First week of parliament looms large for rural policies

First week of federal parliament looms large for rural policies


Australian Dairyfarmer News
Scott Morrison on a farm visit to Eumungerie, 10 kilometres north of Dubbo, NSW, in April.

Scott Morrison on a farm visit to Eumungerie, 10 kilometres north of Dubbo, NSW, in April.

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Politicians face a test when they return to Canberra in July over outstanding promises for new farmer protection laws and delivery of concessional loans.

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It will be a busy first week back in Canberra for politicians and farmers.

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed to vote in new laws to crack down on animal activists that target livestock producers and processors.

Parliament must sit within a month from the close of vote-counting by the Australian Electoral Commission, which is set for June 28.

But when parliament does resume, the government will have to grapple with an unruly Senate over its key election pledge for tax cuts for low, middle and high-income earners.

In April, Mr Morrison pledged that a re-elected Coalition government would take swift action against "aggressive and violent activism that we have seen with people storming farms around this country".

"It's disgusting, it's appalling and that's why in that first week... I want to see that legislation passed that we would bring in that would criminalise this behaviour and make sure that we're standing up for our farmers," he said on April 27 during a farm visit at Eumungerie, NSW.

"It's just not acceptable that people's properties, their livelihoods, their homes, would be targeted as part of a deliberate campaign to bring their livelihood down."

Two weeks before Mr Morrison's visit to Eumungerie, Attorney General Christian Porter outlined new laws for animal activist groups like Aussie Farms, which published an interactive map with the locations of hundreds of rural properties across the country, including livestock farms, meatworks and dairies.

Mr Porter described a new offence with up to 12 months jail time for those who use a carriage service, such as the internet, to disclose personal information and incite others to trespass on farmland and livestock facilities.

"We have seen with Aussie Farms the malicious use of personal information, including farmers' names, addresses and workplaces, designed specifically to encourage others to trespass on properties and damage businesses," Mr Porter said.

"This is not acceptable and the Morrison Government will, if re-elected, introduce a new criminal offence specifically designed to protect Australian farmers from the sort of vigilante action we have seen this week."

Mr Porter has also prescribed Aussie Farms under the Privacy Act which exposes it to fines up to $2.1 million for breaches.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the new Minister for Rural Finance can make up for his on-again, off-again promise to farmers for concessional loans for restocking and replanting.

Since the election Deputy Nats Leader Bridget McKenzie has replaced Mr Littleproud as Agriculture Minister, but Mr Littleproud remained minister for concessional loans in his new portfolio of Drought, Natural Disasters, Emergency Management and Rural Finance.

On April 30, then Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said at the Kempsey Show in NSW that concessional loans would be available in time for planting.

But when farmers contacted the Regional Investment Corporation, the federal agency charged with delivering the loans, they were told the loans were not available.

Mr Littleproud announced the loans during the election campaign when the government was in caretaker mode. At the time the RIC said the loans would need to be approved by the government after the election.

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