Farm trespass on new year agenda

30 Dec, 2014 01:00 AM
Farmers, more than anybody, want to see that sort of behaviour stamped out

GOING into bat for Australia's livestock farmers is key to MP Rick Wilson's 2015 game plan, with several changes aimed at improving profitability on the legislative agenda.

Speaking to Fairfax Agricultural Media, the Western Australian Liberal MP said he supported new laws proposed by WA Liberal Senator Chris Back to address increasing incidents of on-farm trespass by animal rights activists, and was also looking into working visa changes and live export issues.

Mr Wilson, a Katanning sheep and grain farmer, said he would vote for Senator Back’s Private Senators' Bill when it comes before the House of Representatives in 2015.

Senator Back says the draft legislation is aimed at protecting animals and strengthening biosecurity protocols, and seeks changes under the Criminal Code to ensure video footage gathered by the activists is handed to proper authorities.

Animal welfare the first priority

Like his colleague, Mr Wilson said anyone who witnesses animal cruelty should have to report it “without delay”.

“If someone’s working in an abattoir and there’s an improper practice going on they should report it; that’s what the law is in place for,” he said.

“Witnessing cruelty and putting video footage together over time and then releasing it to achieve maximum political impact is contrary to what I would see as best practice animal welfare.

“If you witness any systemic cruelty of animals it should be reported immediately.”

Mr Wilson said there was also strong grass roots support for the legislation that aimed to protect farmers’ rights.

“Industry does feel that it’s being victimised to a degree, and everyone I meet and talk to is horrified by some of the footage we’ve seen,” he said.

“But farmers, more than anybody, want to see that sort of behaviour stamped out - so if people have evidence or footage of mistreatment of animals they should bring it forward and deal with it on the spot.

“That’s what Senator Back’s legislation is about and I’ll certainly be looking forward to supporting that when it’s introduced into the Lower House.”

Working visa focus

Mr Wilson said he also wanted to ensure 417 holiday visas, or backpacker visas, remained relevant to agriculture and helped to fill workforce shortages.

At the moment, 417 visa holders must work 18 weeks in a remote or regional area to secure an extended visa. But Mr Wilson said moves had been made by the tourism industry to change the visa criteria so more backpackers could work as bartenders along the east coast.

Mr Wilson said the Coalition agriculture backbench committee was “very strongly opposed to that” and wanted to ensure the 417 visa arrangements benefit farmers.

He said the Fletcher International Exports abattoir situated at Narrikup, WA, had 90 backpackers in its workforce of 400 and was only 30 kilometres away from the large regional city of Albany.

“It is a market failure because people just won’t work in that industry,” he said.

ESCAS important for industry

Mr Wilson said he was also pleased to see the Coalition continuing its commitment to growing and supporting the live export trade unambiguously in 2014 and that continuing in 2015.

“From day one this government has been rock solid behind the live export trade,” he said.

“The Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce have made it very clear this government won’t be responding on an ad hoc basis to bits of horrendous video footage dug up by Animals Australia and others.

“If they’ve got the footage they must bring it forward and have it dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”

Mr Wilson said live exporters might complain about the regulatory burden of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) introduced by the former Labor government, but exporters must be able to allay the community’s concerns about their industry.

A review of ESCAS – that’s understood to be completed but has yet to be released by the Coalition - is expected to recommend changes to streamline the system and cut costs while maintaining animal welfare standards.

“Most of the emails that my office receives are concerns about live exports, often as part of orchestrated campaigns,” Mr Wilson said.

“But there are also plenty of individuals out there in my electorate, an agricultural and mining electorate largely, never mind a Sydney or Melbourne suburban electorate, who have genuine concerns about live exports.

“ESCAS does help the government to allay some of the genuine fears - from genuine people, not activists, but people who are genuinely concerned about animal welfare - that there’s a process in place to deal with these breaches when they happen.

“That system comes with a cost unfortunately, and that cost is passed down to the producer at the end of the day.

