Back pushes anti-trespass Bill

15 Jul, 2014 04:00 PM
Senator Chris Back.
All of this is designed for animal protection ... activists are attacking Australia’s agriculture
Senator Chris Back.

WESTERN Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back is proposing a Private Senators Bill to address escalating on-farm trespasses by animal rights activists.

Senator Back outlined his proposal in the Coalition’s joint party room meeting in Canberra today and says it has strong support from Attorney-General George Brandis and Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

The meeting also discussed the controversial issue of animal rights activists targeting farmers and rural communities and generating negative trade impacts and threatening biosecurity standards.

The discussion also ventilated concerns about the new People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaign launched last week against the Australian wool industry and other similar campaigns of “vigilantism” attacking farming industries.

Senator Back said he’d been falsely quoted in “every second newspaper around the countryside” as trying to introduce US style “ag-gag” laws.

But he said his proposal is the exact opposite of those laws because it seeks to strengthen genuine animal welfare protections and safeguards for farmers.

He said the draft bill proposed to amend the criminal code, relating directly to animal protection, in two parts.

The first change seeks to ensure anyone with visual images or recordings of suspected malicious cruelty towards animals are obliged to submit a formal report to relevant authorities within 24 hours.

The Senator said they’d also be required to produce those images to authorities within 48 hours so they can act as quickly as possible to stop the cruelty, prevent it from occurring again and prosecute those responsible.

“If somebody is bona fide and sees such images they’ll be required to actually report it as quickly as possible to take action to protect animals,” he said.

Senator Back said the second key element of his bill sought tougher penalties for people who tried to intimidate or threaten others associated with running lawful animal enterprises or tried to vandalise or trespass on such properties.

He said the penalties would bolster animal protection because activists - “whether they realised it or not” - often placed animals at risk through noise disturbance or by destroying a farming operation’s minimal disease status.

“Those animals may have immunity to certain diseases (but) because the activists invade those bio-secure properties, they can potentially place animals at risk by exposing them to disease conditions,” he said.

“All of this is designed for animal protection - and anyone who accuses me of not having animal protection as my primary objective does not understand what I’m proposing.

“My concern lies very much in the fact that the activists are attacking Australia’s agricultural industries, especially livestock.

“We’ve seen this with the ban on the live cattle trade and PETA vowing to try and close down sheep and wool industries and warning people not to use wool or skin in their apparel.

“We’ve seen it also with activists trying to close down pig farming and now they’re saying there’s no place at all for livestock industries or meat consumption - and they’re even criticising farmers because their ewes are losing lambs.

“It’s all part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to turn the wider community against the rural community, particularly livestock.”

Senator Back said his proposal complemented existing State and Territory laws but went beyond those jurisdictions to address cross-border issues relating to Australia’s international trade reputation, which is the commonwealth’s province.

He said a key catalyst behind his move was questioning put to him by industry and government groups in the US, Middle East and Indonesia asking why the Australian government wasn’t “strongly defending” its “enviable” trade reputation against activists who are trying to destroy it.

Senator Back said the Australian government had a genuine responsibility to protect the nation’s agricultural export industries, biosecurity standards and “the lawful activities of our citizens”.

“If I think you might be molesting your children or abusing your wife, and that I can break into your home and put cameras or listening devices in your ceiling, without your knowledge - or especially the knowledge of the police - if that’s the way Australia is moving we as a government have a real responsibility to ensure that’s not happening,” he said.

Senator Back said his draft bill had gained sign-off from the Attorney-General and would now be presented to the Coalition’s leadership team and rural affairs policy committee for further discussions.

“The Attorney General and Barnaby Joyce are both very supportive of the direction,” he said.

He said today was also the first time the draft bill had been “aerated” and over the next five weeks, during the parliamentary winter break, he’d be engaging industry groups and others to hear any concerns or suggestions they may have.

Senator Back first started drafting and considering the proposed regulatory changes in April last year.

Some US states have introduced laws making it illegal for employees to covertly videotape livestock or apply for jobs at related farm businesses, without disclosing ties to animal rights groups.

But Senator Back said his proposed laws do not address those areas relating to employment rules.

