The State Government is cracking down on animal rights zealots invading farms in illegal protests.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced police and Agriculture Department officers will have the power to issue on the spot fines — a faster penalty than pursing trespass charges.
In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will form a joint taskforce with the Queensland Police Service intelligence unit to focus specifically on animal activism.
Ms Palaszczuk said the government was backing farmers.
“We want our farmers to get on with their job, to be able to work in a stress-free environment and not have activists, who are coming mainly from interstate to Queensland, causing them distress, which has an impact on our export industry as well,” she said.
“I understand the stress that this issue is causing our farmers, our families. Last week, Minister Furner and I had the opportunity to talk directly to the Queensland Farmers’ Federation about this important issue.
“I do not believe anyone would believe that it is acceptable for people to cause this distress to hardworking families who work hard on the land.”
The announcement follows the release of a map by animal rights group Aussie Farms, which raised privacy concerns among farmers.
“We believe in freedom of information as a powerful tool in the fight against animal abuse and exploitation,” the website says.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said authorities had recently seen an escalation in the tactics of militant activists who appear to assume their beliefs somehow place them outside the rule of law.
“This is completely against the tenets that underpin a law-abiding democratic society,” Mr Furner said.
“As a consequence of this new and completely inappropriate era of activism the Palaszczuk Government is drawing a line in the sand.”
Mr Furner said Queensland farmers deserved respect and needed to be protected.
“Everyone has the right to protest, but nobody has the right to break the law,” Mr Furner said.
“We have begun drafting a new regulation that will give Police and departmental officers the power to issue on-the-spot fines for farm invasions.
“These activities create a serious biosecurity issue as well as putting the lives of farmers, workers and indeed animals at risk.
“We are getting tough on farm invaders because their actions are dangerous.
“The intent of this new regulation is to act as a strong deterrent to unlawful behaviour.
“Activists have clearly taken the view that it is financially viable for them to break the law under existing regulations. That’s about to change.”
That’s not the only change.
Mr Furner said the joint police taskforce would work proactively to reduce the impact of activist farm invasions.
“Many of our farmers are already under great stress following years of drought, and more recently the floods, and we are standing side-by-side with them,” Mr Furner said.
The taskforce will put processes in place to de-escalate these situations and maintain the safety of everybody concerned.
“It will also be supporting livestock premises with procedures for collecting evidence during and after such incidents,” Mr Furner said.
“The bottom line is nobody should enter a livestock operation without proper authorisation.
“They are complicated environments with strict biosecurity requirements.”
Minister for Police Mark Ryan said the new on-the-spot fines would give Police and departmental officers a new tool to combat illegal and dangerous behaviour.
“Activists considering invading a farm or animal exhibition are now on notice that their activities are illegal and carry heavier consequences,” Mr Ryan said.
“The Queensland Police Service will play an important proactive role in the taskforce, making sure farmers and animal carers have the information they need to maintain safety and report incidents quickly.”