After a sustained effort by The Nationals in State Parliament, the Labor Government has finally revealed just what their plans are to protect WA farmers and the agricultural sector from extremist behaviour by animal activists and increasing rural crime.
Following weeks of questions, debate and a petition with hundreds of signatures, The Nationals sought to bring the matter to a head with a call to form a select committee to address the serious and emerging activities impacting on farmers and businesses going about their lawful business.
“The debate we brought to the Parliament on 10 April was triggered by inconsistent answers to our questions from the Premier, Minister for Police, Attorney General and the Minister Agriculture – they simply weren’t providing the information that industry and our communities were demanding,” Leader Mia Davies said.
“In response to our motion, the Attorney General gave a commitment that he would be bringing a range of legislative recommendations to Cabinet and Parliament as a priority.
“He has said the Government’s response will be tough and that other states will follow. The Nationals will be holding the Government to account on this commitment.”
Ms Davies said The Nationals would welcome the introduction of harsher penalties for activists who illegally interfere with lawful agricultural operations, including farms, abattoirs, stock yards and transporters.
Agriculture spokesperson Colin de Grussa said he was disappointed the McGowan Government had walked away from its previous commitments to reform the stock squad and to investigate the use of drones to conduct illegal surveillance.
“Providing harsher penalties for activists only addresses one of the elements regional communities are concerned about when responding to the threats and intimidation of extreme activists,” Mr de Grussa said.
“We welcome the news that four additional rural investigators have been assigned to specific rural crime duties. However, it is our view that a reformed stock squad would provide greater focus and resource to isolated rural areas, which would not only help deal with escalating animal activist incidents but also issues of machinery and stock theft.
“Separately, the use of drones for surveillance, stalking or harassment is a new technological challenge which our Parliament needs to address, yet the McGowan Government has simply buried their heads in the sand.”
Senate candidate Nick Fardell has separately welcomed an announcement by the Federal Government to deliver new laws to protect the privacy of farmers online if re-elected.
“Publishing personal information on attack maps and inciting people to break the law is simply abhorrent,” Mr Fardell said.
“I note these new laws will likely only come to pass if there is bipartisan support so I look forward to Bill Shorten pledging his support for the protection of regional families and businesses.”