MS BATH (Eastern Victoria) (09:56): I move:
That the bill be now read a second time.
In 2020, this place passed the Andrews Labor government’s Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. One effect of this bill was to amend section 401A of the Land Act 1958 to expand public access to licensed waterfrontages to allow camping.
This change has been subject to such controversy in affected communities, and the Liberals and Nationals opposed that provision in the government’s legislation in light of the risks posed to the biosecurity of licence-holders and Victoria more generally. Those risks included opportunities for disease to spread through soil and other materials that campers may carry in on the soles of their shoes and in other objects.
Licence-holders have been given permission from the Victorian government to use these waterfrontages for particular purposes that often relate to the housing of their livestock. By allowing the public to access licensed waterfront camping without any safeguards that are proportionate to the risk to biosecurity they cause, the government is putting the entire Victorian and Australian agriculture industry at risk.
Compounding these risks to Victoria’s biosecurity has been the government’s decision to render biosecurity management plans, or BMPs, inoperable on licensed waterfrontages in the Livestock Management Amendment (Animal Activism) Bill 2021. While the introduction of BMPs and the offences for breaching BMPs are welcome, and indeed we have pushed very hard for those for Victorian farmers, the exclusion of a part of a farmer’s land—their licensed waterfrontage—leaves a glaring vulnerability in their preparations against potential diseases and other biosecurity threats.
These issues are back in the spotlight with Indonesia informing the federal Australian government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry of an outbreak of the deadly foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in East Java on 9 May 2022. This outbreak continues to spread rapidly with official cases now approaching 500 000, though actual case numbers are likely to be much higher considering that reporting is assumed to be low.
Australia has been free of FMD since 1872. Until now, FMD had also not been on Australia’s or Victoria’s doorstep since Indonesia was recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health as free from the disease since 1986.
Australia’s agriculture industry is worth $80 billion a year to the national economy and a large multistate FMD outbreak could cause estimated revenue losses of up to $52 billion over 10 years. The CSIRO predicts that even a ‘small, contained’ outbreak in Victoria would see our state’s economy take a $5 billion to $6 billion hit alone.
This bill—the Land Amendment (Accessing Licensed Water Frontages) Bill 2022—amends two acts to ensure that Victoria is better prepared in the event of an incursion of FMD, or another biosecurity threat. The bill amends the Land Act 1958 to control access to and camping on licensed waterfrontages in response to potential FMD outbreaks or other biosecurity, public safety or animal welfare risks. The bill also amends the Livestock Management Act 2010 to allow BMPs to operate on licensed waterfrontages.
The bill inserts provisions into the Land Act 1958, including new section 401B to require campers to obtain the permission of a licensee before they camp on licensed waterfrontage. Contravening this provision carries a penalty of 10 penalty units. New section 401C provides the minister with the ability to restrict or prohibit access to licensed waterfrontage if the minister reasonably believes that it is necessary to restrict or prohibit public access in the interests of biosecurity, public safety, and/or animal welfare. The minister may do so on the advice of the chief veterinary officer or at the minister’s discretion.
In relation to the Livestock Management Act 2010, the bill repeals section 21B(3)(a) in order to allow for licensees to operate a BMP on their licensed waterfrontage. Under the legislative framework of BMPs, associated requirements will be prescribed under the Livestock Management Regulations.
Licensed waterfrontages are Crown land, but they are also the site of livestock activities and must be afforded the proportionate protections to ensure Victoria’s biosecurity is protected.
This bill and its passage will allow the government to better fulfil its responsibility to have effective measures in place to manage and respond to serious biosecurity risks and, in doing so, provide additional and necessary protections to local communities and local industries.
I commend the bill to the house.