LCA welcomes amendments to farm trespass laws
The Law Council of Australia has backed changes to agricultural incitement of trespass laws, noting it will help ensure media freedoms are better protected.
While the LCA acknowledged that it believes the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 is “unnecessary”, it says amendments recently proposed by the government and supported by Labor help improve the legislation.
Included in the amendments is the introduction of two new offences that apply if a carriage service is used to transmit, publish or distribute materials to incite trespass, property damage or theft on agricultural land.
In its submission to the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee, the Law Council raised concerns with the laws as drafted, including that they “unduly placed burden of proof on a defendant and could result in impeding media freedom”.
LCA president Arthur Moses SC said the show of bipartisanship “protected press freedoms, which have increasingly come under threat in recent times”.
“The government’s amendments strengthen the protections available to journalists under the legislation by removing the requirement that a journalist must prove disclosure of ‘offending’ material was in the public interest,” Mr Moses said.
“The Law Council is pleased the responsibility of the media to report on matters of public interest has been recognised through the amendments.
“The press must be able to report freely on matters that impact Australians and adequate legislative protections are essential.”