Title Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Database Senate Committees
Date 12-08-2019
Source Senate
Parl No. 46
Committee Name Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Page 1
Questioner CHAIR (Senator Stoker)
Van, Sen David
McMahon, Sen Sam
Carr, Sen Kim
Chandler, Sen Claire
Responder Mr Mahar
Mr Jochinke
Ms Rankin
Mr Pollard
System Id committees/commsen/03bc5502-5eea-48f2-a245-f42aaf266c28/0001

Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee - 12/08/2019

JOCHINKE, Mr David, President, Victorian Farmers Federation

MAHAR, Mr Tony, Chief Executive Officer, National Farmers' Federation

POLLARD, Mr Ean, Chairman, Pork Committee, New South Wales Farmers' Association

RANKIN, Ms Kathryn, Policy Director, Rural Affairs and Business Economics and Trade, New South Wales Farmers' Association

RYAN, Dr Adrienne, General Manager, Rural Affairs, National Farmers' Federation

Committee met at 09:04

CHAIR ( Senator Stoker ): Good morning. I declare open this public hearing of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee's inquiry into the provisions of Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill. The committee's proceedings today will follow the program that's been circulated. These are public proceedings and they're being broadcast live via the internet and in Parliament House. I remind witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It's unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence that is given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It's also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to the committee.

The committee prefers evidence to be given in public, but under the Senate's resolutions witnesses have the right to request to be heard in confidence. We describe that as being in camera. If you're a witness today and you intend to request to give your evidence in camera, please bring this to the attention of the secretariat as soon as possible. If a witness objects to answering a question the witness should state the ground upon which that objection is taken, and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground which has been claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, a witness may request that the answer be given in camera. Such a request may of course also be made at any other time.

With those formalities over, I welcome everyone here today. I welcome, in our first session, representatives of the National Farmers' Federation, the New South Wales Farmers' Association and the Victorian Farmers Federation. Thank you for taking the time to come and give evidence today. Information about parliamentary privilege has been provided to you and is available from the secretariat. The committee has received your submissions, Nos 36, 10 and 53 respectively. Before we begin, do any of you wish to make any corrections to your submissions?

Mr Mahar : No.

Mr Jochinke : No.

Ms Rankin : No.

CHAIR: That's a good start. Do you have anything to add to the capacity in which you're appearing?

Ms Rankin : I'm representing the New South Wales farming sector.

Mr Pollard : I'm a pork producer in New South Wales and also chairman of the New South Wales Farmers' Pork Committee.

Mr Jochinke : I'm a third-generation grain farmer from the Wimmera.

CHAIR: It's possible that we may some have media come in today. We should attempt to pass a resolution at the outset dealing with the terms of that engagement should it occur. Does anybody on the committee object to media being in the room? Can I have a resolution that they be permitted to enter the room on the usual terms?

Senator VAN: I move it.

Senator McMAHON: I second it.

CHAIR: There being no objection, it is carried. There's an opportunity for each of you to make a brief opening statement if you'd like to. Ms Rankin, would you like to begin?

Ms Rankin : If I may, I'd like to suggest that Tony Mahar opens first.

CHAIR: Of course.

Mr Mahar : Thank you for the opportunity to appear here today. The NFF is the national peak body representing farmers right across the country in all commodities. It's a real pleasure to have our state farming colleagues here today to present a united, clear voice on this important issue.

The NFF strongly supports the intent of the criminal code amendment bill, which introduces two new offences under the Criminal Code Act that would apply to those who incite trespass, property, theft or damage on agricultural land. This comes at a time when Australian farmers are under significant threat not only from natural weather events but from the increased cost of irrigation water, stock feed—all of these issues. They are pushing the limits of businesses and personal capacity right across the country. On top of this, there has been a surge in the antifarming rhetoric being peddled by a small but loud group of activists. This has, unfortunately, been accompanied by an increase in farm trespass events perpetrated by these activists, who generally have a simple but extreme agenda: the end of animal agriculture.

