The hearings have ended

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An increase in activism?

The Committee asks whether there has been an increase in trespass on agricultural land by animal activists.

Ms Soxsmith responds making clear there has not been an increase in acts of trespass, but there has been an increase in discussion of trespass.

Ms Seymour notes that animal activists should not be treated as a separate group, rather they should be treated in the same way as environmental and human rights activists.


Questions End

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The vision of farming

The Hon. Catherine Cusack asks the Animal Protectors alliance what their vision of farming is. 

Mr Shoebridge calls a Point of Order. The Hon Trevor Khan states that they want "everyone to eat mung beans".

Questioning continues. 

Ms Seymour says that it is the belief of her organisation that animal farming must end, however she notes that she doesn't see this occurring in the near future.

Discussion continues on the growing voice of the movement and the escalation of protests. Ms Seymour highlights that the growing body of evidence gathered by animal activists has had a large impact on the community awareness of animal cruelty in the agribusiness industry.

Clarification is made that the Animal Protectors Alliance does not engage in farm trespass. Allegations are also raised regarding international bodies paying fines for those who have been prosecuted for trespass. Ms Seymour notes that she has never heard of this happening.

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How animal activists are treated now

The issue of only one case being prosecuted in NSW is raised again. Ms Seymour notes that there are many cases where activists remove abused animals to take them to the vet, and the farmers are none the wiser given the amount of animals in their care.

The Committee asks whether Ms Seymour believes the NSW Government is using the current laws to prosecute trespass by animal activists. 

Ms Seymour responds by saying they are not. The Committee discusses this issue, saying it is "surprising".

The Committee goes on to ask about intimidation and confrontation.

Ms Seymour continues by saying that she personally knows of no instances of confrontation, and often the property owners are not even in the area. Rather she notes that because animal activists also call police to report animal cruelty, the interactions are primarily with law enforcement.

Ms Seymour reiterates that in intensive system often farmers don't notice animals are missing when activists rescue them. She highlights that often these animals are often so unwell they are considered 'losses' by farmers. Ms Soxsmith adds that in the history of animal activism there have been no reported cases of activists going near the homes of farmers.

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Reasons for trespass

Ms Seymour outlines that to the best of her knowledge, farm trespass occurs because animal welfare concerns are not being addressed. She notes that farm animals are left unprotected given the number of exemptions under POCTAA.

Ms Seymour continues by saying that if these animals were protected and POCTAA well enforced, there would be a reduced need to trespass. She highlights that often animal activists call the police once within the property given there are animal cruelty offences occurring.

Ms Hurst asks whether animal activists are being unfairly targeted.

Ms Seymour replies that while the legislation does not, the rhetoric surrounding the Bill does disproportionately target animal activists.

She adds that the increase in penalties for two or more people makes clear that this legislation is deliberately targeting protests by both animal welfare activists and others.

Mr Shoebridge asks whether the increase in penalties would lead to people deliberately seeking martyrdom

Ms Seymour and Ms Soxsmith both agree that it could lead to passionate activists deliberately taking action to show just how punitive these laws are. Ms Seymour raises that the animal activist community is incredibly angry about persecuted by the NSW Government in public media.

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Final Round: Animal Protectors Alliance

Ms Frankie Seymour: Co-founder, Animal Protectors Alliance

Ms Seymour notes that if the Bill is passed it will seriously impact our democracy and raises the status of farmers to be above other members of the community.

She notes that the rhetoric surrounding the Bill is to save farmers from the "embarrassment" caused by what is exposed by animal activists collecting evidence of agricultural practices. Ms Seymour goes on to say that the Alliance opposes this bill with regards to democracy, much needed animal protection and the impact of animal agriculture on climate change.


Ms Robyn Soxsmith: Co-founder, Animal Protectors Alliance

Ms Soxsmith highlights that industry should have transparency to decrease trespass. She also reiterates that the NSW Government should be helping farmers to transition to sustainable, ethical farming practices to support them economically.

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Break and enter or trespass?

