New interactive map leaves farmers feeling suspicious
"THERE'S always a concern and you second-guess every person that pulls up in your driveway."
That's how Glenore Grove dairy farmer Luke Stock has described his experience since the public release of the Aussie Farms interactive map.
The animal activist tool lists the location and information of thousands of Australian farms, including Mr Stock's.
The third-generation farmer said since its release early this year, the map had changed the way he viewed the privacy and safety of his farm - which was also where his family lived.
"People will genuinely pull up on the road and take photos of cows - and that's perfectly fine," Mr Stock said.
"But you second-guess that person and you ask yourself 'is that photo of that cow going to potentially end up on an animal activist website or Facebook page, with the wrong message'."
He welcomes the Federal Government's introduction of the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019, which introduces new offences for the incitement of trespass, property damage or theft on agricultural land, designed to protect farmers from extreme animal activism.
"It's good to see that the Federal Government is willing to back food producers and legislate against this," he said.
Mr Stock understood the point of view of animal activists but said there were serious privacy and biosecurity risks caused by the Aussie Farms map.
He encouraged both sides to engage in more civilised debates on the topic.
"I'd like (activists) to see it from both angles," he said.
"We've got a good story to tell and we need to be doing our best to be getting our story out to the general consumer as well, making them aware that we're producing food humanely."
The Glenore Grove farmer was glad to see protections for whistle-blowers included.
"Those people have a great importance - it's really important those guys are able to have a free voice and when wrong is being done it needs to be brought to the attention of the law," he said.
New laws to deter trespass
THE Federal Government has acted on its commitment to protect the privacy of Australian farmers by introducing legislation to protect them from the unlawful actions of animal activists.
The Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 introduces new offences for the incitement of trespass, property damage or theft on agricultural land.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said incidents of trespass by animal activists, such as those earlier this year, had impacted on farmers and their businesses, prompting this action to deter those who incited this behaviour.
"Farmers should not be subjected to the illegal invasion of their property and their privacy," he said.
"The Bill introduces serious criminal penalties to ensure that farmers and their families are protected, with offenders facing up to five years' imprisonment.
The Bill includes exemptions for journalists and whistle-blowers who expose animal cruelty.
Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the Bill sent a clear message to activists that use of farmers' personal information to incite trespass risked jail.
The Government also called on state and territory governments to increase penalties to deter trespass.
"These new laws build on other actions taken by the Morrison Government to protect farmers and their families, including prescribing Aussie Farms under the Privacy Act, meaning the organisation could face fines of up to $2.1million for breaches of the Act," Ms McKenzie said.