“But we’re better off having a live export trade we can defend than one that’s indefensible and sooner or later will be shut down by a future government.”

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

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


30/12/2014 11:06:29 AM

While I only believe that I am the custodian of the land I own (just stop paying your rates and you will soon see who really owns it) and have allowed free access to anyone who looks after it; that is changing because of the actions of a few animal activists and people not prepared to respect my rights and generous nature. Aerial invasion for the use of photographing farming activities without permission should also be addressed and called trespassing.
30/12/2014 5:30:21 PM

But Percy, if you are not doing anything wrong and you're proud of all your farming processes and animal treatment - they you wouldn't care less about farm aerial photography. Hmmm, someone obviously has something to hide.
30/12/2014 6:55:10 PM

Senator Back's proposal is dangerous and misleading. It's like telling an undercover cop to turn over every criminal he comes across - major investigations will get nowhere and the big offenders will get away every time. If the industry has nothing to hide, let investigators investigate.
angry australian
31/12/2014 12:11:57 PM

Bridget and Colours, both your arguments are flawed. Under our laws I have basic rights, and the right to privacy is one I cherish. If i break the law, we have all manner of inspectors i.e.,police, RSPCA, health and even wildlife officers to enforce it. What we don't need is self appointed vigilantes who wish to have the law interpreted their way only. Last time I looked, keeping livestock wasn't a crime although people like AA and PETA dreamily wish that it was. So what do you think, you're entitled to your privacy in Balmain or Brunswick but I'm not in the bush?
31/12/2014 3:13:45 PM

Bridget and Colours - So you won't mind me flying a drone over your house, and following you around all day. After all you have nothing to hide.
31/12/2014 4:28:01 PM

I am always amused by the "if you have nothing to hide you should allow it" I could use the same argument to put cameras in every person's house... To make saving a person's internet travels mandatory and viewable by anyone.. I mean you all have nothing to hide right? Surely making sure no child sexual abuse is going on is important... Not that I think anyone is doing that, but we need to make sure you are doing the right thing.. Nothing to hide remember.. What is that you all say? It is different... Of course it is when it involves you..
Cattle Advocate
31/12/2014 7:04:55 PM

Farmers&AWU publicly raised concerns about some shearers in Oct 2013 but PETA waited until July 2014 to tell the same story. PETA ''In view of Mr Coleman's continued attempts to slight the work of investigators,PETA US is now asking RSPCA NSW to appoint an unbiased party to oversee the investigation'' Steve Coleman joined RSPCA NSW in 1991 and has worked as an Inspector,D Chief Inspector,C Inspector and in groups advising the Minister on companion animals,livestock,native&feral animal management. PETA that didnt supply a witness ''We are asking people to leave wool out of their wardrobe''
Frank Blunt
1/01/2015 5:45:50 AM

That's fine Bridget but we also need to get a camera installed in your house just to keep an eye on you and make sure your not abusing your kids at all and are feeding them properly. After all if you have nothing to hide and are doing the right thing you wont mind will you ?
1/01/2015 7:24:11 AM

About time we heard of something Rick Wilson is going to do to support farmers. When is he going to initiate some real benefits off his own bat. He could start with fighting for some equity for farmers and small businesses by seeking to shift the welfare component of our Industrial Awards onto the Federal Budget instead of leaving on the expense sheets of small business to pay for. Let us see you earn you pay Rick. Take a leaf out of Barnaby Joyce's book and work harder for your constituents.
1/01/2015 11:01:19 AM

Hi guys, ,some interesting points are being raised , however , i believe in vain . The reason i say this is that we give these ''BASTARDS'' money (or should i say they take it off us ) and they turn around (through government grants and the like ) and use our hard earned money to take actions against us . The heading i have used ''PLENTY V DILLON'' is a high court action against people that are on your land (rented , leased or owned) as tresspassers . The state courts and their ''hirachy'' do not recognise these cases as that would put an IMMEDIATE stop to tresspass, instead what they do
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