The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says Victorian farms have been left exposed to fringe activists for almost two years because New on-the-spot fines for trespass still have not been put in place – almost two years after they were recommended.
Mr Walsh said some of these activists can actually threaten the safety of farm families because they don’t understand how farms work; or all the equipment and chemicals found on many farms.
He said in June 2020, the Andrews Labor Government committed to introducing hefty on-the-spot fines for biosecurity breaches in response to pressure from The Nationals.
But during an embarrassing admission in Parliament last week, Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas confessed she still hasn’t done the work to deliver laws that better protect farmers.
A disappointed Mr Walsh slammed the lack of progress, saying it left farmers and their families exposed to theft and people illegally entering their property.
“The Agriculture Minister has bizarrely claimed the delay doesn’t matter because farmers are protected by existing laws – but flaws in existing legislation are exactly why these reforms are needed,” Mr Walsh said.
“When current laws see criminal actions by extreme animal activists resulting in a fine of just $1 it’s clear the system isn’t deterring illegal trespass or protecting hard-working, law-abiding farm families,” he said.
“But what it does show is this government’s disdain for anyone not living in the state of Melbourne.
“The Minister’s failure to introduce this important legislation only emboldens extreme animal activists to trespass on and steal farmers’ private property.”
In January this year, the Minister told media: “Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic … engagement across government and industry will take place this year”.
But last week, the Agriculture Minister would only say that “work is well underway” and legislation will be introduced “in due course”.
Mr Walsh said the new laws were not ready because the Andrews Government had not made them a priority.
“Other states have already done the work to draft, introduce and pass legislation for on-the-spot fines,” Mr Walsh said.
“If the Andrews Labor Government still needs some pointers, it could look to NSW, South Australia or Queensland.
“Farming is fundamental to our regional, state and national economy, and supporting the agriculture industry must be a priority, but the Minister’s lack of action shows Labor’s priorities are all wrong.”