Updated advice on your rights with regards to on-farm incursion: unauthorised access

Important information - please read full article.

The Queensland Government has been working to boost significant the protection to farmers, their livestock and properties this included the development of an Animal Industry Security Taskforce.

The key purpose of this group is to review current policies, legislation and regulations regarding planning and response to animal welfare group activities on farms and other agricultural places of business e.g. feedlots, abattoirs etc.

DAF, QPS and other Government Departments are involved to advise the relevant/various groups on their legal positions, rights and obligations in the event of trespass, break end enter and wilful damage to ensure there is consistency across all industries.

Below is the updated advice and recommended course of action should your farm be targeted.

In the event of trespass

1. Should any unauthorised persons attend any property, the lawful occupier should immediately contact police on 000 if considered an emergency, or Policelink on 131 444 if it is not an immediate threat.

2. Avoid confrontation and violence at all costs. The safety of you and your family is the priority. Don’t threaten to harm and don’t produce, use or threaten to use weapons.

3. Don’t answer any questions, particularly personal ones (other than providing your name).

4. Don’t argue about ideology; this is not about changing minds.

5. Don’t discuss your farming or business practices or disclose where any animals and/or equipment is stored or housed.

6. If it is safe to engage with the trespassers, do continually ask questions and provide clear directions. Repeat the below questions and statements if they don’t respond. Be prepared for the use of slogans.

a. Try to identify the organiser/leader of the group by asking who is in charge.

b. Ask them their names – tell them yours and tell them that you are the lawful occupier. This shows accountability and willingness to be cooperative.

c. Ask them why they are there.

d. Ask who gave them permission to be there. Tell them that they have no permission to be on the property.

e. Acknowledge that they have a right to protest but ask them to leave and move to public property. You can use statements such as ‘I understand your desire to protest, but please go back to the farm gate’.

f. Tell them that this is a place of lawful business and a home.

g. Personalise the experience. State that you and your family or workers are upset or fearful due to their presence.

h. Advise them that they may compromise the biosecurity and health of the animals on the property.

i. Call the police and tell the group that you have.

7. If possible and safe to do so, record actions – use a phone or another video-recording device.

8. Focus on collecting evidence, note:

  • information about the incident i.e. time of entry

  • registration plates or descriptions of vehicles used

  • who seems to be in charge

  • description of persons

  • who said what and what did they say/do.

9. If any animal is injured during or as a result of an incident, contact your private veterinarian.

10. If any animal dies during or as a result of an incident, contact Policelink on 131 444

11. If you have concerns of any incident risking your property’s workplace, health and safety management system contact Workplace Health and Safety Queensland on 1300 362 128 or visit worksafe.qld.gov.au/contact-us

Investigation of matters by police – receiving a complaint

Essentially by being called to a location, police are responding to a report of an offence i.e. a complaint is made.

The successful investigation of offences and the management of incidents is dependent on timely and accurate information being passed to investigating officers. Police officers who receive complaints or reports of offences and incidents are responsible for the accurate collection, recording and dissemination of this information.

First response police officers tasked to attend an occurrence are to promptly investigate the facts and circumstances in order to:

1. identify if an offence has been committed

2. identify potential witnesses and offenders

3. obtain all relevant information

4. safeguard evidence.

Once an offence is identified, police then must consider two factors when deciding to prosecute:

1. sufficiency of evidence, and

2. public interest.

There are a number of aspects of both areas that police must be satisfied with. When they ask a landowner/occupier ‘do they wish to make a complaint?’, police are ensuring that they are agreeable to providing the necessary evidence to commence a prosecution. This may include later providing a written statement and attendance in court as a witness. If they have recorded the actions of the activists, then this can be tendered as evidence.

How to protect your property

People are encouraged to review their enterprise security arrangements to reduce the risk or impact of an unauthorised entry incident. You may want to take into consideration the following strategies which support both increased property security and good biosecurity practices:

  • Limit access points to the property.

  • Make sure all doors, gates and other entry points are locked when staff are not present.

  • Have a biosecurity management plan in place.

  • Display clear and appropriate signage stating entry point, biosecurity and workplace safety requirements.

  • ·Keep records of audits, staff training and biosecurity procedures up to date and at hand.

  • Maintain a safety management system to ensure a safe workplace for yourself and workers, including contractors.

  • Consider the installation of CCTV video surveillance systems.

  • Screen new staff applicants carefully and consider terms of employment.