I would like to make the point upfront that the NFF strongly supports the right of individuals to protest and express their views in a lawful way, and also in a respectful way. This right should not be compromised, nor, however, should the right of a farmer to conduct their lawful business without the threat of disruption and harassment by trespassers. Unfortunately, our legal framework is not providing sufficient deterrent, and trespass attacks are on the rise. These attacks appear to be increasingly coordinated, often involving large numbers of people, and are supported by online communities. The NFF and our member organisations have for some time been calling for state and territory governments to review and strengthen trespass laws, procedures and enforcement to better protect farmers from the growing threat posed by antifarming activists. It is encouraging to see that several state governments have responded and are putting in place or considering new measures to address these issues, including on-the-spot fines, which recognise the biosecurity risk created by unauthorised access on farm.

The Commonwealth also has an important role to play not only by working with the states to support a nationally consistent approach but also by drawing on its own legislative power such as the Privacy Act and the Criminal Code. We support the provisions of the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 because we believe these changes will help deter those individuals and organisations that are actively encouraging others to engage in illegal conduct that negatively impacts on farmers and their families. We believe the passage of this bill will send a strong message to farmers that the government understands how serious this issue is and is prepared to act. Our farmers should not have to live with the threat that their homes, properties and businesses will be invaded by extreme activists who are philosophically opposed to animal farming. We believe that the measures in the criminal code amendment bill will help address this threat and better protect Australian farmers.

Ms Rankin : New South Wales Farmers welcomes the opportunity to provide the farmer perspective on the impact of trespass, property damage or theft on agricultural land, particularly the incitement to undertake these acts by individuals or groups. We are the largest state farming organisation in Australia, and we represent a broad base of intensive and extensive farmers both large and small. In 2017 the cost to the farming community of rural crime, including stock theft and trespass, was estimated at over $2.5 million. But we know that this is not the true and accurate cost. It does not include the impact of illegal surveillance activities by those who trespass for the specific task of recording activities by individuals and groups within an animal activism agenda.

Technology, and the Internet of Things, is both a positive and negative for the agricultural sector. New South Wales Farmers recognises that, in this world of instant information, all activity is open to scrutiny, instant sharing and comment. Once data is electronically published it is difficult, if not impossible, to remove. The technology is available in anyone's hands to record, edit and report a perspective to a global audience. This perspective may be an accurate representation of fact or a snapshot that appears to support an individual viewpoint. Once it is published it becomes fact, and the opportunity for those who are misrepresented or incompletely represented—in this case, farmers—to remove or refute the so-called evidence is minimal.

The New South Wales Farmers' Association is concerned that the pace of expansion of technology has outpaced legal frameworks to protect the rights of individuals. We are concerned that the right to privacy has been lost forever due to the global nature of information sharing that transcends national lawmaking. We are also concerned that the pervasive nature of targeted and narrow campaigns undermines the public trust in agriculture and bypasses public discourse; that the actions of a few with the tools, if not used respectively, have the capacity to undermine an industry that has been built on a basis of practice that prioritises the highest standards of animal welfare; and, lastly, that legislation across Commonwealth and state jurisdictions must be complementary and able to be appropriately and adequately enforced.

New South Wales Farmers is concerned that Australian consumers have become distanced from the act of food production. Many do not know where their food comes from or understand the essential practices required to ensure the product is safe for consumption. The public sharing of personal data and the invasion of private property by activists is not simply a demonstration of a different political perspective; it is a criminal act, and one which must be responded to appropriately and proportionally to ensure adequate protection under the law for all Australians.

Mr Jochinke : We're here today to discuss what agriculture is, what food is, who produces it and why we should protect them. Trespassing, invasions and rural crime aren't unique to Australia; this is a phenomenon we are seeing globally. Many of my members feel persecuted. If our members were a race, creed or colour and had data or evidence put up of their businesses or their places of residence, there would be public outcry. Agriculture has been, in the past, an easy target—something that hasn't been protected, something that hasn't been upheld—and we're at a breaking point. As has been discussed, we are going through trying times. These times are not only about the environment but also the amount of legislation that we're complying with. In many ways, this is a discussion around what's fair. What are the expectations and who will stand up?