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


15/07/2014 5:30:01 PM

Good try Senator, but everything you say is about protecting profits, not animals. If someone is molesting my children, I want it stopped, and I don't care about if the person stopping it has gone through all the red tape and paperwork. The animal abuse documented by PETA would have gone on forever if we had to wait for Senator Back, the police and/or the RSPCA to find it. Don't blame the messenger.
15/07/2014 7:46:23 PM

Some one has got to stop these urban terror extremist fringe groups from appointing them selves as some protector of nature, when they are mostly just wolves in sheep's clothing. We have laws in this country and law enforcers and we must allow people to go quietly about their lawful business and leave law enforcement to the officially delegated authorities. These extremists have brought the extra laws upon themselves and I for one hope the trespassers are made to pay in full for the damage they are doing not only to lawful businesses but also to Australia. Pass the Bill please Mr. Back.
15/07/2014 11:28:13 PM

Good try colours but you don't seem to understand what these activists are really up to - their goal is to shut livestock industries down. Would you like to see that happen?
Jay newell
15/07/2014 11:31:36 PM

Dear colours, In the quotes themselves, Senator Back has explained how and why you don't understand his legislation recommendations before you commented, The comparison you offer makes no sense, RE; child molestation, I am at a loss to understand how a rational human being can make the leap from animal rights people putting animals health at risk, to human sexual abuse and paperwork, It is in no way logical. The messenger in this case is the problem, They are putting animals, humans and business at risk, In the name of a pointless never ending campaign against a fact of life they cant accept..
Cattle Advocate
16/07/2014 8:30:56 AM

Farmers&AWU called for action on the AW shearing issues on 18/10/2013 ABC Rural ''WA wool growers say they're disgusted to hear reports of shearers mistreating sheep'' AWU's Sam Beechey''A lot of these unfortunate instances could well be stopped very early if farmers and shearing contractors would take action as soon as this sort of behaviour is noticed.While most shearers do the right thing,a small group of shearers are increasingly taking their frustrations out on the animals.I have been to every wool growing state in Aus,and I have seen people affected by drugs''
Cattle Advocate
16/07/2014 8:48:55 AM

Shearer Training's Greg Pittaway ''Students are taught how to manage their tempers as part of training the next generation of shearers, we actually almost become counsellors ourselves at the sheds. We ask them to come outside, we'll have a break with them and have a chat with them, try and find out what's going on. Shearers losing their tempers has been a relatively rare problem affecing only a few students'' PETA's founder Ms Newkirk ''PETA is calling on shoppers around the world to reject cruelty to animals,and that means never buying wool'' PETA's Ms Fryer''If there are beliefs that shearers are-
Cattle Advocate
16/07/2014 9:17:01 AM

PETA's Ms Fryer''-known to be working under the influence of drugs, then that should be a focus as well,in a separate issue. PETA US has been compiling a strong case for authorities and it knows from experience that it needs that to help in this cruelty, other wise authorities' hands are tied and this animal suffering will continue unabated'' AWU's Sam Beechey found drug use in all Aus states,did PETA US in 'compiling its strong case' also find drugs use? When a motorist behaves badly are they drug tested?How many more highly credible witnesess for the prosecution did PETA need on 18/10/2013?
Sue Head
16/07/2014 9:50:36 AM

What a load of waffle to hide what is really going on here and that is the push to introduce ag-gag laws like in the US. If Senator Back is so concerned about animal welfare why isn't he calling for those in the footage to prosecuted under our current laws. There are already laws against trespassing & for animal cruelty. What about stricter laws for those breaking into other businesses? Do they not matter? Why is PETA being attacked and not the perpetrators? Obviously he and our poor excuse for an Ag Minister are feeling threatened by PETA
Ex farmer
16/07/2014 10:00:44 AM

Well said Chris, keep up the good work.
16/07/2014 11:16:23 AM

the animal activist groups are just going too far - the northern cattle industry with the live export, shed invasions in the pig industry and the poultry industry now the wool industry!!! I am a sheep and cattle farmer and proud to be! we as with the majority of farmers treat our animals well and with respect - yes we make money from producing animals for food but our livestock have the best life possible while they are on this earth. if they weren't looked after they would not make us money and our farm would not survive! Many of the animal liberation videos are staged and don't show the truth.
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