Today, I introduce a bill that will create a new aggravated offence in the Summary Offences Act 1953, with significant penalties for trespass on primary production premises, and also increase the existing penalties for trespass-related offending on primary production premises.
Across the country, there has been a surge in anti-farm activism. While South Australia has remained somewhat protected from this activism, our farmers have experienced trespass, halting primary production and impacting on their ability to manage their farms. Those who seek to be negligent and damaging to our farmers and primary producers must take responsibility for their actions and their impact on our local farmers and their families.
South Australia's primary industries are a vital part of our state's economy. Spread across the state, South Australia's grain, livestock, horticulture, wine, seafood, forest and dairy sectors are a significant contributor to our exports. Maintaining food safety and product security is integral to SA to grow its competitive advantage in global markets.
Numerically, in 2017-18, primary industries and agribusiness supported 152,000 jobs and contributed $19.7 billion to the state's economy. Regional South Australia, where many of our primary producers are located, contributes about $25 billion to the state's economy with just 29 per cent of the state's population. This bill goes a small way to protecting our produce and our growth for a long-term and sustainable future.
Generally speaking, the new aggravated offence in the bill will penalise a person who has entered or who is present on primary production premises for an unlawful purpose or without lawful excuse and, while on the land:
- interferes with, or attempts to interfere with, primary production activities;
- is accompanied by two or more persons;
- does anything that gives rise to a serious risk to the safety of the person or any other person on the premises;
- does anything that involves, or gives rise to a risk of, the introduction, spread or increase of a disease or pest or the contamination of any substance or thing;
- gives rise to any other risk, or kind of risk, related to primary production activities prescribed by the regulations; or
- intentionally causes, or is recklessly indifferent as to whether they cause damage to an operation or activity connected to primary production activities at the premises. Primary production premises in the bill means premises used for the purpose of primary production activities, which itself is defined to mean:
- agricultural, pastoral, horticultural, viticultural, forestry or apicultural activities;
- poultry farming, dairy farming or any business that consists of the cultivation of soils, the gathering of crops or the rearing or processing of livestock;
- commercial fishing, aquaculture or the propagation or harvesting of fish or other aquatic organisms for the purposes of aquaculture; and
- an activity prescribed by regulation.
The maximum penalty in the bill for the new aggravated trespass offence will be $10,000 or 12 months' imprisonment (or two years' imprisonment if the trespass is for the commission of an offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of two years or more).
Where a person is found guilty of the new aggravated trespass offence, the court must also award the primary producer compensation against the defendant, except for where exceptional circumstances exist. This is a new requirement under the bill that ensures any commercial loss or damage experienced by the primary producer is appropriately compensated.
Putting the possible loss of primary produce in figures, the overseas export of South Australian food accounted for $3.97 billion, or 33 per cent of the state's total merchandise exports in 2017-18. Of this $3.97 billion, field crops accounted for $2.14 billion, followed by livestock and dairy with $1.22 billion, horticulture with $306 million and seafood with $238 million.
Where the trespass occurs on primary production premises in non-aggravated circumstances, the maximum penalties are $5,000 or six months imprisonment (or two years' imprisonment where the trespass is for the commission of an offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of two years or more). This fine is double that of the current law.
These penalties are to be contrasted with the existing penalty for the general trespass offence under section 17 of the Summary Offences Act, which is $2,500 or imprisonment for six months (or two years' imprisonment where the trespass is for the commission of an offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of two years or more). These penalties would not be changed where the trespass occurs on non-primary production premises.
The bill increases the penalty for the related section 17A offence to $5,000 or imprisonment for six months where the relevant premises are primary production premises—a fine again double that of the law as it currently stands. The bill also increases the maximum penalties for the offences in section 17B, that is, interference with farm gates, and section 17C, disturbing farm animals, which are both currently at $750.
The bill increases section 17B to $1,500 and introduces an expiation fee of $375 for that offence. The section 17B offence is also extended to include removing or disabling a gate on or leading to the land, interference with fences that allows animals to escape confinement and to specify that a gate includes a cattle grid or any other movable thing used to enclose land, including a slip panel or movable fence.
I particularly thank the many groups involved in round tables, led by Primary Industries SA, for their important contribution to ensure that fences and other enclosures were also covered by the bill. The bill provides for a maximum penalty of $2,500 or a maximum term of imprisonment of six months for the section 17C offence of disturbing farm animals while trespassing. As this involves the elements of causing harm to the animal or loss or inconvenience to the farmer, a proportionally larger penalty is warranted.
South Australia has a global reputation for producing world-leading food and produce for local consumption and international export. While we have remained reasonably protected from activism and farm disruption, seen increasingly interstate, we must not be complacent. South Australia simply cannot continue to thrive with any major processing, farming or producing disruption. Quite simply, maintaining and growing our farmgate value is crucial to growing South Australia. This cannot be done with the possible implications of activists, outside the course of the Animal Welfare Act, disrupting production and risking biosecurity and animal security.
This is an important reform impacting on each and every South Australian and will lead the nation on work being done with the commonwealth Attorney-General. I look forward to working with the whole parliament to see the speedy passage of this bill for greater protections to be available to our primary producers.
I particularly acknowledge the Minister for Primary Industries, who has worked and is continuing to work on biosecurity risk and development of laws to protect us in the event of that occurring as a result of trespass activity. I also acknowledge the member for Finniss, who has been vigilant in his expression of concern for members of the primary industry community and their families on this matter, and I thank him for his work and contribution particularly. I commend the bill to members and I table a copy of the explanation of clauses.
Debate adjourned on motion of Mr Brown.