We are open to dialogue on common ground—not in private, uninvited. We are here to also be transparent. We encourage the laws of the land to be applied. We encourage processes to be put in place so that, if people are disgruntled and are querying, there are agencies in place to investigate any concerns. What we really want is a strong government to oversee these procedures and processes; to ensure that private information is exactly that; to ensure that when people are conducting businesses lawfully they are also protected; and, especially, in regional areas, where employment, confidence and the community are understood, to ensure that when people make efforts to disrupt that, when we see other forces spreading what are not necessarily truths—and they're becoming more prevalent within the community—there is some protection, some backstop to make sure that the livelihoods of farmers and the livelihoods of rural communities are taken seriously.

Unfortunately, we're at the stage now where common courtesy is no longer the ruling force. We need something stronger, something that will send a message to make sure that farmers are protected and that these communities are heard, but more so that we actually have a rule of justice. For us, it's not necessarily about hiding; it's not about not having that dialogue. We're more than open for that. It's about what's fair and making sure that everyone's got respect, and if that doesn't work there's got to be a mechanism to deter.

CHAIR: Thank you. Are there any other opening statements? We'll get the questions started, if that's okay. I'll kick it off, if you like. I'll start with this. This is to each of you: why do you regard the existing laws that emanate from the state level inconsistent or insufficient in their ability to protect farms from trespass activity?

Mr Mahar : Perhaps I can start. What we have seen is an increase in activism and behaviour that we see as illegal. So our hypothesis is that these laws aren't adequate to protect the rural communities and farming businesses that are out there. We understand that there are already provisions in the act that try to prevent this. There are Commonwealth and state legislative processes, but clearly they're not adequate, because these attacks, as we see them, and intrusions, are continuing to occur. It's our view that the laws need to evolve and change depending on the circumstances of the day. If it's the case that the activists' behaviours are continuing to increase and that the community isn't feeling protected, then the laws should evolve and they should increase and address those issues. Our main concern is that there isn't that level of protection and comfort being shared across the rural communities.

CHAIR: Does anyone have something to add to that?

Mr Jochinke : For us, it's also understanding that these trespass laws were put in place when the original statutory legislation was put there—and technology has moved on. The fact is that I have members who have been identified on different platforms for no reason other than the fact that they can see a shed on their property and feel absolutely persecuted. To the extent that we have had incursions in Victoria, we have evidence—obviously everyone knows the story—and the confidence that that has sucked out of that industry is immense.

It is a fact that even a murmur can now put the shivers through numerous producers, not because they are doing anything wrong or unlawful but because they could have busloads of people coming to their properties and not have any recourse against that occurring. It could be their work, their livelihood, their place of employment, and in many circumstances these are in rural areas. The committee should understand that this is your community, your livelihood, your house, that people are coming to. That undermines confidence. Where does the line occur where they should be protected?

My members feel completely underwhelmed by the current processes in place to protect them. Quite frankly, if there isn't anything that comes forward to fill that void and actually stand up for them, there is a major concern that people will lose the confidence to do what they do. They are losing the confidence to invest and losing confidence to encourage their families to come home and take on the operation that they have built up. What we want to see is confidence put back into the job.

Mr Pollard : Senators, the reason that I am here today is that, as a pork producer, I've been personally attacked and my property has been raided in the middle of the night and there have been all the subsequent events that went on from that. The initial raid happened in Easter 2013. That's quite some time ago, but the ongoing effects and results of that have been compounded all the way along. Initially we didn't know that we'd been raided. What actually happened was I was being groomed by the TV show Today Tonight. A journalist from that show was ringing me and asking me genuine questions about the industry and that type of thing, and I was accommodating his answers—I hope I'm okay in saying that. Activists raided our place in the middle of the night and took some footage and still pictures and quite a bit of it was on video. In one area of my piggery where my pregnant sows are housed, the first thing we do in the morning is feed those sows because, as soon as they wake up, they want to be fed. So when these activists came into this building, my sows thought they were going to be fed—but, of course, they weren't.

