I rise to speak on the Livestock Management Amendment (Animal Activism) Bill 2021, and I do so because this is a very important bill for many reasons.
Agriculture is an incredibly important part of my electorate of South-West Coast, and when
the incident occurred in Gippsland on the Gippy Goat farm it was the culmination, really, of the
activities that had been going on for too long.
People who think they understand farming and claim that it is violating or destroying or harming animals are so out of line.
This resulted in a court case because activists had gone onto a farm, had invaded a person’s home where they farm and live and had actually received the penalty of $1.
Now, I think that is the most insulting act for the farmers to read about when they expect the law to look after them.
Farming is well regulated, and anybody who has any animal cruelty conviction or action feels, and
should feel, the full force of the law.
So we have farmers seeing that activists have a very different law applied to their actions of criminal offending and that they end up with a fine of a dollar, with no criminal record, yet when you are a farmer—and rightfully so—if you are not looking after your animals properly under the law you actually get such severe penalties you often cannot have anything to do with animals for several years. And that is absolutely as it should be.
So there are such double standards. This bill has come two years after this incident, and it took the opposition to actually call out the minister late last year saying, ‘Where is this very important legislation that was recommended at the inquiry?’. And it was no surprise that after shaming them they actually put something on the table.
In my view this bill does not go far enough. One of the amendments the member for Murray Plains
has put forward would double the penalty units currently proposed so that a natural person who was
convicted was given a penalty that really would make people think about doing this.
I mean, having a $1 fine was no deterrent. This has to have a deterrent that makes people not want to do it. There are several people being funded to do these things by people who do not understand, who think farming is raping and pillaging the landscape and destroying animals’ welfare, and it is just so not true.
I am sure a member of the Greens will get up soon and speak and say they are against this bill, because
I heard them say that in the government business program debate.
You know, I look to the member for Brunswick and I really admire his brain. He comes from a medical background, and I think it is great to hear him speak on medical issues, but when I hear him speak on environmental issues I am absolutely mortified at his lack of understanding.
I am not being disrespectful to him; I am just saying, ‘Please have a think and look at what really goes on’. I extend an invitation to the member for Brunswick, the member for Melbourne and the member for Prahran to come out. I happily will respectfully show you around some farms to meet the people.
They are in the hardest working profession that I have ever seen. I have nursed and I have farmed and I have done a few other things – not too much more – but I really do think these are hardworking people who want to look after their animals and protect them and care for them.
I mean, I farmed for 20-something years. I never, ever thought of it as my workplace; I thought of it
as my home. My kids—we all had our animals, our pets, our environments. The kids would get up
and go and feed the calves before school if need be, you know, if someone was not able to come to
work and we needed to all pull together.
There was never a thought that you would not actually look after the animals. You know, if things were really tough financially, the animals came first. I used to say I would spend more on the animals than I did on my children.
That was actually a true statement, because you really had to look after them to the best of the animals’ ability or they would not perform and be happy. I really struggle when people do not understand just how much work and effort we put into making sure everything is going well—even research and environmental management. I really do put out an invitation: let me show you.
I do not like to just refer to the economic impact, but I will quote from Cr Meade, who was the Moyne
shire mayor when the inquiries took place. He said at the animal inquiry: Agriculture is vital to our country’s food production—a huge role in the economy and a major employer for the Moyne shire.
This is the shire in my electorate of South-West Coast.
The annual output from the agricultural sector in Moyne shire alone is $618 million, and the sector supports nearly 3500 full-time jobs. Threats to the sustainability and security of this sector cannot be tolerated, and voluntary acts that create such threats should be penalised strongly by law.
I am continually shocked at how people do not understand the food and fibre sector. It provides us
with our nutrition, it provides us with food, it provides us with the clothes we wear, it provides us with
the shelter—the timber that builds our homes and this building itself, with the timber around.
Can you imagine if we stopped farming, because that is what these ideological people think we should
do? If we stopped farming, who would manage the landscape? We have been on this planet as humans
for a very long time, and you cannot actually just get rid of animals and farm only plants.
I do not know if you have been to Scotland, but you cannot really plant on the moors, and I do not know if you have been to South-West Coast, to the volcanic country, but you cannot grow crops on the stony
country areas, but you can grow cattle and you can produce milk.
We do need a balance of the ecosystem, and this provides it as long as we are doing it and researching and continually managing the environment.
We have got 7 per cent of the earth’s crust left to be able to farm on. We have got an increasing population and by the time we get to 2050 we will struggle to have enough supply to meet the demand, so what we should be doing is supporting farmers who provide the actual sustenance that we need.
We have got so far away from an understanding of that in western society that sometimes I think it is good to just reflect on the challenge that is in front of us. Particularly in Australia and particularly in Victoria where we have beautiful countryside, we should be respecting that and doing everything we can.
On that note I would like to thank all the farmers, particularly in South-West Coast, who work so very
hard every day and take that responsibility so very seriously.
I would also like to thank the people who stood up in the inquiry from my part of the world—Ian Smith, Jim Doukas, Daniel Meade, Georgina Gubbins, Lisa Dwyer, Chris O’Keefe, Bernie Free and Oonagh Kilpatrick—and I would also like to mention Natalie Collard, who heads up Food and Fibre Great South Coast and who struggles to get the funds that they need to do the job that they are trying to do, which is to get people to get that understanding of how we should be growing agriculture, not harbouring its ability but harnessing the opportunity.
I do endorse this piece of legislation, but it does not go far enough. We do need real penalty points that
will deter people from breaking the law. It makes no sense that the people who break the law are
rewarded with a $1 fine; it should be double the penalty points it currently is now. And it makes no
sense that there is no criminal record, yet that is completely different for other people who break the
Let us remember that when activists go into people’s homes—into the environments where they live
and where their children play—it is an illegal activity. It should never ever be endorsed or rewarded.
It makes me angry and amazed that a member for Western Victoria in the upper house, Andy Meddick,
the Animal Justice Party representative, cannot understand that in his electorate we rely on farming
and we work hard to be good farmers. How can he actually be the representative who is against
farming and encouraging animal activists? These animal activists risk biosecurity. They risk people
having safe workplaces. This is not acceptable in today’s world. It is not acceptable in any workplace,
let alone any home, so let us apply the same standard. My offer does go again to the Greens to come
out to the farm—I will happily show you around.
Our farmers deserve the respect that they have not been given. We should be absolutely thanking them
for the work they do. Not too many of us will get up at 2 o’clock tonight and go and check the cows
that are calving. Not too many of us will get back up again at 6.00 am and go and get the cows and
feed the calves and make sure they have got the immunoglobulin they need, but they do—the farmers