Farmer’s fears of trespass have been hijacked by the NSW government’s Right to Farm Bill 2019. Not only will the bill reduce the rights of people to protest against logging, but it will also restrict farmer’s own rights to object to projects on neighbouring properties.
‘These laws are directly aimed at criminalising protest and those exposing serious environmental breaches and animal cruelty,’ said Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge.
‘Trespass is already illegal in NSW and in 2016 the government imposed a large number of additional penalties to target protesters.
The bill quadruples the penalty for aggravated unlawful entry on inclosed lands from $5,500 to $22,000 and imprisonment.
‘The Right to Farm Bill 2019 includes forestry as an agricultural activity and makes any activity that hinders, attempts or intends to hinder logging an “aggravated offence”,’ NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
‘In a time of climate emergency and an extinction crisis, it is an unprecedented and reprehensible assault on our civil rights, aimed at stopping actions to protect our public lands.’
Nature Conservation Council chief executive Chris Gambian said that peaceful protest is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy ‘but hidden within this bill are sneaky new laws which directly threaten that right.
‘This goes beyond just animal welfare activists on farms. These laws could see farmers who oppose coal and gas projects, communities who protest logging, or even someone who stages a silent protest in a bank in Sydney, face up to three years jail and massive fines. This includes farmers and knitting nannas protesting CSG, unions on worksites, communities protesting against logging in state forests, people staging a sit-in in corporate headquarters and more.
‘This is a clear attempt from [government] to shut down dissent everywhere.’
The Greens will be moving amendments to the bill ‘to protect the right to freedom of speech and political expression by adding a defence if the person was engaged in identifying, investigating or preventing serious criminal breaches of environmental or animal cruelty laws,’ said Mr Shoebridge.
‘Many of those targeted by these new laws will be farmers and rural landowners on neighbouring properties who are attempting to protect their own land and crops.’