These activists were there for quite some time with cameras and lights—I've seen this footage myself—and stirred them up to a point where it became quite sensational footage, because the sows thought they were going to get fed and they didn't. Anyway, it rolled on from there. That footage was then given to Today Tonight unbeknown to me and this journalist was still ringing and then, all of a sudden, he presented this footage to me. That in itself was quite a shock. It was very much a misrepresentation of what actually happens in my pig sheds, especially at three o'clock in the morning when you are in there stirring and aggravating my animals to get some sensational footage. From there it went on. I don't know whether anyone else wants to say something or you want me to carry on.

Mr Mahar : The only other thing I would say is that it's our understanding that, even though there's existing provisions in the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act, there hasn't been anyone charged. That says to us that these laws are inadequate.

CHAIR: So they're just not reflecting the scenarios that are arising?

Mr Mahar : That's right. As DJ says, the technology has changed, and we think the laws need to change accordingly. Agriculture isn't being seen, isn't being protected and isn't being recognised. These laws aren't applying well enough, adequately enough, to agriculture.

CHAIR: I'll pass over to Senator Carr.

Senator KIM CARR: I've got quite a few questions, so bear with me. I've had a long involvement with the food industry and I'm particularly interested in the processing part of it, so I hope you won't misunderstand the nature of these questions. You indicated that there's an increase in farm invasions. Do you have any statistical evidence to sustain that assertion?

Mr Mahar : Not at hand. I'm happy to take that on notice and provide back any evidence.

Senator KIM CARR: Could each of the organisations provide advice to us on that score?

Mr Jochinke : Can I just advise that there are two parts to that question in our Victorian environment. First of all, the fact is that there is no dedicated police force for agriculture. There are no officers that fully understand what agriculture means, what it is and what it does. The example that we just heard of the piggery being invaded and what that meant to the animals' welfare is sorely misunderstood by the authorities. When you've got an issue with theft or invasion or trespass, this may not necessarily mean 'sensationalised on TV'; this can also be on a smaller—

Senator KIM CARR: No, I'm not talking about media reports; I'm talking about crime statistics. You've all indicated there's an increase in the number of farm invasions. I'm just wondering what's the evidence to sustain that claim.

Mr Jochinke : If I can just complete that, sorry. There are no statistics that are gathered directly out of the police in Victoria for farm crimes specifically; however, since this has become more of an issue, it has become more acute to the Victorian force and they are putting a dedicated statistic collection agency within the Victorian police force. That agency wasn't there previously, so our indication is that it has become more serious for them and a more prominent issue, hence they are reacting to it.

Senator KIM CARR: The cattle rustler squads don't exist anymore?

Ms Rankin : New South Wales recently established a rural crime squad. It is based across the state, in regional areas. We'll be able to get a little bit more data around their prosecutions through that.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you very much. You all represent farming groups, so you'd be aware that farmers themselves are activists. In Victoria, particularly, there has been quite significant activity on the question of coal seam gas, where farmers have participated in protests and actions. Have you considered the impact of the provisions of this bill that might be used against farmers?

Mr Mahar : As I understand it, Senator, you're right: farmers have stood up for what they see as their rights. Our concern is that the activity that we've seen from animal activists has been illegal behaviour. By and large, I would suggest that farmer activism has been legal and in accordance with legislation, whereas the activism that we're talking about is illegal. It's intimidating, it's aggressive, it's bullying and it's unacceptable from a community perspective.

Senator KIM CARR: You've put all these adjectives around it, but I'm just asking the question. You represent farmers. The Lock the Gate Alliance is made up of a lot of farmers, and they've been engaged in quite vociferous public protests. I understand these have also involved invasions of farms, where mining companies, in their opinion, say farmers have acted improperly to try to stop mining companies misusing, in farmers' views, agricultural land. Have you considered the implications of this bill for farming protest groups?

Mr Mahar : Senator, we have. The issue that we are primarily concerned about is the illegal activity of animal activists—

Senator KIM CARR: I understand your concern.

Mr Mahar : We have. The answer to your question is, yes, we have.

Senator KIM CARR: And you say there are no implications in your judgement—

Mr Mahar : I'm not saying there are no implications; I'm saying that we've considered it. As I said, the laws need to evolve to address the concerns that we've got.

