Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is calling on state governments to create tougher trespass laws in response to the threat from animal activists, which has said had risen since the controversial Aussie Farms website was published.
Aussie Farms created a website and Facebook page targeting producers across the country with a map of farm locations published on Facebook.
Farmers say the website, which collates information submitted by members, is riddled with inaccuracies and the inflammatory rhetoric used by Aussie Farms encourages trespassing onto rural family properties.
Preliminary advice to the federal government indicates it doesn’t have powers to block Aussie Farms from publishing farmers addresses on its animal activist website, and state governments administer trespass and criminal laws in their jurisdictions.
State governments need to make sure trespass laws carry huge penaltiesDavid Littleproud
“State governments need to make sure trespass laws carry huge penalties. A big deterrent is required here,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Farmers around Australia are concerned for themselves and their children. No-one would like the address of their family home put up online for all to see. There are plenty of nutters out there and who knows what one of them will do.”
NSW Farmers vice president Chris Groves also said tougher laws are needed.
“We need a legal system that ensures that those who commit these crimes are successfully convicted and the punishment recognises the seriousness of the crime,” Mr Groves said.
“There must be legal consequences for organisations, like Aussie Farms, that seek to incite others to undertake illegal activities.”
Farmers have called for Aussie Farms charitable status, which grants it tax concessions, to be revoked.
The Minister responsible for registered charities, Assistant Finance Minister Zed Seselja, said Aussie Farms’ website was a “direct attack” on farmers and that he had been contacted about its charitable status.
“The concerns raised have been passed onto the national charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission,” Mr Seselja said.
“The ACNC has a number of investigative powers up to and including revocation of charitable status when misconduct occurs, however as an independent statutory office, decisions on such investigations are the responsibility of the ACNC Commissioner.”
The ACNC’s rules state a registered charity cannot have a purpose of engaging in or promoting unlawful activity, but one incident of unlawful activity may not be enough to prove the organisations overall purpose is unlawful.
A charity's purpose is what it was set up to achieve. An activity can be an isolated incident or action, and does not necessarily constitute its purpose.
To establish the purpose of a charity the ACNC looks at its governing rules, activities, published materials and any other relevant information.