RIGHT TO FARM BILL - Consideration in Detail
Updated: 5 days ago
I move Opposition amendment No. 1 on sheet c2019-161:
No. 1 Review of Act
Page 3. Insert after line 5—
7 Review of Act
(1)The Minister is to review this Act to determine whether the policy objectives of the Act remain valid and whether the terms of the Act remain appropriate for securing those objectives.
(2)The review is to be undertaken as soon as possible after the period of 2 years from the commencement of this Act.
(3)A report on the outcome of the review is to be tabled in each House of Parliament by 30 June 2022.
The reason for moving this amendment was alluded to in the Minister's second reading speech. We are concerned that there has not been adequate consultation on this bill and that it is so half-baked that the Government has to amend it. We are concerned also about the drafting of the nuisance aspects of the bill and how they will work in practice. Numerous members have spoken about the defence issues—whether it is a nuisance defence or a nuisance shield, and whether a legislator would need to be involved to see if that was the case.
That is definitely an issue for us but we also have broader concerns. This bill is really a signalling of the Government's intention to continue its attack on places like native forests. The Government's amendment includes forests in agricultural land. I do not know any farmers who live in forests. The bill is so badly drafted that we believe the only way to ensure it achieves its intended purpose is if a statutory review is drafted into the bill.
The Minister mentioned our concern as to whether or not the legislation has been reviewed since being updated in 2016. That has not been the case. In 2016 there was widespread community outrage about the scope of the changes to the Inclosed Lands Protection Act. It is of great concern to the Opposition that the Government has now come in here with more changes that it still has not been able to confine to an appropriate level. I cannot take on trust what the Minister says because he has put up a bill and now has to amend it. He has done this without the report from the upper House inquiry that is due on 21 October. The inquiry received 217 submissions and heard from 15 witnesses from eight organisations who gave extensive feedback to the Minister.
The Minister has responded to some of the issues raised. I note that the word "hinder" has been removed following a lot of discussion about possible confusion. I have asked the Minister to assist us in helping him to pass legislation that will protect farmers in their homes from trespass. At every turn the Minister has delayed any conversation or dialogue.
I have asked for the amendments. I got them an hour before the opening of Parliament this morning. I do not have time to go through those amendments and get the advice we need. The Minister talked about consultation with the Bar Association of New South Wales. They did not agree on the disproportionate nature of the punishments in this bill. The Minister can say that he has consulted with people, but he has not addressed the concerns.
If the Minister is so clear about the surveillance aspect being covered by other legislation, why are farmers still articulating that concern to me? I am not talking about drones; I am talking about the other aspects of that issue. The Minister could have used other mechanisms to achieve his purpose, rather than the Inclosed Lands Protection Act. Last year legislation was passed in this place stating that we do not agree protest is appropriate within 150 metres of a reproductive health facility. We said, "Okay, fair cop. No matter how strong your views are there are some places that you just cannot protest."
The Victorian version of that legislation was challenged in the High Court, and it was upheld. That was an opportunity for the Government to clearly carve out exactly what it was trying to do. It could have then put through exactly the issues it wanted. It could have exempted industrial actions. I do not agree that because the Minister says this is all covered in the Fair Work Act that it is hunky-dory. We still have not heard from the Attorney General in this debate. In my second reading contribution I invited him to tell us why he is letting this Minister fiddle with the legislation in such a way that, even before it gets to the end of its first passage through this House, the Minister with his tail between his legs has to amend it. On behalf of every member of the New South Wales population I am not going to take on faith that this Government and this Minister have got this right.
The Minister has got it wrong before. He has rushed in and not consulted with us. What is the Right to Farm Bill all about? If one goes to the website of the Department of Primary Industries what does one find? It is about planning legislation; not trespass. This legislation does not go anywhere near planning, except to set up farmers in a defensive posture so that they are seen by some members of the community as beyond reproach. Likewise, what happens if it passes and somebody has been in a new agricultural pursuit for eight months? When will the clock start? There is a lot of potential confusion. The Minister said that we are confused; he is confused. He has not been clear in what he is trying to do.
The Deputy Premier is running around the State threatening to get rid of national parks and the environment Minister is pretty much in all-out war because he cannot get the plastic bags legislation up. He has also said that he will gazette more national parks et cetera. This is going to be a key issue in this term, we know that, yet the Minister suddenly thinks that timber and forestry is an agricultural pursuit that needs to be addressed by this. Some farmers are conservationists.
