THE time is right to table a bill in South Australian state parliament cementing farmers' rights, according to Fleurieu Peninsula farmer and former MLC and MP Rob Brokenshire.
His call comes as Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone says animal activist are "abusing" freedom of information requests to target SA farmers.
Mr Brokenshire said increasing animal activist activity - such as the release of the Aussie Farms map, alongside the push for the federal government to ban live sheep exports, showed there needed to be leadership and legislation put in place to support farmers.
"I have been pushing this for years and I've seen more and more examples of situations working against farmers in their day-to-day activities," he said.
For close to a decade, Mr Brokenshire attempted to introduce Right to Farm legislation into SA, getting to the point of a second reading and a parliamentary committee in 2016. He lost his seat in the Legislative Council in the 2018 state election.
Mr Brokenshire said the push by Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and the federal Greens party to call for an end to live sheep exports "played into the hands of activists".
"The reality is, there is a lack of leadership in federal parliament and populist policies," Mr Brokenshire said.
"SA has the opportunity to be the first state to enshrine in law the right to farm.
"I would like to see the federal government do national legislation, rather than state by state, but it has to start somewhere."
Mr Brokenshire said the bill would need to cover legitimate farming practices' ability to occur, unfettered by activists whose real agenda was to ban any animal husbandry. It would also allow farmers to operate plant and machinery "without frivolous complaints" to the Environmental Protection Agency, he said.
Mr Whetstone said there were already options for the government to support farmers against activists.
“Protecting farmers from harassment is everyone’s responsibility," he said.
“The courts should throw the book at any anti-farm activists who want to act like crooks, thugs and bullies by invading and trespassing on farms. If higher penalties are needed to punish farm trespass then that can be considered by all state and territory agriculture ministers, but the first priority is to ensure the police and courts treat farm invasion as the serious crime it is."
Mr Whetstone said anti-farming activists, based in NSW, had "attempted to abuse" SA's FOI laws to obtain lists of farms registered with PIRSA.
“This is a disgraceful attempted invasion of privacy by anti-farm activists and we have ensured my department has denied access to private information while still complying with our strict FOI laws," he said.
“I have asked PIRSA to review all legislation relating to the collection of farm information, including property identification codes, the National Livestock Identification Scheme, and food safety accreditations, to ensure farm business information is legally protected from FOI.
"If any changes to legislation are required to protect the privacy of our farmers, I will do it.”
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