Response to Inquiry Report – Animal Activism and Farm Trespass

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (17:25): I rise this evening to make a contribution on a report, the Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture. In doing so I want to again reiterate my huge disappointment in the actual report, the committee report that came out. It was not as it was intended, and by that I mean it did not stick to the terms of reference at all. The terms of reference were to consider the type and prevalence of unauthorised activity, workplace health and safety and biosecurity risks with regard to animal activist activity, compliance with the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and the civil or criminal liability of individuals and organisations who promote such activity.

Now, what happened in this report is that rather than actually stick to the terms of reference, the various members of the Labor government, the Labor MPs and other members other than the Liberals and The Nationals, took it on a journey that does not support our farming communities and does not actually protect law-abiding farms and farmers and the agricultural industry as a whole. In fact in a vacuum, without industry consultation, it created its own recommendation that we did not support—the Liberals and The Nationals certainly did not support it—and that was in relation to euthanasia methods within the industry. What was so ridiculous in regard to this was that on many occasions there were multiple people within industry who were at hearings and at no time did the government take the liberty to ask them questions about this. A particular recommendation, recommendation 12, was moved by the Animal Justice Party and supported by Mr Elasmar, Ms Terpstra, Mr Gepp and Mr Barton. The people who they did not talk to, who they did not ask, were a range. They were from the egg and poultry industry. They were from the LTs Eggs farm. We had Ms Danielle Sinotta and her father, Brian Ahmed, here today to talk about the great things that they are doing with caged eggs and how they are taking huge steps to be very transparent about their animal welfare practices and the way they create or make eggs and distribute them et cetera. They are going out into schools now and providing a very clear indication so that people can make wise and informed choices.

They did not talk to anyone in AgVic about what they thought of these changes to euthanasia measures. They did not talk to Professor Paul Hemsworth, who is an animal welfare specialist, or the Victorian Farmers Federation—any part—or the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria or Livestock Australia or Luv-a-Duck or the RSPCA or the meat and livestock industry or the Gippy Goat farm.

Now, you would think when a government says, ‘Trust us, we’re egalitarian. We believe in equality’, it would be equal. Well, it is not equal if you are a farmer in the country, because this government did not bother to communicate or to canvas that. It is not necessarily that they would go against it entirely; they just wanted the opportunity to have consultation and proper consultation.

The other issue that I would like to raise tonight is in terms of judicial reform or judicial awareness and training. It was very clear across many of the submissions, many of the hundreds of submissions that we received and heard during our hearings, that people were most concerned that the judicial system needed to have a better form of education. Indeed the National and Liberal recommendations spoke to the fact that the Victorian government should request the Judicial College of Victoria to provide education and training—not tell them what to do and not say, ‘This is what we want’, but provide education and training—to magistrates and judges about the consequences and impacts of farm trespass and animal activism on farms, particularly those judges and magistrates doing circuit work in regional courts. That is sensible. That is reasonable. But it was voted down, and the people who came and spoke at these hearings and the many people who put in submissions are furious about this. There really is not the right rationale behind it.

Finally, in my last 30 seconds I would like to acknowledge the Honourable Mary Wooldridge. I would like to acknowledge her dear family in the room. They are wonderful country people. They have farms, and they care about their animals. I think—I am pretty sure—that they would be backing this report, our minority report, all the way. I look forward to Ms Wooldridge’s final speech with reluctance because I do not want her to go.