Living up to their election promise, the Morrison Liberal government introduced the bill they hope will stop farm invasions by extreme vegan activists.
With the creation of two new offences, the government is pinning their hopes on the threat of a prison sentence is enough of a deterrent.
Though the bill is all bark, with no bite.
The new Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 has a prison term of 12 months, for the lesser offence, and 5 years for the serious one.
Treat The Cause, Not The Symptom
While you do have to admire Attorney-General Porter for bringing this bill to parliament so quickly, a far better thing to do would be to address the reason why these stunts are happening in the first place.
These stunts happen for one of two reasons.
The organisers of the stunt aren’t happy with the way that animals are being treated by a particular sector.
Or, there is a lack of transparency within the industry as a whole.
Both of these reasons could be negated with an achievable solution for the industry.
Improve the minimum standard with which animals are kept, transported, then killed by industry.
Implement a supply chain transparency model where the whole process is independently audit-able, and there is genuine accountability for less than minimum standards.
While the bill, if passed is unlikely to be a deterrent for future actions, wouldn’t it be easier to actually stop them happening, rather than respond to them after the fact?
Thanks to the Australian Constitution, the Commonwealth has virtually no power to pass laws relating to actually trespassing.
So, they did what they think will stop the extreme vegan activists in their tracks.
The new offences are:
- “Using a carriage service for inciting trespass on agricultural land”, and
- “Using a carriage service for inciting property damage, or theft, on agricultural land”
The key words here are carriage service and inciting.
If you don’t do either of those, then the law (if it passes), shouldn’t apply.
While the bill virtually makes anything connected with the animal agricultural industry agricultural land.
This includes slaughterhouses, sale yards, aquaculture facilities, etc.
The Explanatory memoranda
As with all bills, the interesting part comes when the explanatory memoranda is read.
The first offence would apply where a person uses a carriage service to transmit, make available, publish or otherwise distribute material with the intent to incite another person to trespass on agricultural land. This offence would require that the person is reckless as to whether the other person’s trespass or related conduct could cause detriment to a primary production business being carried on on the land. A person found guilty of this offence could face up to 12 months’ imprisonment.
The second offence would apply where a person uses a carriage service to transmit, make available, publish or otherwise distribute material with the intent to incite another person to unlawfully damage or destroy property, or commit theft, on agricultural land. A person found guilty of this offence could face up to five years’ imprisonment, to reflect the more serious nature of the incited conduct. (emphasis added)
As mentioned above, the key terms to be aware of are carriage service and intent to incite.
Intent To Incite
This is the tricky part of the bill.
Sharing an email or social media event that relates to a particular stunt is likely to be viewed as intent to incite.
Whether the Commonwealth DPP would go as far as claiming that marking yourself as going, though not actually going is intent to incite would be up to interpretation.
Though, if by doing this causes others to join in, it may be possible.
Though one thing I wouldn’t be doing it talking about any planned stunt on a phone, or in an email conversation. (You never know what capability the Five Eyes have. If it isn’t Australian, it could be one of the other four eyes).
While the bill is possibly meant to catch the consumer awareness website AussieFarms, the constitution of the organisation may exclude it.
Aussie Farms is a consumer awareness organisation, and the website in question could be said to be helping it to achieve those objects.
Whether a disclaimer on the website is enough to protect the organisation from prosecution would remain to be seen.
Where the coverage of the bill is certain is those who use social media or messaging apps to communicate the plans.
This means if you share a facebook event for a proposed stunt, you would likely be charged under the lesser offence.
The organisers of the stunts would be the ones who will be targeted with the more serious offence.
Very few stunts don’t result in some sort of damage or theft, which is where the serious offence is.
Encryption Isn’t The Answer
While some may say that using an encryption service is the answer, I wouldn’t count on it.
These stunts require a large number of people to participate to have its desired impact.
Remember Gibbs’ Rules Number 4?
The best way to keep a secret? Keep it to yourself.
Second best? Tell one other person – if you must.
There is no third best.
The more people that know about the stunt, the greater the chance of it getting out.
This is even more complicated if the media is forewarned about the stunt.
And remember, the Commonwealth now has legislation requiring encryption services to have back doors.
Old School Is The Way To Go
One way around this bill would be to do things old school.
You know. The way things were done before the internet and Facebook.
Way back when, there was a concern that the authorities would be using analogue phones to hear what people were saying, and to eavesdrop on conversations.
To stop that, phones were left at home, and we all met in person to talk about things.
Everything was done on paper, with the next meeting set in advance at a certain time and place.
With the same meeting point never being used more than once.
Old school will make it harder to attract international or interstate participants and to get Patreon performers involved.
Though that shouldn’t matter cause it is supposed to be about the animals.
Not Participating Is Even Better
Even if the organisers do go old school, the states are beefing up their biosecurity legislation, in the hopes of it being a deterrent.
While the threat of a prison sentence may not be there, the fines that may be issued are beyond the ability of more participants to pay.
Instead, I still believe that one of the most effective and safest things to do is to start blogging.
Using that medium as a way to reach people, start and continue a conversation with them about veganism and animal rights.
Even more so if you have an email newsletter and autoresponder set up.
Something else that could be done is pot luck dinners or dinner parties.
This challenges the person you are talking to expand their view on what vegans eat, along with being a non-threatening place to have a conversation.
This article is for education purposes only.
As the bill is only a bill at the moment and not legislation, the content of this article shouldn’t be considered legal advice.
Nor should it be considered an incitement for anyone to break the law.
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