Bills - Second Reading Debate - Right to Farm Bill 2019

25 September, 2019
Bills - Second Reading Debate  - Right to Farm Bill 2019  Image

I speak on the Right to Farm Bill 2019. The concerns this bill seeks to address are important to rural people who significantly depend on agriculture as both a way of life and a business. The economic viability of most communities in the Barwon electorate is underpinned by successful agriculture. The current drought is a significant impediment to economic and community viability and is being felt deeply by all communities in my area. There is a close relationship between our towns and farmers and between farmers and the land. The majority of farms in the Barwon area are family operations and many of them are intergenerational. These operations consist of husbands, wives and their children, who correctly view their farms as homes and safe places. This bill seeks to put a stop to the increasing number of invasions of these safe places for the purposes of activism. This behaviour has been driven by the visual connectivity offered through platforms such as Facebook.

This bill seeks to address unwarned, unwarranted and, unfortunately, often aggressive situations where people unknown to a farmer organise themselves to arrive and deliberately create a confrontational situation with unsuspecting people who are simply going about their legal farming business. As I said, farming operations often involve children of all ages who are genuinely involved in farm activities. They have a right to feel safe within the confines of their farming operations. I ask those who have no experience with these kinds of businesses and lifestyles to consider that these invasions are similar to a home invasion where someone goes into a person's home and looks through their personal items while they are absent. The common experience of people who have experienced that is a loss of personal security and increased anxiety.

For several years the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers [SFF] Party has been concerned that the law is lacking in responses to organised and deliberately confrontational trespassing. The SFF Party has raised the issue with the Government consistently over time but the Government has been uninterested in taking action. However, we were not dissuaded by the lack of interest from the Government. We are well aware that the ongoing interest of our party in this matter and similar matters ultimately creates resolve from disinterest. One of the strengths of our party is our membership in both the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly. It is the intention of the SFF Party members of this House to flag amendments to this bill and to the Crimes Act 1900 that will be pursued in the Legislative Council.

While we agree with the intent of this bill, we do not believe it will deliver a sufficient deterrent to stop this concerning behaviour. There are also questions that need to be answered regarding agriculture-related businesses that are not on agricultural or farming land. My parliamentary colleague the member for Orange has detailed the amendments that will be moved in the Legislative Council. I am concerned that there is some potential for this bill to have a negative impact on the rights of farmers, among others, to oppose coal seam gas operations where the Government has granted a coal seam gas company right of access onto a farmer's inclosed land. These concerns should be fully addressed in the committee we expect to see formed in the Upper House.

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