Animal activists could face five years prison

ANIMAL activists could face up to five years in prison after new legislation to protect Aussie farmers was introduced to the House of Representatives last week.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 introduces new offences for the incitement of trespass, property damage, and theft on agricultural land.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said incidents of trespass by animal activists like those earlier this year have impacted on Australian farmers and their businesses, and there "must be consequences" for such "unacceptable behaviour".

"Farmers should not be subjected to the illegal invasion of their property and their privacy," Mr Porter said.

The Bill includes exemptions for journalists and whistle-blowers who expose instances of animal cruelty. It also covers other private agricultural businesses such as fishers and foresters.

Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the Bill sends a clear message to animal activists they will risk jail by using personal information of farmers to incite trespass once the Bill passes.

"These laws are necessary to protect farmers and their businesses - most of them small family businesses - from potential trespass, property damage, theft and biosecurity breaches, and the substantial loss of income that could follow," Ms McKenzie said.

"These new laws build on other actions taken by the Morrison Government to protect farmers and their families, including prescribing Aussie Farms under the Privacy Act, meaning the organisation could face fines of up to $2.1 million for breaches of the Act."

BORDERLINE FUNDING: Coalition Minister Bridget McKenzie with Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.
BORDERLINE FUNDING: Coalition Minister Bridget McKenzie with Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton. MICK TSIKAS

For Chinchilla beef producer Louise McMahon, it's an excellent move.

"It is absolutely necessary to protect farms from trespassing activists," Mrs McMahon said.

"I'm 100 percent in support for freedom of speech but not where there is an intrusion to private property.

"Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with any social issue we are in a fortunate country where there are plenty of appropriate avenues to voice our opinions but on private farm land is not one of these.

"It's actually pretty sad that a law needs to be introduced for what should be seen as simple respect."

The government has also called on the state and territory governments to increase penalties to deter animal rights activists from trespass.