NSW upper house studies Right To Farm Bill
A bill which could see NSW farm trespassers face the toughest penalties in the country is set for an upper house probe, with civil organisations fearful the draft laws will hinder the right to peaceful protest.
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall last month introduced the Right To Farm Bill, which includes a new offence of inciting or causing a farm trespass.
It also adds aggravating factors for trespassing as a group, damaging property and wilfully or negligently releasing livestock.
Punishments for farm trespass would be increased from fines of up to $5500 to three years' jail and up to $22,000 in fines.
Offenders could also face extra biosecurity fines introduced by the NSW government in July, from $1000 on-the-spot fines for trespassing to $220,000 fines for individuals and $440,000 for corporations who breach biosecurity laws.
The Right To Farm Bill's provisions were in late September referred to a NSW Legislative Council committee, which will report back by October 21.
An alliance of unions, environmental groups and civil organisations scheduled to appear before the committee on Thursday have lashed out at the bill.
They said they would call for the bill to be amended or rejected outright.
"The Berejiklian government's proposed laws are an attack on the right to peaceful activism and are intended to silence dissent," Greenpeace Australia Pacific program director Dom Rowe said in a statement.
NSW Council of Civil Liberties President Pauline Wright said criminal laws should only be directed against those guilty of "substantial wrongdoing".
She labelled the bill's trespass penalties overly harsh.
"This bill is designed to have a chilling effect on people's right to peaceful protest," Ms Wright said in a statement.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has previously doubled down on claims farm trespassers are "domestic terrorists", comparing their actions to those of an armed invader who traumatised children.
"This is a concerted effort to terrorise regional communities, terrorise businesses and shut down industry," Mr Barilaro, the minister for regional NSW, industry and trade, told a September budget estimates inquiry.
Mr Barilaro added that trespassers only served to further harm livestock.
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