LIVESTOCK MANAGEMENT AMENDMENT (ANIMAL ACTIVISM) BILL 2021

Second Reading 

Mr D O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (18:51): I am pleased to rise just to say a few words, in the 9 or so minutes I have got before we adjourn, on the Livestock Management Amendment (Animal Activism) Bill 2021. I was not going to speak on this because many of my colleagues before me have covered the issues very well, but there are a couple of things I want to say about the debate, particularly the contribution of the member for Melbourne.

The background to this has been outlined by previous speakers and in particular comes from the Aussie Farms website in early 2019, where farms across the country were identified and activists encouraged to invade them and protest. It was not just to protest; that was not the whole issue. It was the invasion. It was the damage, the threat to property and the threat and fear of people on farms that were such a concern. I do not think I have seen many issues in my time that have generated such anger in my community, such outrage from people, as the invasion of farms by these activists—and with good reason, I might add. If you can pardon my French, farming is bloody hard. It is difficult in the seasons, whether there are droughts or the floods we are experiencing now. It is managing input costs. It is managing global commodity changes. It is dealing with animal health issues from day to day. It is dealing with so many things. And for farmers to have to put up with this sort of activism makes it even harder. We in this place should be doing our best to ensure that farmers are given assistance and that they are given every possible help to do the job of not only feeding us and clothing us but actually helping us to deliver capital, to grow capital, to grow income for this country. We send two-thirds of our farm produce overseas and it is a huge export earner for our country, so we have got to do what we can.

What really prompted much of the anger in my community was the Gippy Goat invasion that we have heard others speak about and that resulted in the infamous $1 fine for the theft of a goat, which was a joke—and that was the common refrain from people. They were angry about that. It was at this point in particular I think when my colleague, a member for Eastern Victoria in the other place, Melina Bath really stepped up, because she has spent over the years a lot of time with John Gommans, who was the owner of Gippy Goat. Subsequently the cafe there has closed, which is a great shame. Melina’s work, through I think a mix of anger, compassion and determination actually got up the inquiry that has led to this legislation that we have here now. She pursued that. She pursued it through the whole inquiry that the upper house undertook and she did a fantastic job to get us where we have got to today.

I echo the comments of the member for Polwarth. I was getting comments from—at the time and subsequently—particularly dairy farmers and particularly women on farms who were really concerned, who were saying to me, ‘What do we do? What do we do if a group of 10 people just turn up to our farm?’. So it was absolutely correct that action needed to be taken, and great credit to Melina that she did so.

I said I would mention the Greens, and I was just astounded by the contribution from the member for Melbourne, shallow as it was. In particular the general tenor seemed to be that this legislation needs to be opposed because it is somehow stopping us from protesting, somehow taking away our right to protest. That is the most fallacious argument on this legislation that I have heard. It is just absurd to suggest that you will not be able to protest because of this legislation. It is absolute rubbish. People come out to this Parliament and protest every day. There are people out the front. They do not invade the building. They do not invade the homes of MPs. They do not invade the homes of the people that they might be protesting about. And for the Greens to get up and say that this is somehow taking away our democratic rights is just astonishing and needs to be condemned.

If you do not like what is happening in the state, in the country, go to your local MP. Protest by all means. Start a petition. Stand for Parliament. Get elected yourself. But do not say you have the right to invade someone’s home and property and do damage and take their property. That is just ridiculous, and the Greens and many on the left indeed are hypocrites on this, because when there have been protests out the front and through the streets of Melbourne over the recent restrictions in the last couple of years they get called neofascists and Nazis and all sorts of names, and yet when it is a protest that they like, an invasion of people’s private property, somehow that is a democratic right that they should have.

I pick up the comment that the member for Gippsland East also made about Mr Meddick in the other place, whose home was targeted by those same activists over the pandemic bill. I agree that should not happen. He said:

I understand why people disagree. People disagree in a vibrant democracy. But you don’t have the right to come to someone’s house and make their family feel physically in danger.

Well, I agree with the member for Gippsland East, I agree with Mr Meddick on that point. He is a man though who has supported these activists, and he should be condemned because he is a hypocrite on that issue as well.

In the last couple of minutes I have got, we know, as people that deal with farmers all the time as country MPs, that farmers love their animals. I can tell you: have a look at social media at the time of lambing, and you will see the number of farms that have got lambs in the lounge room with them in front of the fire trying to keep them alive. They go to amazing lengths to look after their animals. Dairy farmers, likewise, love their cows and have names and their favourites of course. So I do not think there is a question that farmers love their animals, and sure, in farming, in modern farming and ancient farming, there will be animal welfare issues that need to be addressed, and that is always going to be the case. But 99.9 per cent of farmers do the right thing, and they should not be condemned for the actions of these activists. Let us be clear though, many of these extreme activists actually do not want us to farm or to eat animals. That is what it boils down to, and we cannot be continually trying to appease them, and this legislation goes a long way to ensuring that we actually are protecting our farmers.

Briefly on the amendments: I certainly support the amendments put forward by the Leader of The Nationals, in particular in relation to the maximum fine. We are talking just under $11 000 for the maximum fine. I got an email today from a constituent who got a COVID fine of $10 990 because when the inspectors came his COVID plan on the wall was not filled in correctly, and he did not have the density quotient for his premises on the door. I do not think it is unreasonable that these sorts of fines for people invading someone’s property should be tougher, and so I support the amendment put up by the Leader of The Nationals.

I am trying to time this perfectly, Deputy Speaker. I think I have got about 20 seconds to go, so I will finish on the fact that I support the amendments moved by the Leader of The Nationals. I support the intent of this bill, because it is absolutely critical that this Parliament gives its support to our farmers every day, continues to support our farmers every day and makes sure that we stick with them and get behind them.

Business interrupted under sessional orders.

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