Is Prime Minister Scott Morrison offering Government funding for farmers to pursue private legal action against vegan protesters who invade their farms?
That’s how prominent Brisbane compensation law specialist Mark O’Connor sees it, after the PM’s call for farmers to sue animal activists after heightened disruptive nationwide vegan protests this week.
Media reports state it is understood the Attorney-General’s Department is considering paying for a farmer’s legal costs to take civil action in a test case against extremist animal rights groups.
However Mark O’Connor, a Director with Bennett & Philp Lawyers, says the PM’s stance is unorthodox and he doubts there is any “test case” to run.
“Well established laws of trespass already exist so a farmer could sue someone for trespassing on their property, especially if the protest action disrupts the income generating activities of the farmer.
In this case the farmer could claim damages for the disruption, especially if protestors invade a sterile, biosecurity area and contaminate it.
“The PM’s encouragement to sue these so-called “green criminals” is unorthodox insomuch as he seems to be offering government resources to fund private legal action due to the actions of a third party,” he says.
Media reports add the Morrison Government is also considering even tougher laws to stamp out groups such as the Aussie Farms activists group.
The Government wants the states to strengthen criminal trespass laws and has urged the Privacy Commissioner to take action against Aussie Farms, potentially meaning they could be hit with fines of up to $500,000 after legislation was introduced into Federal Parliament last week.
The charitable status of Aussie Farms, which has an interactive map that encourages activists to storm on to farms is also under review. Aussie Farms may lose its taxpayer-funded charity tax concessions, including income tax exemption, GST and fringe benefit tax concessions.
Mark says the proximity of the Federal election may play a role in the PM’s hard line stance, because otherwise the lawsuit idea is not novel and the assets of individual protesters may be negligible.
Any actions are more likely to be targeted against Aussie Farms which is likely to have more assets, he says.
Individual liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation (personal injury work exempted).