Nats push for more pressure on activists

Nats push for more pressure on activists


Politics
The Nationals WA Member for Roe Peter Rundle believes the State government has not done enough when it comes to protecting farmers from activists.

The Nationals WA Member for Roe Peter Rundle believes the State government has not done enough when it comes to protecting farmers from activists.

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Political games continue over the tightening of laws against extreme activism.

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THE Nationals WA is keeping the heat on the State government to toughen existing laws to ensure farmers and their families are safe from attacks by animal activists.

While State Attorney General John Quigley said he would act, "the silence has been deafening" according to Member for Roe, Peter Rundle.

"The government made a lot of noise but it appears it has come to a stand still," Mr Rundle said.

"It appears to be getting more disappointing by the day."

Mr Rundle's party colleague and party Agriculture spokesman Colin de Grussa also chimed in saying it was time for the government to stop talking and take action.

The issue of vegan animal activists trespassing on farms and harassing farmers and even restaurant patrons rose to a new level last year but has continued after what some describe as "soft sentencing" for those found guilty in the courts.

The maximum penalty for trespass in WA is 12 months imprisonment and a $12,000 fine but so far no one has received that - despite outrage from farmers and their political representatives.

Newly appointed Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said she discussed the issue with her State counterpart Alannah MacTiernan when she visited Perth a few weeks ago, encouraging the State government to toughen the laws.

There has been some confusion about the position of the State government regarding whether it needed to increase the penalties for trespass but Mr Quigley said that it was "the government's intent to amend the appropriate section of the Criminal Code to both increase the fines and the maximum term of imprisonment that can be imposed, and to have orders that will be made at the time of sentencing in addition to any other penalty imposed, and that these orders will be made except in the most exceptional circumstances".

"The orders themselves will not be part of a bail condition, but will be part of the sentencing process," Mr Quigley said.

"These matters are in the cabinet process at the moment.

"Once they have cleared through the Parliamentary Counsel's Office, we will bring legislation into parliament as soon as reasonably practicable."

The Nationals WA previously criticised the Attorney General for "leaving the agricultural community vulnerable to continued attacks by animal activists as a result of ineffective bail conditions".

Mr de Grussa accused Mr Quigley of being "detached from reality" regarding his recent comments around bail conditions.

"The Attorney General claims that 'bail conditions seem to be working' - despite the presence of convicted activists at protests in Narrogin, Beaufort River, Harvey and Osborne Park," Mr de Grussa said.

"One criminal activist has been arrested several times for crimes including trespass, possession of a weapon, breaching bail and disorderly conduct.

"Yet this person is still permitted to enter abattoirs, stockyards and educational facilities without breaching bail conditions."

Mr de Grussa said the lack of consequences for animal activists was alarming for the agricultural sector.

"If someone showed up to your home or business under the cover of darkness, carrying a weapon, stealing your property and posting videos on the internet aimed at sabotaging your livelihood, you would expect them to be locked up," he said.

"Yet when animal activists are faced with these exact charges, our chief lawmaker the Attorney General has his head in the sand.

"These crimes are happening on his watch.

"He must be accountable."

Mr de Grussa said Mr Quigley had "failed to make good on a single promise regarding criminal activists".

In parliament last week Mr Quigley said some of these matters were still before the court, "because some of these activists have committed further offences, and I do not want to comment upon those charges that are before the courts".

"There are of course court-imposed bail conditions, in which people have been released on bail with curfews and restraint upon going onto agricultural land," Mr Quigley said.

"Those bail conditions seem to be working.

"What we need is to have continuing purchase on their behaviour going forward.

"So it is the government's intent to amend the appropriate section of the Criminal Code to both increase the fines and the maximum term of imprisonment that can be imposed, and to have orders that will be made at the time of sentencing in addition to any other penalty imposed, and that these orders will be made except in the most exceptional circumstances.

"The orders themselves will not be part of a bail condition, but will be part of the sentencing process."

Mr Quigley questioned what "the National Party did in its eight and half years in government to protect farmers in remote areas?"

"In eight and a half years the Nationals did nothing," he said.

"Once this problem became really apparent, the McGowan Labor government has acted very swiftly."

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