The Hon. Catherine Cusack raises the issue of installing cameras on private property, with Mr Shoebridge replying that this is already covered under criminal law. The witnesses add that damaging private property is also covered by criminal law, with Ms Walmsley adding that this gives further weight to the argument that this bill is not needed.


Questions End.

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Disproportionate penalties

Ms Walmsley highlights that under this proposed bill penalties are disproportionate. She notes that companies who pollute the environment face lower penalties than an individual who engages in "aggravated" protest under this bill.

Discussion moves to the implied right of political communication.

Ms Wright reiterates that the disproportionate penalties will have a "chilling effect" on the implied right of political communication. She suggests the Bill would need to be updated to enshrine the right of political communication for it to be considered.

The Committee notes that the right to protest and the implied right to political communication are different concepts.

Ms Wright notes that the Council for Civil Liberties has not seen any examples of protests that have been a threat to public safety that would now be prosecuted under the Bill. 

Ms Walmsley adds that this Bill is far too broad and vague to protect protesters and the implied right of political communication.

Discussion returns to the issue of "incitement".

Ms Walmsley notes that this Bill disproportionately affects those who support activism, criminalising public support in a similar way to physically taking part in a trespass action.

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Deterrents and more on incitement

Ms Wright notes that increased penalties are not a real deterrent, rather the fear of getting caught is. 

Ms Hurst questions the impacts on whistleblowers within the animal agriculture industry. 

Ms Minter notes that while the unions do have concerns they would better be addressed with the unions affected included the meatworkers union.

Discussion moves to the issue of biosecurity.

Ms Wright notes that to her knowledge animal activists do their best to comply with biosecurity regulations when engaging in peaceful protest. Committee members suggest that rather it may be an attempt to "blend in", but this is turned down by Ms Wright who states she cannot make comment on the mental processes that go into staging a farm protest.

Chair, the Hon. Mark Banasiak says being inside animal activists' heads would be getting into a "scary place".

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Real world examples - a discussion

Examples of a sit in at a bank, a protest outside Coles, and the previous protest within temporary WestConnex barriers are discussed. All could be prosecuted under the Bill.

It is clarified that partial fencing does count as "enclosed land", including with regard to state parks.

The Hon. Trevor Khan raises again the issue between differentiation between interference and hindrance.

Ms Wright gives the example of sitting in front of a cafe. She says that while this action may not aim to cause interference, it does cause hindrance and thus could be prosecuted under the proposed laws. She adds that because there are two words used, they will be required to have different legal meanings.

Ms Walmsley adds that if they are to be considered the same, there is no perceived "point" to the legislation.


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Union concerns

Mr Shoebridge raises that "stop work" meetings could be considered a hinderance.

Ms Minter agrees, adding that union officials meeting with members onsite could also be considered hinderance to work as it requires the worker to pause working.

She continues that from a union perspective, workers handing out flyers and sharing events on facebook could be considered incitement, which is of great concern.

Mr Gambian adds that he recently attended a meeting to discuss forest protests, many of which were on "enclosed land". He highlights that under this bill he would potentially leave himself open for prosecution for allowing protest organisers to speak at a meeting he has facilitated. Mr Gambian reiterates that the "Right to Farm" Bill is erroneously named, as it actually removes rights from all community members including farmers.

The Hon. Catherine Cusack suggests that these concerns are all based on "hypotheses" and questions whether this legislation would affect protest given it only relates to "aggravated protest.

Mr Gambian responds by saying "aggravating" has a very broad definition. He highlights that protest requires drawing attention, many methods of which could be considered "aggravating". 

Ms Wright adds that all considerations will be hypothetical because the Bill has not yet become law.

Ms Minter continues by saying there is a huge disconnect in what the NSW Government is saying the legislation is saying and what the legislation actually says.

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Round 5: Nature Conservation Council, Environmental Defenders Office, Unions NSW and Council for Civil Liberties

Mr Chris Gambian: Chief Executive, Nature Conservation Council of NSW

Mr Gambian begins by referencing the Knitting Nannas, and states that naming the Bill "Right to Farm" is "mischevious".

