Following months of coordinated activist attacks on the state’s resources sector, the Queensland Police Union has charged the so called ‘professional protesters’ with wasting valuable police time and resources. With protests often occurring in regional and rural areas where they have limited staff numbers, police are being diverted from the ‘real police work of tackling crime’ to keep the local communities safe. Moreover, the Union says that activists had a complete disregard for the economic costs they are causing the tax payer while police are ‘babysitting people who should know better’.
To make a direct comparison, Queensland’s intensive animal farmers have been experiencing the same frustrations for the past 18 months through increased animal activist activities, despite adhering to world leading animal welfare standards. The radical and unjustified actions we have seen from these activists invade farmers’ privacy, threaten the welfare of their animals, pose unacceptable risks to their businesses and have implications for food security. The constant threat of being the next target also hinder farmers’ ability to operate their businesses to produce the highest quality food, fibre and foliage. However, unlike the police whose bottom line is not affected by these incidents, farmers have to wear the economic (and social) costs of these actions. Farmers have the option to initiate lengthy and costly legal actions to try and recoup their losses, but this has rarely proven to be worth the effort.
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. And while the recent introduction of $652 on-the-spot fines for people who put on-farm biosecurity at risk is a step in the right direction, a greater punishment is clearly needed for repeat offenders. It is incumbent upon the Parliament to ensure it delivers adequate protections for society to operate without threat of this disruptive, costly and damaging law-breaking behaviour. A suitable deterrent must be realised to stop ‘professional protesters’ from unjustifiably interrupting legitimate Queensland business activities.