The NSW Labor Opposition will seek to further amend the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government’s badly drafted ‘Right to Farm’ Bill to genuinely protect farmers from trespass on their own farms – without unintended consequences, including for farmers themselves.
The Bill passed through the Lower House on Wednesday night and now moves to the Upper House for a vote potentially as soon as next week.
Labor Shadow Minister for Primary Industries Jenny Aitchison noted that the Bill – which Labor has already forced the Government to amend – is vulnerable to an embarrassing High Court challenge which could see it overturned. “A High Court Challenge could potentially leave farmers back at square one,” she said.
“Labor supports the right of all farmers to live and work on their land safely and peacefully. However, the Government’s Bill is so badly drafted. For example, it would still stop protests occurring in NSW forests – which may even capture the activities of farmers themselves,” Ms Aitchison said.
“Where are the farmers that live in the forests?"
“The Berejiklian-Barilaro Government has said this law won’t apply to farmers on their own land. But it will apply to forestry land, and could be used by non-agricultural interests such as during the Bentley Blockade where 800 people camped on agricultural land to stop coal seam gas mining.”
Labor believes the amended definition of “agricultural land” in the Government’s Bill is too broad – given that it includes orchards, mushrooms, vineyards plant nurseries and turf farms.
“The Government has made absolutely no case that farmers in these sectors of agriculture have experienced activism by so-called ‘vegan vigilantes’,” Ms Aitchison said.
“The Government’s true agenda here seems indicated by the inclusion of forests in its definition of agricultural land.”
Ms Aitchison also noted that the Government has proposed no exclusions against industrial activity, with the proposed incitement provisions potentially capturing union and other environmental conservation campaigns.
Labor believes that the Right to Farm laws should use a mechanism similar to that of the State’s Safe Access Zones legislation – as applies, for example, to abortion clinics. The Victorian version of Safe Access Zones laws were tested by the High Court and upheld.