IT will come as no surprise to Farm Weekly readers who have been following the debate around criminal activists, farm trespass and rural crime, that The Nationals WA hold serious concerns about the State government's Animal Welfare and Trespass Legislation Amendment Bill 2020.
I thank the Farm Weekly for inviting feedback on this issue, as I feel it is an important one for the agricultural sector.
This bill was introduced after more than a year of pressure in State Parliament, driven by The Nationals WA on behalf of farming families and regional communities, rightfully fed up with the government's lack of action to deter brazen criminal activists.
We've also consulted extensively with stakeholders including WAFarmers, Pastoralist and Graziers of WA and the WA Police Union to develop our own rural crime response, which would include stronger penalties for trespass, on-the-spot fines for activists, and crucially, reinstating the Rural Stock Squad to put more boots on the ground to respond to regional crime.
Farmers, workers and their families have the right to feel safe and secure in their homes and at their business.
They are not the ones breaking the law.
The Nationals firmly believe trespass and animal activism are rural crime issues and should be treated separately from any proposal to increase inspection powers linked to animal welfare.
Despite having more than 18 months to address community concerns, the Attorney General has failed to bring forward a proposal backed by the agricultural sector.
Labor has shown its true colours with this bill, putting the concerns of an inner-city voter base at the forefront while ignoring the plight of farming families who have been intimidated, abused, harassed and stolen from by criminals in a sustained campaign against one of our most important sectors.
There is no doubt the Labor Party will use our opposition to this legislation to label The Nationals as cruel or uncaring about animal welfare.
That one-dimensional tactic couldn't be further from the truth.
Having spent most of my life farming animals, I appreciate the care our farmers afford their livestock.
As a member of the Parliamentary Committee which looked into increased inspection powers back in 2018, I know there are already significant safeguards to ensure animal welfare outcomes our farms.
This committee was "not persuaded that there is a need for the creation of this new category of designated general inspector at this point in time, nor for the enhanced powers of entry that such an inspector would enjoy" and there was no evidence animal welfare compliance could not adequately be undertaken by existing inspectors under existing powers.
If the State government is serious about animal welfare it should focus on progressing these matters through the still unfinished and delayed Animal Welfare Act review.
Why make changes to that act, as proposed in this bill, while the review is incomplete?