“Right to Farm Bill” is a transparent attack on democratic rights

Farms in NSW were trespassed upon more than 500 times last year, mostly for the purpose of illegal hunting, according to NSW Police. The statistics were published in the context of the proposed “Right to Farm Bill” now being debated in Parliament.

Said bill was introduced last month by rosy-cheeked Agricultural Minister Adam Marshall. The diminutive corporate shill was amusingly frank about the bill’s purpose, namely, to guard farmers against “vegan vigilantes” that “break onto people’s farms to cause upset and chaos on that farm to make a point.” In other words, another ag-gag law.

Poor Adam. Doesn’t he know you’re supposed to lie about your motives when proposing laws that curtail civil rights on behalf of business? Honesty does not a good politician make.

As it happens, “vegan vigilantes” are the least of farmers’ concerns. Speaking to Parliament, Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside said NSW Police force “recorded 513 instances of farm trespass” in 2018, and he added: “Illegal hunting was the most cited factor associated with the trespass, followed by theft.” No mention of animal welfare terrorism, alas.

Correcting for Marshall’s little mistake, Department of Primary Industries director-general Scott Hansen clarified (wink wink) that the proposed bill is “completely ambivalent to the purpose or the perpetrator.”

“This bill picks up all illegal trespass, not just those who trespass for the purpose of animal welfare … or illegal hunting,” he said, according to The Age.

If passed, the draconian bill would stiffen penalties for “aggravated unlawful entry on inclosed lands,” increasing the fine from $5500 to $13200 and bringing in the possibility of a year-long prison sentence. That’s for an individual trespasser. If two or more people break the law together, the maximum fine goes up to $22000, the maximum prison sentence to three years.

And for good measure, inciting others to trespass carries a maximum fine of $11000 and, again, a potential 12 months in jail.

Thus, the bill has its opponents.

“In view of the nature of the offence, imprisonment is a harsh and disproportionate penalty,” the NSW Bar Association argued in a submission to Parliament. Moreover, the bill would be “likely to discourage people from exercising their right to peacefully protest.” Which, of course, is the entire point.

Indeed, the bill defines “inclosed lands” as any “public or private land that is inclosed or surrounded by a fence or wall.” Like a park, for instance.

Plainly the “Right to Farm Bill” has nothing to do with farming and everything to do with further muzzling free speech by using severe legal penalties to browbeat political activists into silence.