By Luke Voogt
Local farmers need protection from “unlawful” animal activist “invaders” in state law, a coalition MP has warned.
Member for Western Victoria Bev McArthur called on State Government to introduce legislation that “properly penalises” animal activists trespassing on agricultural land.
“To not do so, will rightly be construed as tacit support for these unlawful activities,” she said.
“Our farmers and other primary producers should not have to live in fear of the invasion of their property and privacy by animal activist offenders.”
Mrs McArthur welcomed a recent Morrison Federal Government bill to establish new offences for perpetrators of trespass, property damage, theft and biosecurity breaches on agricultural land.
The bill, currently before federal parliament, would introduce sentences of up to five years’ jail and fines of $12,600 for farm “invaders”, thieves and vandals, she said.
Mrs McArthur urged State Government to follow the Commonwealth’s example, citing $1 fines for thieves who stole goats last year from the now closed Gippy Goat Cafe.
“The Victorian Government must stand up for farmers across Victoria to ensure the penalties for farm theft and biosecurity risk fit the serious crimes currently being perpetrated,” she said.
Mrs McArthur also took aim at Torquay MP and fellow Member for Western Victoria Andy Meddick.
“Mr Meddick will likewise have to decide whether he supports farmers or activists,” she said.
But Mr Meddick said the federal laws were about segregating “whistle-blowers” rather then protecting farmers.
“Unlike (state) opposition’s obsession with convincing the public that farms are constantly being invaded, this is far from reality,” the Animal Justice Party MP said.
“Once again the opposition is making false claims about assault and homes being invaded and deliberately setting country against city.
“This is deplorable behaviour and they should hang their heads in shame.”
Public awareness of animal cruelty had only resulted from “brave activists risking their safety to uncover the truth”, Mr Meddick said.
“While the lack of transparency within the animal agriculture industry continues, these actions by animals activists will also continue.”
A current Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the impact of animal rights activism on agriculture should prioritise making “recommendations on how animals are treated”, he said.
“Then there would be no need for any of these activities.”