Senator KIM CARR: A few years ago in the Yarra Valley there were farmers who were agitating against the construction of a water pipeline. Do you think this bill would have an effect on activities such as that?

Mr Mahar : I think it would go from a case-by-case basis.

Senator KIM CARR: My point is that the law is applied on a case-by-case basis—

Mr Mahar : That's right.

Senator KIM CARR: and can be used in circumstances other than what you think it was first intended for. Part of our job is to establish what the unintended consequences of measures such as these are. As farming representatives, is it of concern to you that farmers may be the victim of legislation such as this?

Mr Mahar : We would have confidence that the law would be applied on case-by-case basis and addressed on its merits of the day.

Senator KIM CARR: What is the basis of your confidence?

Mr Mahar : The laws currently, as they are, are not preventing, and not providing an adequate deterrent to, extreme activists that are coming onto farms and terrorising farming communities and farming families. That's the basis of our concern.

Senator KIM CARR: Okay. The current state and territory criminal law covers the questions of trespass and incitement. In the case of Victoria, the Crimes Act, section 321G, provides:

… where a person … incites any other person to pursue a course of conduct which will involve the commission of an offence … if the inciting is acted on in accordance with the inciter's intention, the inciter is guilty of the indictable offence …

The term 'incite' is defined as including 'command, request, propose, advise, encourage or authorise'—that's section 2A. Section 321I outlines the framework of penalties for incitement, which relates to the seriousness of the underlying offence. This all goes back to various legislative frameworks right back, in fact, to R v Higgins from 1801. New South Wales and South Australia maintain those same provisions. Have you considered the implications of the application of those laws that currently exist?

Mr Mahar : I'm agnostic on which law is going to apply and stop the prevalence of this behaviour. What we do want is: we want it stopped.

Senator KIM CARR: You say you want it stopped. I'm just asking you if the current law covers these penalties in the case of the various states I've mentioned, including on damage to property.

Mr Mahar : The fact that it's still occurring leads me to believe that the laws aren't adequate.

Senator KIM CARR: They're not adequate, but, you see, the cases involving the pipeline protests or the Lock the Gate protests were also covered by those same laws, and you're saying case by case—

Mr Mahar : That's not what we're here to talk about today. We're talking about animal activism, and I accept your premise that the laws can apply to different circumstances.

Senator KIM CARR: Mr Mahar, I'm afraid you've come to a parliamentary committee. You're here to talk about the questions you're asked. That's the nature of parliamentary committees.

Mr Mahar : I accept that.

Senator KIM CARR: I'm here to try to establish whether or not this bill follows through with the consequences which it claims.

Mr Mahar : We think it does, and that's why we're supporting it.

Senator KIM CARR: Just think back to the strawberry bill that was carried in this parliament a couple of years back. How many cases have been prosecuted under that strawberry bill since that time?

Mr Mahar : I don't know offhand.

Senator KIM CARR: Was that not necessary, then? Was that bill not necessary given that there have been none?

Ms Rankin : If I may, one of the things in New South Wales that we have raised with the New South Wales government and have been concerned about is that there are a number of acts, as you have referred to broadly, around the illegal act of trespass. They include the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901, the Crimes Act 1900 and the Biosecurity Act 2015—three of those New South Wales legislative instruments. We are concerned that, while those instruments are in place, they actually haven't resulted in prosecutions or even further investigations that might result in a prosecution.

Senator KIM CARR: Why would passage of this legislation change that situation?

Ms Rankin : From my perspective, I'd suggest that it might allow those pieces of legislation to better entwine and enmesh with the Commonwealth strategies so that we have a seamless approach.

Senator KIM CARR: Tell me this: who would enforce these laws?

Ms Rankin : That's one of the challenges. We have state legislation. We have federal legislation. I use an example: the drones legislation is administered by CASA. So one of the challenges that we have is that we have a multiplicity of organisations that have responsibility for the enforcement, so therefore that can also act as a disincentive to be able to have effective prosecutions.

Senator KIM CARR: The problem remains: without additional resources, how would the enforcement mechanism change?

