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Mixed messages from McGowan Government over trespass penalties

The Nationals WA have questioned contradictory statements from the McGowan Government over whether current penalties for trespassing are enough of a deterrent.

Leader Mia Davies said The Nationals had demanded answers on behalf of regional communities left shaken in the wake of increasing animal activist trespass incidents.

“We’ve pursued the issue inside and outside of Parliament but now the Premier appears to be at odds with his Agriculture Minister,” Ms Davies said.

“In times of unrest the agricultural sector need a clear direction and message from elected leaders yet they are not getting it from the McGowan Government.”

In January, Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said “there are already significant penalties for trespass in WA – a year imprisonment and a $12,000 fine. These represent a very real deterrent.”

Yet on Wednesday (27 February) the Premier said current trespass laws and penalties “clearly … need to be reviewed.” Mark McGowan went on to say that he and the Police Minister would investigate “toughening up penalties”.

“Once again the McGowan Government appears all at sea when it comes to matters important to WA’s farming community and primary producers,” Ms Davies said.

“On the one hand you have the Minister responsible for the sector saying current trespass penalties act as enough of a deterrent. Next minute the Premier says a review needs to be held and penalties must be tougher.

“You could forgive farmers and primary producers for questioning if their safety is a priority for this Government.”

The Nationals WA have so far led the debate on what should be done to curb rural crime and stop a rising tide of illegal activity by animal activists.

“These activities continue to occur because Labor is seen as a soft-touch by animal activists,” agriculture spokesperson Colin de Grussa said.

“We have called on the State Government to review trespass laws and ensure regional police are adequately equipped and resourced to respond to the spike in intimidating activist behaviour.

“We have also suggested revisiting the stock squad, which was disbanded in 2008, and a review of surveillance laws in relation to the use of drones.”

The Nationals WA have also presented a petition to Parliament calling on the Government to investigate tougher penalties for rural crime.

“The petition calls for review of legislation to protect landholders against theft or damage to livestock or property, trespassing and hunting or fishing on private land without permission,” Mr de Grussa said.

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