They may not want to have their farms sitting next to forests that have been completely denuded of trees under this Government. They might want to join protests on that site but under this legislation it would not be possible because they would not be able to get permission from the Government to go and do a protest on the site of the forest.
We must also be very clear about all the other sorts of farms. The Minister has been talking with such hubris and hysteria about vegan vigilantes. We know there are serious issues with people not feeling safe in their houses. I understand this enormously. I made that very clear in my second reading contribution. I am just not sure if the vegan vigilantes are really worried about turf farms. I do not think they are worried about mushrooms. I do not think they are worried about vineyards. If there is a right to farm issue for vineyards I have not heard of it and I live in the Hunter Valley! I am just not quite sure why all these bits are included.
In regards to orchards, are we upset about apples now? Are people suddenly going onto apple farms and releasing the apples from the trees? "Give us your apples!" This is ridiculous. This goes way beyond what the Minister said in his speech. We have spoken to many farmers. I credit the shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage who has been up and down the coast over the last couple of weeks consulting with rural communities.
People up there are very concerned about the impact of coal seam gas mining. The Bentley blockade occurred on private agricultural land. The Minister can say, "The farmer who owns the private agricultural land where those 800 people camped may give his or her permission for that protest to take place." That is a lovely scenario, but the situation is that there could be changes to that. The farmers could suddenly decide halfway through, "No, I do not give you permission to do that." Now we have 800 people sitting there. Where is that covered? This is not right.
The Government should do a statutory review of this. This lazy Minister brings half-baked legislation to the House. He will not meet with the Opposition. This legislation was referred to an upper House committee and he will not even wait for its report. He cannot deliver on his promise because he just will not do the work. That is the problem. I can just imagine the conversation that went around the shadow Cabinet with the vigilantes Minister over here attacking the Minister's legislation. The worst thing is that this Government is using our farmers as a Trojan Horse to do what it really wants to do: stifle protests. We saw it in 2016 with the previous Premier. We know that this is what they want to do.
The Government knows it has a lot of things planned for this State that it does not want the citizens of our community to be able to have a say on. We are concerned that they are going to include forests in this. I do not take the Minister's advice about the Fair Work Act 2009.
That is something that needs to be reviewed. We still have the inclusion of the incitement provisions, which would potentially capture union organising off these lands and does not even involve trespass. We really have concerns about this. If the Government cannot subject this bill to a statutory review then it just goes to the heart of the bad faith it has brought to the table at every point.
I have reached across the table. On 28 August I went to the Minister moments before he brought this bill to the House and I said to him, "There are some things we need to talk about. There are some issues that you have and some issues that we have. We want to work together."
Mr Andrew Constance: Point of order: The member for Maitland knows full well that she should be talking within the leave of the amendment.
Ms JENNY AITCHISON: I am.
Mr Andrew Constance: I am not hearing that and I have been listening. Come back to the amendment and we will have a debate.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Maitland has the call.
Ms JENNY AITCHISON: I sought to have a good discussion with the Minister about these issues. There was no notification that he was going down to the Chamber to drop in this bill that he had not spoken to me about.
Mr Andrew Constance: Point of order: The previous point of order was upheld. I ask again that you instruct the member to come back to the leave of the amendment.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the Leader of the House. I ask the member for Maitland to focus on the subject of the amendment that you put forward, which is about the statutory review.
Ms JENNY AITCHISON: The amendment is about the statutory review. My point is that I have no faith in this Minister to review his own legislation. The fact is that he has not put that capacity in the bill, that he has had to go to an upper House inquiry and he has had to return to this Chamber with his tail between his legs to change the laws because he knows they are wrong and they are not the right way to do this. I cannot take that on trust and neither should the people of New South Wales.
There should be a clear delineation of a statutory review on this. We have to put this in the context that the Government has not done the required statutory review it was supposed to do. It has not done the one it is supposed to do but it submits this bill, saying it is still not going to do one. This is outrageous.
We need the Government to do the work it is supposed to do, which is look at legislation, develop it, ensure that there are no unintended consequences and provide the capacity for such unintended consequences to be captured.