Mr Mahar : If the laws are in place, the resourcing or application of the laws is another issue. Surely, if the law or the framework is there to protect the community but it isn't being protected at the moment, it's up to the government of the day then to direct resources to apply the law.

Senator KIM CARR: There are two questions. The first question is whether it is necessary to have additional laws. Given that we hear so much about the need to deregulate, why do we need further laws? Secondly, I believe a pertinent question is: how are any such laws ever to be enforced? The National Farmers' Federation says that this bill should also apply to heavy vehicles. Would you like to comment on that?

Mr Mahar : Can I answer the first two questions. From the fact that we're here today as farmer representatives advising the government at a Senate inquiry, it should be very clear that we are of the view, representing farmers across the country, that the laws aren't adequate. The resourcing is a matter that is up to government, once the legislation is in place. On the matter of heavy vehicles, again, the mechanisms—the ways that activists can trespass and incite violence and offensive activity onto the community comes in many ways.

Senator KIM CARR: So you think heavy vehicles should be included?

Mr Mahar : As I say, any medium of terrorising and intimidating communities should be—

Senator KIM CARR: There was recently an example where trade union officials were involved in prosecutions. They don't have any trouble getting prosecuted in this country. NUW officials were involved in an industrial dispute at a poultry factory in Melbourne. Should they be covered by this bill as well?

Mr Mahar : I'm not going to comment on any other case or law. All I'm suggesting is that here we are today, representing farmers; we are advising this Senate committee that we don't think the laws are adequate, and it is on the basis of trespass onto farms. I'm not going to comment on any other case or any other application of the laws.

Senator KIM CARR: What about the case of research infrastructure? Recently, Greenpeace activists invaded a CSIRO research station, destroying GM crops. Are you familiar with that case?

Mr Mahar : Yes, I am. Illegal activity is illegal activity. We're not condoning any activity that is illegal.

Senator KIM CARR: That was a case that involved sections of the Crimes Act.

CHAIR: Sorry, Senator Carr. Can I interrupt you for a moment. I know there are questions, particularly from Senator McMahon. How much longer do you have to go?

Senator KIM CARR: Not long at all. I'm just wondering whether this bill should cover scientific research stations on public land, agricultural research stations on public land?

Mr Mahar : The key message I think we're trying to communicate to you is that we object to illegal activity that intimidates—

Senator KIM CARR: So tax avoidance and all the other things that go on—

Mr Mahar : Illegal activity is illegal activity.

Senator KIM CARR: I'm just wondering about this piece of legislation and how adequate this piece of legislation is in dealing with your concerns. I've raised the question of scientific research stations, agricultural research stations. Should they be covered by this legislation?

Mr Mahar : Yes, they should. And, if people want to break the law to express their views, that's what we're objecting against.

Senator KIM CARR: In the case of the GM crops which were destroyed at a CSIRO research station, the Crimes Act was used. You don't think that was adequate?

Mr Mahar : I'm not familiar with the case.

Senator KIM CARR: This is the difficulty when we're getting a piece of legislation which is essentially through electoral processes, and a vehicle is being developed for this parliamentary session, without an enforcement mechanism to speak of, and there are very, very extensive state based legal processes, which you say are not used. Why would this make it necessary for us to act? What was the point of this legislation, other than to meet what appears to be a proposition you're putting—that there's been some increase in activity by some activist groups, the detail of which you don't seem to be able to tell me—

Mr Mahar : Not the number. I am not able to tell you the number. But you heard this morning from Ean, a pork producer. There are many cases across the country of farmers and farm businesses being intimidated. We're here today to tell you, factually, that the farming community has concerns that the laws aren't adequate.

Senator KIM CARR: All right.

Mr Mahar : And we want them changed to provide some more confidence to the community.

CHAIR: Senator Carr—

Senator KIM CARR: Just one question.

CHAIR: Last one.

Senator KIM CARR: The Queensland Resources Council has put a submission to this inquiry suggesting that these provisions should be applied to all legitimate businesses, particularly rail and port facilities. We've had it from the forestry industries, who regard themselves as legitimate business, saying they are not covered by this bill. We've had it from other related agricultural processing, saying they're not covered by this bill. Should they be?

