Animal activists who invade or disrupt farming activities in South Australia will face tougher penalties under proposed new laws.
The state government wants to create a new offence of aggravated farm trespass which would carry a maximum $10,000 fine or a 12-month jail sentence.
“The new aggravated farm trespass offence would penalise a person who trespassed on primary production land and interfered with the conduct of primary production activities on the land, or did anything that puts the safety of people on the land at risk,” Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said.
“Animal rights activists are tremendously passionate about their cause but trespassing and causing damage on private property is not an acceptable way of getting a message across.”
The government also proposes doubling the fine for interfering with farm gates to $1500 and to more than triple the fine for disturbing farm animals to $2500.
Ms Chapman said the government’s proposed new laws and penalties struck the right balance between free speech and the right to protest, as well as the need to protect an important part of the SA economy.
Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said farmers in South Australia deserved adequate protection from activists and protesters and the new penalties would send a clear message.
“If you break the law and put our farmers and supply chains at risk, you will be penalised,” Mr Whetstone said.
The government has released the draft bill for public comment and said it intended to consult with stakeholders ahead of introducing legislation to parliament.