than 110 South Burnett farms were identified on the Aussie Farms online map.
Over 70 South Burnett piggeries were identified, 23 dairy farms, 11 cattle farms, and a fish farm.
"The targeting of hard working farmers and the information that was published online was private,” Mrs Somerset said.
"It's information about a home where hard working aussie farmers live with their families.
"The new bill is about trying to stop these invasions before they actually happen and taking this down would be a good start.”
Despite never having had her own home invaded, Mrs Somerset there is fear instilled into many South Burnett farmers as a direct result of these criminal invasions.
"I know South Burnett farmers who have had activists invade and they have to live with this concern and fear on a regular basis,” she said.
"It's just not right.
"I'm pleased to see something finally being done to address this.
"Any way that can strengthen the law and discourage this kind of illegal behaviour is a step in the right direction for our farmers.”
The Government also amended the Bill to include adding wood processing facilities to coverage under the Bill.
The Bill will be presented for Royal Assent through the regular process.