The VFF is aware of misinformation being circulated amongst the community regarding the Agriculture Amendment Bill 2022 which is currently before the Victorian Parliament.
The VFF received a briefing from the government prior to the introduction of the Bill and the VFF understands the intentions behind all changes to legislation that the Bill proposes.
The Agriculture Amendment Bill 2022 is a complex and varied piece of legislation that seeks to amend 11 separate Acts. There are a number of changes that the VFF supports including improvements to biosecurity enforcement. The VFF welcomes increasing penalties and provisions for offences associated with noxious weeds or pest animals.
However, the VFF has expressed its concerns to the Victorian Government on the proposed changes to the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 surrounding the appointment of Advisory Committees to Compensation and Industry Development Funds. We recognise the government intends to move to skills-based appointments for these committees and this is in line with a whole of government strategy towards board appointments. We have sought assurances that producers will be properly represented because these committees determine how producers’ levies are used. The Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas has written to the VFF providing her assurance that producers will be represented and that VFF will be consulted on the new selection protocols.
Misinformation about the Bill suggests the authorised officers will be able to undertake searches without a warrant, without landholder consent and without the requirement to present identification. The VFF believes this misrepresents and misinterprets the amendments set out in the Bill.
The VFF understands that authorised officers are required to present identification unless deemed unreasonable in the circumstances. For example, where the owner of the property can not be located. The change does not mean presentation of identification can be refused just because the authorised officer thinks it is inconvenient.
The VFF acknowledges that additional powers for authorised officers must assist in investigations conducted by the authorised officer only.
The VFF encourages compliance with investigations conducted by authorised officers, and welcomes penalties incurred for the provision of false information; the obstruction of investigations; and the threatening or intimidation of, or failure to comply with reasonable requests by an authorised officer.
We have been informed that further information is being prepared by Agriculture Victoria to clarify the provisions of the Bill. We will make this information available to VFF members once it is published.
VFF members seeking more information about the proposed legislation are encouraged to read the Victorian Parliament Hansard which includes the Lower House debate on the Bill from Tuesday 3 May.
The Bill and the Minister’s Second Reading Speech can be accessed here.
Further enquires can be directed to VFF General Manager – Policy Charles Everist on 0400199522.