The House sat late on Tuesday in order to consider the Right to Farm Bill 2019. Members were initially also scheduled to attend Government House to present Addresses-in-Reply to the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC. However, this was postponed due to the catastrophic bushfire danger in the State.
The purpose of the Right to Farm Bill is to create a new Act to protect commercial farmers from nuisance claims and from ‘unlawful disruption’ by protesters.
During the previous sitting week the House passed the second reading of this bill (Read this post for more details). However, due to the late hour and the complexity of proposed amendments, the House resolved to consider amendments at a later date. Debate resumed on Tuesday when the House considered 24 amendments moved by the Opposition, The Greens, Animal Justice Party (AJP), Mr Justin Field and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFFP).
Many of the amendments were contentious, with the committee dividing 11 times. Most amendments and related debate concerned Schedule 2 of the bill which sought to make changes to the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901 to strengthen the aggravated offence of trespass on a farm and creating new offences including directing, inciting, procuring or inducing an aggravated offence.
The House considered an amendment to omit this schedule entirely from the bill (proposed by the Opposition, The Greens and AJP) as well as many smaller amendments. For example:
- to clarify that Agricultural land does not include Crown land (Mr Field)
- to weaken the penalties proposed by the bill for aggravated offences (AJP)
- to remove the term to “incite” an aggravated offence (Greens)
- to ensure that action taken by whistleblowers does not constitute an offence (AJP)
However, ultimately only the five amendments put forward by the SFFP were agreed to. These amendments sought to clarify the definition of “agricultural practice”, ensure that someone “commissioning” an unlawful entry to a farm is equally liable to penalties under the legislation as those who direct, incite, counsel, procure or induce such activity, and making it clear that the bill does not prevent permitted union activities or industrial action.
The bill was then read a third time just before midnight (Division: 19 votes to 18) and was returned to the Assembly with amendments. On Wednesday the Assembly advised that it had agreed to these amendments and the bill was sent to the Governor for assent.
The following members spoke to the adjournment debate: