Written by Aiden Smith for Farm Weekly
TRESPASS laws, environmental green tape, the power of supermarkets in the supply chain and relocating lifestylers causing problems for farmers were hot topics in a debate over a motion put to State Parliament by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Rick Mazza.
Mr Mazza, along with some Liberal members, took aim at the State government’s response to vegan trespassers – saying it had been slow to act and had muddled the proposed legislation, the Animal Welfare and Trespass Legislation Amendment Bill 2020, with its insistence on a general inspector of animal welfare, which had been rejected previously.
They said if the government was serious about protecting farmers it should put two deliberate separate bills so they were handled separately.
“One thing that has impeded agricultural production in recent years has been trespass by activists,” Mr Mazza said during his speech.
“Agriculture is not without its detractors, whether that be anti-live export groups, environmental protesters or, more recently, vegan activists.
“Farmers do not deserve to have this type of pressure put on them.
“Most are family-operated enterprises.
“I am sure that there are a few farmers who would be concerned about an invasion of their property.”
Mr Mazza moved: “That this house acknowledges the agriculture sector as an essential service and recognises impediments that impact farming enterprises including, but not limited to (a) trespass by activists; (b) environmental green tape; (c) supermarket purchasing power; and (d) nuisance neighbours and the need for protection of primary producers’ right to farm.”
He wanted the parliament to consider adopting legislation similar to what New South Wales had introduced in its Right to Farm Bill 2019.
“The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party has had that as a core policy of its agricultural policy for some time,” Mr Mazza said.
“NSW saw fit last year to finally pass right to farm legislation, which has been enacted to deal with many issues surrounding activists.
“I have no doubt that it is very important for WA to make sure that it protects its farmers.”
While the question passed, it is unclear what will come out of it because it was not binding.
Had there been more time, Mr Mazza would have pushed for a select committee on right to farm legislation, which will have to be pursued next term, unless the State government seeks to mirror the NSW legislation passed last year.
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan interjected a number of times during the debate and focused her comments on what the Federal government was failing to do as well as the need for a general inspector of animal welfare.
“A couple of crazy vegan activists are not the problem; the problem is the absolute disinterest, I think, at a Federal level to really focus on the WA industry, which is overwhelmingly export oriented,” Ms MacTiernan said.
She went on to say that with an inspector in place to ensure compliance to industry standards, it would help restore trust in the relationship between city and country people.
During the debate South West Liberal MP Steve Thomas said that the government had presented a combined bill that said to farmers, “We will protect you if you agree to these additional things”.
“It is victim blaming at its worst,” Dr Thomas said.
He said if Ms MacTiernan was concerned about animal welfare in WA she should “present this chamber, and the other chamber, with a bill”.
“If she is concerned about farming practises, present us with a bill, but do not come into this chamber and say, ‘we will only protect the farming community if we get our way on our animal rights agenda’.
“If it is not an animal rights agenda, come into this place with a separate piece of legislation and prove it.”
Dr Thomas said that the government was “empowering the animal activists by putting forward legislation that said the farmers were doing the wrong thing and that the government would protect the farmers only if they could be inspected to make sure that they were not doing the wrong thing”.
He said when animal activist group Direct Action Everywhere undertook to film themselves inside a piggery and trespass on farms, its members were charged under the current Animal Welfare Act.
“Laws are in place and the activists were charged with trespass,” Dr Thomas said.
“What did James Warden say when he walked out?
“He said, ‘I don’t really care. We’ll keep going’.
“That shows disrespect.”
Mr Mazza responded to comments on his motion that he was “flabbergasted by Ms MacTiernan’s contribution”.
“I am absolutely stunned,” he said.
“If that was supposed to be in support of the agricultural sector, she has me completely bewildered.
“If the minister spoke to farmers in the industry, she would know that there is a lot of concern about the issues that were raised.
“They are the ones who produce the food.
“All the minister went on about was the people who eat it.
“We are talking about those who are actually producing it.
“If the producers stop producing, people would stop eating and that would be very dangerous to the community.
“There was a lot of focus on inspecting abattoirs.
“Abattoirs already have a stringent and robust way to monitor animal welfare.”