Questions regarding animal cruelty

Ms Ward notes that NSW has the lowest penalties for animal cruelty in the country. She raises that there is also the issue of enforcement of these welfare laws.

Ms Hurst requests examples of trespass to give the legislative context, however a point of order is called.

Point of order is resolved. 

Ms Ward highlights that animal advocates are not the main perpetrators of farm trespass, instead it is hunters. She suggests that mentioning animal advocates is a "red herring". She suggests that it is up to proponents of the Bill to show that it will in fact reduce farm trespass.

She continues by saying the whole bill is problematic, saying that there is lack of evidence to support "draconian" increases in penalties. Ms Ward adds that the Animal Defenders Office does not see how the Bill will protect the farming community in a realistic manner.

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Round 4: Animal Defenders Office

Ms Tara Ward: Volunteer Lawyer and Executive Director, Animal Defenders Office

Ms Ward states that there is no credible or compelling evidence that this bill is needed. She notes that the Bill is unnecessary given trespass is already covered under current laws.

She additionally notes that the "Right to Farm" aspect of the Bill is nothing but a "political slogan", and the title does not encompass what is included in the Bill.

Ms Ward raises that the Bill address the symptom, not the cause of trespass. She suggests that the way to reduce trespass is to provide transparency, not to provide additional protective measures for animal agriculture.

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Hearings are adjourned

Hearings will resume at 1.30pm - updated to 1.45pm.

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Return to nuisance claims

Ms Hurst notes that there have been three reported nuisance cases since 2013, she asks if the Bar association considers that changing how the tort of nuisance is prosecuted is appropriate.

Ms Sharp responds that the Bar Association considers extinguishing the tort of nuisance is not appropriate. She continues that it is an issue of equality and that everybody should be equal before the law. 

She adds that farmers complaining against neighbouring farmers will be hindered under this new legislation. This is supported by committee members who note that submissions suggest that there will be no recourse on reduced property value for farmers due to issues caused by neighbouring farms.

Questions End.

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Spreading information online regarding protests and the term "hinder"

Ms Sharp notes that farmers spreading information online in relation to coal seam gas protests may be impacted by this bill and liable for prosecution.

Discussion then turns to the term "hinder" and if this expands the legislation.

Ms Sharpe notes when approaching the issue as a lawyer a different meaning will need to be applied. 

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Issues of enclosed land and nuisance

Ms Sharp notes the name of the Bill does not describe what it contains, given the issue of "enclosed land" included within the proposed legislation, and suggests this is "overreach". She adds that regardless of whether the legislation only relates to farms or all enclosed land, a penalty is over three years imprisonment is extreme.

The committee asks for Ms Sharp's opinion on the nuisance shield.

She responds by saying that it is extreme to exclude a common law course of action that has been developed over a long period of time. 

Discussion turns to international examples on how conflict resolution is addressed. Ms Sharp notes that it is important to discuss alternate dispute resolution that is less costly and stressful than going to court.

Ms Sharp notes that as she reads the Bill it "extinguishes" the common law tort of nuisance despite what has been suggested in Parliament by the NSW Minister for Agriculture.

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Evidence gathering

Ms Hurst raises that many submissions raise that animal welfare standards to not meet community expectations, leading to trespass.

Ms Sharp responds that there is a degree of "opaqueness" in commercial farming. She says that this is not her area of expertise but she has heard of this anecdotally.

She adds that the penalties within this Bill are "too severe" and will have a "chilling effect" on whistleblowers. She notes that trespass is unlawful but the law needs to be balanced and more proportionate penalties need to be provided.

Ms Sharpe adds that this Bill could be considered "unconstitutional" because it may limit political communication. She says that there is a role for people to take steps to protect public interest regardless of the context. Ms Sharpe adds that the Bar does recognise that there should be an offence considered, but the response as included in this Bill is disproportionate. 

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Round 3: NSW Bar Association Human Rights Committee

Ms Naomi Sharpe SC, Co-Chair of the Human Rights Committee, NSW Bar Association

Ms Sharpe states the NSW Bar Association "does not support the Bill in its current form". 

She notes the work of animal activists has lead to important outcomes with regards to animal welfare. She adds important evidence was provided in ACCC cases by animal activists.

Ms Sharpe goes on to say that this Bill stifles freedom of expression in a manner concerning to the Bar Association. She further adds that there are concerns about the definition of "enclosed lands" include public lands, affecting protesters who wish to protest in a public space.

Ms Sharpe continues that the penalties are being increased to be disproportionate to the offence. She notes that the addition of imprisonment is concerning to the Bar given that people who protest on public land may be prosecuted unwittingly and it may discourage them from exercising their right to peacefully protest.

Ms Sharpe concludes that impacts the Bill will have on the common law tort of nuisance will have adverse effects on private property owners including farmers themselves. 

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Duty of care and bio-security

The committee raises the farmers' duty of care to people who reside on their property and their wellbeing. They raise the issue of farmstays. 

Ms Johnson says the provisions of this act touch upon the particularities of rural trespass which "not only puts the farmer at risk in their workplace but also their home". She notes farm trespassers put their own safety at risk as well as people who reside or are staying on farms. The added burden of responsibility for farmers to protect all individuals on their land is raised.

