The introduction of the Bill is a step towards protecting Australian farmers and agricultural businesses from trespass or property damage/theft incited through the online distribution of activist materials.
In light of the vital role primary producers play in the Australian economy and indeed internationally, it is therefore no surprise that the Australian Government has taken action to safeguard farmers and agricultural businesses in light of recent activist groups targeting abattoirs and farms (enabled and encouraged by personal information shared online), by introducing the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 (Cth) into the House of Representatives on 4th July 2019.
Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 (Cth)
While trespass on private property is a criminal offence under existing State and Territory legislation, the Australian Government has identified the need to strengthen protections for farmers and agricultural businesses.
The Bill, if passed, will amend the Criminal Code Act 1993 (Cth) to introduce two new offences relating to the incitement of trespass or property offences on agricultural land, such as the dissemination of information through a carriage service, such as the internet, to encourage others to unlawfully trespass, or unlawfully damage property, on agricultural land.
The two new offences are being defined as “offences relating to the use of a carriage service”:
Under the Bill, a person (the offender) will commit an offence by using a carriage service for inciting trespass on agricultural land if the offender:
If an offender is found guilty under this provision, they could incur a penalty of imprisonment for up to 12 months.
Property damage or theft
Under the Bill, a person (the offender) will commit an offence by using a carriage service for inciting property damage or theft if the offender:
If an offender is found guilty under this provision, they could incur a penalty of imprisonment for up to 5 years.
For the purposes of this section, theft of property is committed by a person if:
Protections for journalists and whistleblowers
Significantly, the following exemptions have been included in the Bill for the purposes of ensuring journalists or whistleblowers are protected from lawfully disclosing animal cruelty or mistreatment, or other criminal activity.
The Bill has been referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, which will report on the Bill by Friday, 6 September, 2019.
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