Mr GRIMLEY: I rise to speak on Mr Bourman’s Crimes Amendment (Trespass) Bill 2019 being debated today. The bill increases penalties for specific offences relating to those who trespass on farms with intent to disrupt farming activities, in particular those farms dealing with animal husbandry.
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party has a proud history of supporting animal rights issues. Our party founder wrote about the slaughtering of kangaroos in the New York Times more than 40 years ago. Our party has also supported causes which aim to protect endangered marine life and prevent puppy farming. Animal welfare is undoubtedly a Justice Party issue. While our party has long supported animal rights issues, I personally understand the issues facing farmers in rural and regional Victoria. I am currently meeting with each of the 24 mayors in Western Victoria, many of whom have explained the growing issue of protesters and activists who are invading farms illegally.
Given unpredictable weather conditions and an increasingly competitive agricultural market, our farmers have enough on their plate without having to worry about activists illegally storming their property. Individuals should never take the law into their own hands. In the same way our party opposes vigilante behaviour regarding sex offenders, our party opposes illegal trespassing and theft of livestock. Purely and simply, it is a criminal offence and also poses many biosecurity risks. I have said it before: there is no room in a civilised society for vigilante behaviour.
Any member of the community concerned about the welfare of livestock should report such incidents to the relevant authorities, as it is them who are best equipped to respond to instances of abuse and mistreatment. Victoria Police established agricultural liaison officer roles in 2011 in order to address the increasing incidence of livestock theft and farm-related crime. Recently the government announced that these positions would be resourced differently and would be named farm crime liaison officers.
If legislated, this bill would set a maximum penalty of four years imprisonment for those who trespass with an intent to take audio or visual recordings of people or animals associated with an animal enterprise or recreational activity. It is our party’s belief that this penalty is relatively severe in contrast to other penalties handed down to those who assault an emergency services worker or violently enter a property.
While our party will be opposing Mr Bourman’s bill today, both I and Ms Maxwell eagerly await the findings of the inquiry into animal activism currently before the Economy and Infrastructure Committee. I hope that the committee identifies tangible steps which the government can take in order to assure greater safety for both animals and farmers. The mandatory sentences outlined in this bill are significant and are the main reason why we are opposing it. The imposition of mandatory sentences should only be undertaken when absolutely necessary, and I will await the committee’s findings before making a judgement on whether mandatory sentencing for farm crimes is absolutely necessary.