Bio-security is raised.

Ms Johnson suggests trespassers "do not understand bio-security risk and disease pathways" and how to interact with animals. She says that people must adhere with each farmers' individual bio-security plan.

Protest by farmers is raised again - the Association is asked whether they acknowledge that farmers protesting mining and coal seam gas could be prosecuted under the Bill.

The Association agrees, but Ms Johnson says the trespass would need to be "aggravated".

Questions End.

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The children of farmers

Mr Amato raises the issue of the psychological impact farm trespass has on children.

Ms Johnson says the impact continues to follow the children for their whole lives due to a digital footprint being left online. She says that it limits how young farmers can engage with the community and develop constructive relationships.

Ms Hurst raises that this Bill doesn't impact on digital trespass, however Ms Johnson says that this is only the first step and they plan to pursue digital trespass in future. She raises the issue of drones saying that they are used for "casing the farm".

Mr Amato questions if children feel unsafe on school buses and within the community. Ms Johnson says that there is not evidence of this that they have found, however Mr Arkle says that there are concerns about the distance between rural families and law enforcement.

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Resolving conflicts between neighbours

The committee asks about managing nuisance claims and the nuisance shield.

Mr Arkle suggests there should be an alternate solution to resolving nuisance issues by installing an Agricultural Commissioner to keep these issues outside the legal system.

Ms Johnson says strategic planning will help to minimise these issues from occurring and references the regional planning act.

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Aussie Farms discussion

The committee requests examples of behavioural escalation that has lead to the Association supporting the Bill.

Ms Johnson says this "behaviour started in 2012" and references the raids on farms including systematic gathering of footage. She notes that this Bill only deals with physical and not digital trespass. She continues that charges were brought against some activists however says that there were issues with how the charges were prosecuted and led to them being dismissed. She says farmers were "let down".

The committee notes that the previous witness Mr Whiteside said the number of people trespassing had not significantly increased following information being published on the Aussie Farms website. They question why this change to legislation is needed.

Ms Johnson says it comes down to changing behaviour, and there is now a "real risk of physical confrontation" and references the growing numbers of activists on the land.

Mr Arkle says that the increased penalties make individuals taking action "think twice" about taking action and will force them to "take responsibility". He suggests animal activism is a "marketing" activity.

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Farmer rallies

The committee raises the example of farmers protesting the price of milk in enclosed lands (outside the doors of Coles) - they ask whether this kind of action should be outlawed as it could be prosecuted under this Bill.

Mr Arkle notes that the Association supports the right to free speech but not aggravated trespass. He notes that in this case it should be considered by the court but fails to see himself how it would affect business.


The committee then raises protests attended by farmers regarding coal and gas.

Mr Arkle responds by saying that the Association supports the right to peaceful protest, but they are asking for "one standard" regardless of whether farming, mining or supermarket businesses are affected.

Ms Johnson says that farmers recognise that if they have political views they need to protest "in the legal way".

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Questions to NSW Farmers begin

Ms Hurst raises that the biggest issue for farms is illegal hunting. She questions why the NSW Farmers association is focused on animal activists.

Mr Arkle notes that illegal hunting is the most pressing issue. He says that he has focused on animal activists because of how it has unsettled the community.

Ms Annabel Johnson says of all the examples she read out, there were no animal cruelty charges pressed. She says this bill is "not about limiting transparency about agricultural production". She notes that industry is taking a number of measures to increase transparency, however she does not go into detail of what these measures are.

Ms Johnson suggests that the majority of animal cruelty cases relate to companion animals and not industry productions, Ms Hurst refutes this saying that it comes down to an enforcement issue.


Ms Hurst also raises that the NSW Bar Association has concerns over the nuisance shield actually functioning at the detriment of farmers. She gives the example of flooding and chemical drift in farmer disputes.

Mr Arkle says the aim of the Bill is to keep these issues out of the legal system. He says that the nuisance shield is not viewed as an issue for the rights of neighbours.

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Round 2: Farmers Association

Mr Pete Arkle: CEO, NSW Farmers Association

Mr Arkle notes that the NSW Farmers Association supports the Bill and protects them from "vexatious" civil claims.

He notes trespass has been a serious concern for many years, and references the Aussie Farms website. He adds that individuals should have the right to protest, but farmers should not stopped from conducting legal business.

Mr Arkle highlights that NSW Farmers believe the current legal framework does not protect farmers enough and its failure will deteriorate farmers' belief in the legal system. He raises the "day of action" seen earlier in the year and video footage of activists saying they were going to storm farms across the state, and says this led to fear in farming communities across NSW.

He further highlights that this is only the "first step" toward the right to farm. 

Ms Annabel Johnson: Policy Director - Livestock, NSW Farmers Association

Ms Johnson highlights that this is a unique situation because a farm is also a home, these reforms are very important for safety for farmers and community members.

She reads comment by farmers on how farm trespass has impacted them. The comment raises that farm trespass has made staff "paranoid" and scared their children.

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