Activists illegally invading family farms in Victoria are set to be slapped with hefty fines under proposed new legislation, but MP Roma Britnell fears it could be months before the changes are passed by parliament.
"I want more reassurance the government sees it as a priority," the member for South West Coast said.
Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said it had been a two-year wait to get this legislation before parliament and the government had been "dragged kicking and screaming" to crack down on activists.
The government says that those who fail to comply with the new legislation will face among the heaviest penalties in Australia, with on-the-spot fines of $1272 for an individual or $8178 for an organisation.
Further penalties of up to $10,904 for an individual and up to $54,522 for an organisation could apply for more serious offending.
The actions of activists had put farmers across the electorate on high-alert over fears their properties would be invaded, Ms Britnell said.
"This is not just our business, it's actually our home. It was quite frightening," she said.
Ms Britnell said her farm, along with many others in the electorate, had been listed on a website that encouraged people to go to the farms.
Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas said farmers and the agricultural industry should be able to do their work without fear of being targeted by animal activists.
"This sort of activity is highly distressing for farming families and puts the biosecurity and safety of the animals that activists purport to protect at risk," she said.
Ms Britnell said an inquiry into goats and lambs being taken from farmers' properties had been undertaken a long time ago, and the legislation should have been introduced much sooner.
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"It will take the fines from $1, which was nothing but an insult, to $11,000 for individuals and $55,000 for organisations," she said.
"They've only introduced the bill, and now we don't sit until February, so it's probably going to be another six months before farmers get this promised legislation that is so necessary to protect our farming community who work so hard.
"It does really show you the priority of this government and it's not our farmers."
Ms Britnell said trespassing compromised the country's biosecurity, and its reputation as clean food producer.
"We've got good conditions at the moment and we need to position ourselves as a contributors to the real challenge we've got ahead of us of producing enough food for a growing population around the world," she said.
Mr Walsh said farmers would be carefully combing through the wording to make sure the government hasn't left loopholes that will allow activists to escape penalty after leaving farmers "exposed" for two years.
"But by finally introducing these laws on the very last day of parliament for 2021, Labor's made sure farmers will be forced to wait at least another six months before they actually get the protections."
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