Mr Mahar : What we want is for the laws to protect businesses from illegal behaviour. So it should apply across the board.

Senator KIM CARR: Businesses—including the Commonwealth Bank's illegal behaviour against farmers. Would you say that that should be covered?

CHAIR: Senator Carr, I think that's out of order. We're going to wrap it up there. I will hand over to Senator McMahon.

Senator McMAHON: Mr Pollard, you talked a little bit about the raid on your property. Can you detail a little bit what you believe were any welfare issues on your sows and any economic or other losses that you suffered as part of that raid, and have there been any other subsequent incursions onto your property?

Mr Pollard : To the first part of the question, on aggravating the sows: in order to get something that looks quite sensational, for footage to portray that this is the way that I look after my sows—that's certainly misrepresentation. There was no request from this organisation, and there never has been, to come and visit me or to interview or talk to me about the individuals who actually did that.

As for what the consequences are from there, this one is quite personal, but, to be quite honest, it's probably music to the ears of those involved. I have two daughters who always wanted to be involved in agriculture and come back to the farm. At the time one of them had just finished uni, and she saw the impact that it had on me and my employees. At this stage, this was all still anonymous; I didn't know who had been in there. It just appeared on YouTube, inciting hatred—emails, letters and telephone calls. At that stage, not knowing who'd done it—and this is 12 months later—my daughter even questioned whether she wanted to be part of agriculture. She went to uni and she learnt economics, animal husbandry, agronomy, marketing and finance, but there was nothing about how to handle this situation. We eventually got her to see that there's a bigger picture here and that agriculture is a good place to be and we do do the job well. Fortunately, she's still in agriculture and involved in the farm. So to measure that financially is extremely difficult, but it's certainly impacting personally.

Senator McMAHON: This follow-up question is to everyone: do you believe that this bill will achieve what you need it to achieve?

Mr Mahar : We think it's a step in the right direction to send a message to the community and to activists that the government is recognising and backing the Australian farm sector and the Australian agribusiness sector—to in some way protect them. Will it be adequate, will it protect and will it stop all of the activists and trespass behaviour? We hope it will, but we're realistic around our expectations. We strongly support it as a clear message from the government to the community that the farm sector is important.

Ms Rankin : If I may add: the New South Wales government is currently reviewing all of its legislation in an attempt to harmonise to make sure that there are no actions that might stop or hinder further progress of successful prosecutions. We believe that this bill, if it goes through, would actually help to support that streamlining and that better engagement and understanding of the potential for effective recourse.

Mr Jochinke : When there's a line and it's a hard line and there are going to be consequences for people who cross that line, that's a deterrent. We have already heard today about a bill that was used to protect the strawberry industry, and we've had no incursions since then. It's the message that this sends as much as the application—that, if and when you do step over that line, there are consequences. That gives surety and confidence that, when people are engaged in illegal practices, taxpayers who run businesses are going to be protected. And, in many ways, this is about sending confidence: 'Yes, we do back agriculture.'

Mr Mahar : Senators, I certainly support that. In my industry, the pork industry, the people I deal with are certainly a lot more comfortable knowing that this is on the table and is being looked at. Obviously it's a problem that's been affecting our industry for quite some time, and, years later, we have something on the table. They actually do feel comfortable. They feel recognised that this is actually happening. The more people we can keep in agriculture and the more comfortable we can keep our family farms operating the better the job they can do.

Senator VAN: I'm conscious that we're going over time. I have a number of questions, but I know that we've soaked up a fair bit of time already. Firstly, I'd just like to put on record at least my sorrow for the things that have happened to you, Mr Pollard. I think they're horrible. No farmer and no person, no citizen, should have to go through those things. I'd like to put that on the record.

Mr Pollard : Thank you.

Senator VAN: As stated in the National Farmers' Federation submission and many others, there are state laws in place. Do you have views on the enforcement that's gone on with those current laws? Perhaps each state could address what's happened in their jurisdictions—whether enforcement has been sufficient to give you the protections that would have protected Mr Pollard.

