Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (20:31): I would like to make some comments this evening on the Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture. I will first turn to page 25 of the report, and this section is chapter 2. Chapter 2 looks at the main types of unauthorised animal rights activist activity on Victorian agriculture. It starts off with some various sections about open rescue, which I find quite strange words in the first place—open rescue rather than theft and covert action etcetera. But the thing of interest that I would like to bring to the Parliament’s attention is on page 25. This is under ‘The Animals Defenders Office recommended’, and the quote is:

… that the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic) should be amended to include such an [public interest] exemption. Such an amendment would provide proper protection of both the public’s right to be informed about the treatment of animals involved in food production, and animals’ interests in not being mistreated.

If we turn the page and go to the recommendation, it is almost a mirror quote of this group’s recommendation and commentary. This group is an identified legal entity. It studies law in relation to animals. It studies the betterment of animals etcetera, but it is clearly—by reading more of its submission—siding with the animal activists, not protection of law-abiding farmers and law-abiding citizens. Recommendation 1 is:

That in the context of the review of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 the Victorian Government consider the need to codify public interest exemptions in the Surveillance Devices Act 1999.

This point goes directly to an animal activist-supporting body as opposed to the terms of reference that were there to investigate trespass laws, to investigate on farm activism and to investigate the need to improve and tighten up legislation. The first recommendation of this report says, ‘We suggest that the Victorian government go in and review the surveillance act and codify it so that public interest can be an exemption so that if there are people who want to go on farm and plant a surveillance device—because they have an agenda—if they want to do that, then we can codify in order to provide this exemption’. So rather than providing strong leadership in the protection of the livestock animal industry that feeds and clothes Victorians and exports interstate and overseas, the first part of the majority report goes, ‘Let’s see if we can water down the surveillance act so that we can enable people to go in and put in devices’. This is just one example of where the Liberals and Nationals—I will speak for The Nationals—are highly disappointed. This report should have gone to the nub, should have looked at measures that can strengthen the protection of law-abiding farmers—but no, the first thing that it has done is gone to say, ‘Let’s see how we can weaken it to enable people with an agenda to go on farm.

So we, The Nationals, along with the Liberals, have put out a minority report that strongly opposes that point. We feel that the Labor government and the Labor members of that committee have failed. And it is very interesting if you go back and look at how it was voted on in the terms there. You see time and time again—it was even split—where members of the government voted with the animal activists, and it is embarrassing that they would do it.