The Canberra Liberals are calling on the ACT Government to beef up its trespass laws to protect local businesses from “vegan vandals”, prodding the Government to follow in New South Wales’ footsteps.
The Federal Government called on the state and territory governments to strengthen their trespass laws after a spate of demonstrations on farms and abattoirs over the past 18 months, including a protest at a Goulburn abattoir.
Under the new laws, which came into effect on August 1, people who illegally trespass onto farming properties will face an on-the-spot fine of $1,000, with fines of up to $220,000 for individuals, and $400,000 for groups and corporations.
Canberra Liberals spokesperson Andrew Wall said the ACT Government needs to follow the herd and strengthen its laws to protect local businesses from vegan vandals and animal activists.
Mr Wall wants legal protections for all forms of animal-related businesses in the ACT, including wildlife parks and research facilities.
“There should be no place in the ACT for vegan vandals who incite and commit crime,” Mr Wall said.
“The ACT is home to both the CSIRO and a number of animal-related businesses including primary producers, wildlife facilities and research facilities that could be a potential target for this kind of illegal activity.
“People who are lawfully operating an animal-related business in the ACT should be able to do so with legal protection from these vegan vandals.
“The Government needs to send a clear message that there is no place for this kind of criminal activity in the ACT like we have seen over the border.”
When asked if Canberra had a history of activism, Mr Wall recalled an incident that occurred in 2011, where a number of Greenpeace activists climbed a fence at the CSIRO and cut down a field of genetically modified wheat which was there for research purposes.
“We have seen NSW lead the charge,” Mr Wall said. “The ACT is an island within NSW and it only makes sense to follow suit otherwise we risk becoming a destination for this kind of activism.
“There has been a history of these activities within the ACT. The ACT is not immune to this kind of behaviour and we should have stronger laws and have stronger penalties in place to act as a deterrent from it.
“We are not saying no to protests. Feel free to protest at the farm gate, just don’t cross it.”
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay called the Liberals “ideological and conservative”, stating the ACT Government laws were already strong.
“One of the things that is very clear is that people do have a right to protest,” Mr Ramsay said.
“In our criminal code and others, whether it is through burglary, whether it’s through unlawful enter, whether it’s through aggravated burglary, whether it is a range of offences, there are very strong penalties that are already in place.
“One of the key things in this Government is that we go on evidence-based decision making and not ideological scaremongering that happens far too often from the Canberra Liberals.
“There is no evidence that any further legislative reforms are needed in the ACT. Mr Wall is talking about something that took place eight or nine years ago. If that is the closest he can come to in terms of evidence of laws that are needed in the ACT, it shows that he is not driven by evidence.”