  • If you receive any threats or believe your farm may be targeted, inform the police by calling Policelink on 131 444.

As of 26 April 2019 – Biosecurity regulation amendment

To further support producers, the Queensland Government has fast-tracked an amendment to Queensland’s Biosecurity Regulation 2016 to address potential biosecurity risks of unauthorised entry to places where animals are kept.

This amendment will take effect from 26 April 2019. Under the amendment, anybody that enters your property must comply with your biosecurity management plan when they enter or leave and while they are on your property. To support the security of your property under this new regulation, livestock businesses are encouraged to:

  • Ensure you are registered as a biosecurity entity with Biosecurity Queensland (registration and renewal fees apply for commercial primary producers)

  • Ensure your biosecurity management plan is up-to-date with information that aligns to the new biosecurity regulation:

  • Industry communique, on-farm incursion: unauthorised entry, April 2019 4

  • For those who currently have a biosecurity plan in place, a checklist is available to support you in upgrading this plan to ensure you have the best possible protection under the legislation. Visit daf.qld.gov.au/biosecurityplan or phone 13 25 23.

  • If you don’t have a plan in place, information on developing a biosecurity management plan which aligns to the Queensland Regulation is available from daf.qld.gov.au/biosecurityplan or phone 13 25 23.

  • Display signs at access points to the property stating that a biosecurity management plan applies to the place. You can download an approved sign at daf.qld.gov.au/biosecurityplan

Farm invaders to be hit with swift enforcement action.

The Palaszczuk Government has moved fast to crack down hard on animal rights activists who invade farms and meatworks after two further disruptive protests on the Darling Downs and Southern Queensland last Monday.

Before the end of the month, militant animal rights activists will face $652.75 fines issued either on the spot or later after review of evidence from the protest site.

The fines will be issued by Police or biosecurity officers.

The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 will be amended to include this new penalty aimed squarely at animal activists who consider their cause is above the law.

The move was fully endorsed by the Animal Industry Security Taskforce comprising officials from the Department of Agriculture, Police, AgForce and the Queensland Farmers Federation when they met last Thursday.

Minister for Police Mark Ryan said the new on-the-spot fines are a very welcome new measure for Police in combatting illegal and dangerous behaviour by reckless animal activists.

“Those breaking the law will soon be hit hard financially,” Mr Ryan said.

“A taskforce established by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and supported by Queensland Police is also putting processes in place to de-escalate these tense situations and to maintain the safety of everyone involved.”

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the escalation of farm and meatworks invasions we’ve just witnessed are completely unacceptable.

“As well as on-the-spot fines, these disruptive and illegal protestors could also face the courts and possible jail time on trespass charges, once affected landowners complain officially to police and evidence supports their arrests,” Mr Furner said.

“We take animal welfare very seriously and so does an overwhelming majority of our agricultural businesses.”

Mr Furner said the Palaszczuk Government had moved quickly to establish a strong deterrent for activists thinking of breaching biosecurity restrictions where livestock were kept.

“We have acted decisively and drawn a real line in the sand,” he said.

“Animal rights zealots invading farms are a real threat to biosecurity and are putting their lives and the lives of farmers, workers and indeed the animals they claim to care about at risk.

“If they behave in this way then they will pay the price.”

Activists who move from location to location for multiple protests will face being slapped with multiple $652.75 on-the-spot fines.

Five people have now been scheduled to face trespass charges in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court on May 9 following a trespassing incident at a Millmerran property last month.

Initially charges were laid against a 29-year-old woman and 26-year-old man, both of Margate, who were alleged to be the principal organisers of a protest and trespassing incident at a Bostock Road, Millmerran, feedlot.

Investigations remain ongoing.

Source: Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries. The Honourable Mark Furner

QDO appoints Marketing and Communications Manager

Following the success of QDO's grant submission to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, we are delighted to welcome Sarah Ferguson as the Marketing and Communications Manager. Sarah's role will be to develop marketing strategies to help consumers make better informed decisions when purchasing milk, assist farmers and small milk processors to improve their marketing, and assist the industry to develop its own 'Fair Milk Logo' scheme. 

Sarah has over 20 years of marketing experience and has a particular passion for developing marketing campaigns to change consumer behaviour and to help drive improved profits.

She is looking forward to meeting with as many members as possible over the coming weeks and encourages you all to give her a call or email at Comms@qdo.org.au.