Further questions over definition of "enclosed lands"

Committee reiterates that "temporarily enclosed lands" falls both under the current act and the current revisions, referencing protests at Westconnex worksites.

The committee then raises the issues between the DPI and farmers regarding state forests and the movement of fences.

Mr Hansen responds that this does not affect this issue because it doesn't change the trespass or enclosed lands definition.

The committee then references the Bob Brown case and political communication.

Mr Hansen notes that "there is nothing in the Bill that stops people from legally protesting", however the committee then breaks into debate between themselves. Mr Hansen notes that concerns over prosecution comes down to the definition of "hindrance". Mr Justin Field again suggests that this term "lowers the bar". 

The discussion with the witnesses ends.

Add your reaction Share

Aggravating factors and further union discussion

Concern over union officials have been raised again over their perceived aggravated and unlawful entry onto land. Mr Hansen notes that they should be reasonably protected under the Fair Work Act.

The committee now questions why the statutory review into the current (2016) Act could occur as early as next month while amendments are occurring now. Mr McKnight says it is a requirement of his Department to do so, however he does not respond on if it is appropriate for these amendments to occur beforehand.

Add your reaction Share

Further debate on trespass, negligence and nuisance

Mr Whiteside notes that he is unable to provide a breakdown of trespass offences that have been committed. Questions will not be taken on notice.

The committee raises the issue of "negligence" and "nuisance" as included in the Bill.

Mr McKnight says that at the core of negligence is unreasonable behaviour, and Mr Vincent notes that negligence will be addressed in the Supreme Court, not by rural police.

Mr Hansen adds that while there have not been many nuisance claims previously, but given population growth there may be an increase in the number of claims (especially as raised with councils).

The committee questions whether the broadening the nuisance protection severely reduces the rights of private landholders who live close to a farm. North Coast blueberry farms are used as an example.

Mr Hansen says it is the question between "negligent" and "unlawful" activity. He says that it does not stop neighbours from taking action but instead provides protection for farmers. He adds that if negligence exists, the added protections will not have any effects.

Add your reaction Share

The debate continues regarding "enclosed lands"

Clarification of the term "enclosed land" is debated by the committee. Mr Hansen notes that this does not include environmental boundaries, only man made. 

The committee notes that this bill does not only include farms, but includes all enclosed lands affecting union's right to protest as brought up in a number of submissions to the inquiry. The discussion then turns to if this relates to university campuses. 

Mr McKnight notes that the definition of enclosed lands has not changed from that in the current act. The decision of whether a particular protest on university land would depend on the findings of the court and aggravating features.

Discussion now returns to questions regarding union meetings "in carparks" and union officials meeting members on a worksite.

Mr Hansen repeats that the enclosed lands definition and trespass definitions have not changed. He also repeats that the only change will be regarding those who incite and induce trespass by potentially opening them up to prosecution.

Add your reaction Share

Questions by MP Emma Hurst

1. Ms Hurst questions whether this Bill is focused on hunting given the evidence provided by NSW police.

Mr Hansen responds that this Bill is focused on "all trespass" not simply hunting or animal activism.

2. Ms Hurst responds by questioning whether this new bill will not have any impact on trespass given the lack of transparency in the animal agriculture industry.

Mr Whiteside responds that their response to all trespass is equal regardless of motivation.

3. Ms Hurst continues by asking whether this bill will stop animal cruelty being exposed.

Mr Whiteside responds by saying they must act in accordance with the law and report to the proper authorities.

4. Ms Hurst continues, questioning whether workers at animal agriculture facilities requesting animal activist groups to collect footage and evidence will be at risk of inciting trespass under the bill.

Mr Hansen responds that both the whistleblowers and activist groups should always refer back to the authorities, and concerns over incitement to trespass would be considered by a court of law.

Mr McKnight adds that this bill refers only to "aggravated" trespass, including issues relating to hindering the ability for the business to undertake their practice. He adds that by using the term "hinder" the court takes into account the plain English meaning of the word, and does not significantly expand from the current term of "interference. 

This is debated by the committee who suggest that it significantly "lowers the bar" and "broadens what is being captured with significantly higher penalties". Mr McKnight refutes this by saying it adds "colour" and "clarity".

Add your reaction Share

The hearing begins: opening statements

Mr Scott Hansen: Director General, Department of Primary Industries 

States in his opening address that this bill "does not remove the right to legally protest", and delivers on government election promises in a "balanced" manner.

Mr Hansen acknowledges that this inquiry will highlight whether this is the case.

Mr Simon Vincent: Director Strategy and Policy, Department of Primary Industries

[no introduction]

Mr Paul McKnight: Executive Director, Policy, Reform and Legislation, Department of Communities and Justice

[no introduction]

Mr Cameron Whiteside: Detective Inspector & State Crime Rural Coordinator, NSW Police

States that this bill will "enhance the confidence [of farmers] in the rural police force and the judiciary", something that they have not expressed in the past.

Mr Cameron states that illegal hunting has been the most reported issue of farm trespass, followed by theft. Notably protest has not been mentioned.

Add your reaction Share

Live blog will begin on October 3rd

The live blog will begin on October 3rd and follow NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Provisions of the Right to Farm Bill 2019, the as held in the Macquarie Room at Parliament House in Sydney.

Add your reaction Share