He continues by saying the "punitive" measures of the Bill are "extreme". He demands Parliamentarians "rise above the news cycle" and criticises how the Bill came about.


Ms Rachel Walmsley: Policy and Law Reform Director, Environmental Defenders Office NSW

Ms Walmsley says the Bill is "unnecessary" and the current legislation deals appropriately with trespass by animal activists. She adds that this bill attacks more than animal activists but the general community and the penalties included are disproportionately high.

She continues by highlighting that the majority of concerns brought to the EDO are by neighbouring farmers, and that this Bill will only seek to increase these tensions.


Ms Kate Minter: Executive Officer, Unions NSW

Ms Minter says Unions NSW are deeply concerned about the Bill seriously impacting the right to protest in the state. She raises that while the Bill includes farms, it also includes universities, parks, and car parks.

She continues by saying "protest works and maybe that is a scary thought for government". 


Ms Pauline Wright: President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Ms Wright raises the issues of free speech and democratic governance. She notes that the Bill stifles political communication regarding animal and environmental concerns. Like those beforehand she says the Bill is "draconian" and the penalties are not proportionate to the level of criminality. 

She highlights that draconian penalties do not work as a deterrent and adds it will have a chilling effect on peaceful protest. Ms Wright further states the definitions of "hindrance" and "enclosed land" make this Bill incredibly problematic.

Ms Wright highlights the term "hindering" is passive, which could leave people holding a peaceful protest open to large fines and jail time. 

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Targeting animal advocates

Ms Hurst raises whether animal advocates are being unfairly targeted by this bill.

Ms Ward says that anyone could be targeted by this legislation and it is difficult to understand why the rhetoric is targeting animal activists when the "substance" is not there.

Ms Ward raises the issue of a lack of enforcement of our existing laws, she notes they are "not adequately enforced or enforced at all when it comes to farm animals". She adds that the lack of transparency is another aggravating factor for trespass is occurring.

In response to questions from the Committee, Ms Ward notes that farmers believe their industry is under threat, however this needs to be separated from concerns over intimidation. She notes that intimidation is already a criminal offence, adding that there is no case she knows of where animal advocates have engaged in intimidation.

Ms Ward continues by highlighting that as previously highlighted by the NSW Police witness the main issue of trespass relates to hunters.

Questions End.

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Questions regarding animal activist trespass and nuisance complaints

Ms Ward is asked to outline if there are "repeat offenders" of animal activism.

She notes that the Animal Defenders Office has only had a single 'client' whose case would fall under this Bill. She adds that while the accused 'group' pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court, the penalties were overturned by the District Court. Ms Ward clarifies the case related to 'alleged' interference.


The committee notes that 800 nuisance complaints go to Council.

Ms Ward notes that this Bill does not impact on complaints going to Council, the pathway will remain the same. She continues on the issue of 1080 baits which have been banned in multiple other countries - Ms Ward notes that this is on the "severe end of the scale in terms of impact" because it is a legal form of pest control that has killed multiple companion animals in properties neighbouring farms.

She continues to outline a case where two dogs who had been poisoned with 1080 baits off a private property regurgitated baits on the private property, consequently leading to the death of animals remaining on the property.

Ms Ward continues, saying that the three nuisance complaints that made it to Court does not provide an evidence based need for this law. She reiterates that the majority of cases are brought to Council, something this legislation does not address.

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The question of incitement and nuisance

Mr Shoebridge raises the issue of running an anti animal cruelty Facebook page and whether it would be considered incitement to trespass.

Ms Ward explains that this is one of the issues that the Animal Defenders Office is concerned by. She notes that given the language used in the Bill the Office is concerned there would be ramifications for those who choose to share the Aussie Farms website or retweeted comments suggesting trespass.

Ms Ward goes on to say that the decision to add the nuisance shield is highly concerning, especially with regards to changes in farming practices to more intensive farming which would likely impact neighbours.

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