Following months of coordinated activist attacks on Queensland’s intensive animal farmers, new regulations under the Biosecurity Act allowing the Queensland Police Service and biosecurity officers to immediately fine people who put on-farm biosecurity at risk are now in force. Action from government has been a long time coming for our sector – too long for those farmers that have already been targeted by activists.
These regulations require people entering any farming operation to comply with the property’s biosecurity management plan or face fines of $652.75, either issued on the spot or later after further evidence is gathered. The regulations also enable individual fines of $2,611 to be imposed if a farmer chooses to prosecute. The fines are cumulative, so those individuals piling into cars driving from farm to farm can be charged each time. If not paid, they are registered with the State Penalties Enforcement Registry.
For the fines to be enforceable, the farming business needs to be registered as a biosecurity entity with Biosecurity Queensland, have an up-to-date biosecurity management plan in place and have appropriate signage at the entry points to their property.
The trespass on farmland penalties under the Summary of Offences legislation, which enables fines of $1,305 or six months imprisonment (and fines of $2,611 or one years’ imprisonment for general trespass) to be applied if a farmer prosecutes, remain in place but it has proven to be ineffective.
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation and member industries have been constructively working with the Queensland Government and Opposition for some time to better address this issue. It is incumbent upon the Parliament to ensure it delivers adequate protections for law abiding citizens to run their businesses without the threat of this disruptive, costly and damaging law breaking behaviour from a minority element in the community.
It remains to be seen if the biosecurity regulations will be an effective deterrent to the activists carrying out these unwarranted activities against farmers, but they are a step in the right direction.