/Scott Morrisons Government fired up over vegan trespasses as federal election looms

Scott Morrisons Government fired up over vegan trespasses as federal election looms

Posted

April 11, 2019 03:59:19

Lock up the vegans, we’ve got farmers’ backs, I’m off to have a steak.

That was the crux of the Government’s message on Wednesday.

And Tuesday, and Monday, and Friday.

Australia’s most senior politicians have spent almost a week trying to keep the national conversation centred on a battle between those who farm animals, and those who refuse to eat them.

It wants you thinking about the tussle between what it sees as the typical way of life, and the very fringe-dwelling activists who threaten it.

On Friday the Government moved to bring Aussie Farms — the activist website that lists details of thousands of farms and abattoirs to promote farm break-ins — under the Privacy Act, potentially exposing it to hefty fines.

On Monday, as activists broke into private premises and disturbed morning commuters, the Prime Minister weighed in.

Scott Morrison said farmers had the full support of his Government to bring a civil action to show “these green-collared criminals that you don’t get to go and pull the rug from under our Aussie farmers”.

Before we knew it, Attorney-General Christian Porter had called on the Privacy Commissioner to investigate Aussie Farms and written to the states requesting their help to beef up trespass laws.

Now we have a re-election commitment to create a new law that would potentially jail anyone who published personal information on a website “with the intention that another would use that information to trespass on agricultural land”.

Eighty days after the Aussie Farms website went live, and a moment before a federal election is called, it seems it’s all anyone in the Government can talk about.

Farmers are scared and intimidated by the actions of a few activists — both since and before — the site went live.

No-one should be fearful of attack either at home, or work.

Subsequently, the actions of the Government have been welcomed by farm groups, which aren’t used to spending so much time in the national spotlight, save for during natural disasters.

But that’s not necessarily where the green-collared, steak-eating rhetoric is aimed.

The underwhelming response to the vegan protests by Labor shows this is not a vote shifter among most farmers.

The Opposition attempted to tie the vegan protest issue to its stance on live sheep exports and the former inspector-general on animal welfare, a position axed by the Coalition Government.

In doing so, Labor completely missed the point.

The issue has little to do with animal welfare or what someone chooses to eat — it is more about trespass, intimidation and the ability to enforce existing law.

Arguably that is the domain of state legislators, but for a Coalition that prides itself on keeping Australians safe, and in need of a win, the activist issue is low-hanging fruit.

It is an easy and low-risk way to appear proactive, much like the Government’s strawberry sabotage crackdown after the most recent leadership spill.

But activists say they remain undeterred and it is not clear how effective the strategy will be.

An industry observer described Monday’s protests as “almost the best thing the activists could have done” for farmers.

“It’s galvanised the industry and garnered support from the public,” he said.

“People love farmers.”

The Government hopes those people, rather than farmers, realise it is heading off to order a steak.

Topics:

agricultural-policy,

federal-government,

government-and-politics,

agribusiness,

australia