Mr Jochinke : I will keep that very short for you: no.

Senator VAN: Thank you.

Ms Rankin : We don't believe so, partly because of the complexity and the multiple actions. I referred earlier, in a response to Senator Carr, to the use of drones. That's legislated under federal legislation, except that our farmers will go to the local police and say, 'We need to report an incursion by a drone.' Our police are unable to do anything apart from refer it to the federal authorities. The lack of transparency and the lack of capacity to have good and effective communication is actually stopping that.

Senator CHANDLER: Mr Jochinke, in your submission you talk about qualifications and exactly what a journalist is. Do you have any suggestions as to how we might define that within the legislation to narrow it down so that we don't have people claiming to be journalists when they aren't?

Mr Jochinke : That's one of the things that we're very keen on, and that's what I wanted to communicate in the opening remarks. We want transparency and, if things are going awry, authorities that can be called in. Regarding journalism, we think that's a key cornerstone for a strong democracy, and we want to make sure that it's a key piece of that. For us it's about identifying somebody in the public space, in the public sphere, who can actually have credentials and say, 'Yes, I have a voice and I'm a recognised conduit to the wider broadcasting community.' As to the official qualifications or official standard, I can't define that. However, anybody who is recognised as somebody with a voice, as somebody who uses a regular means of communicating, could potentially fall under that category. That's an area that we're very keen to make sure is enshrined and protected.

Senator CHANDLER: It's good to hear that you have that commitment to transparency. More broadly across the panel, we've talked about a lot of the impacts that these protests have had on agricultural businesses. To tell the more human side of it, what are the mental health and wellbeing impacts on your farmer members that you have seen? Are there any personal stories that you can tell? Mr Pollard, you've told your own story. Are there any others that might be worth the committee hearing about?

Mr Jochinke : I've got neighbours who, on the day the protest was going to occur—obviously we had heard rumours—sent their family away from their house. Why would we accept that as a standard? They did that because they felt there was nothing there to protect them. The husband stayed there but he sent his family away. That is the kind of messaging we allow to occur by not standing up and drawing a line. One of the things I am very passionate about when we talk about this is to make sure that this isn't just about a mechanism, that this isn't just about somebody being able to capture or collect footage. There is a human side to this, and that mental message that has occurred on that family is extraordinary. There would not be many other people who, because of their occupation, have to leave their house in fear. That, for me, is only a symptom of what we have heard already.

Mr Mahar : I've heard numerous reports from across the country of people feeling traumatised that their place of business—which, as DJ said, is often their home—might be targeted by activists who are going to terrorise them. I use the word 'terrorise' carefully but, if somebody comes onto your farm, your business, your home, and tries to enforce their views on you because you think differently than them—it is absolutely devastating and traumatising to a number of communities, businesses and families that I have spoken to personally. They do feel traumatised. That is an adequate description of how they feel when they think they are going about a law-abiding business, producing food and fibre and are being targeted and attacked by people who feel and think differently than them. They feel like the law is not protecting them.

CHAIR: How relevant is it that many of the farming families operating in Australia are living and working from home in places that are often hours away from police help if they face the invasion of their property by unexpected people?

Mr Mahar : Thanks, Senator; I was going to raise that before. As we've said a couple of times this morning, technology has changed, so the identification of location and details of properties and homes is much more available than it used to be. That makes those businesses much more vulnerable. But you're right: they can be located hundreds of kilometres from the nearest enforcement agency or nearest neighbour. So they are increasingly vulnerable to attacks and intimidation, and that just exacerbates the fear and anxiety that some of these families are facing.

Senator KIM CARR: The Attorney-General's Department and the agriculture department have put in very, very limited submissions; one is 1½ pages and the other is two pages. The Attorney-General's Department says:

The bill is not intended to create new forms of criminal conduct that are already found in Australian law.

Could you comment on that given your evidence for today?

CHAIR: You can take that on notice.

Mr Mahar : Thank you.

CHAIR: I thank each of you for making the time to come here and represent to us. We are grateful for your contributions.