GREENS MPs were left agog this morning as their usual farm law allies – the Animal Justice Party – backed a Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers-chaired committee to examine the practice of unauthorised surveillance by animal activists.
“You are kidding!” said the Greens’ David Shoebridge, when Animal Justice MP Mark Pearson rose in to support the Shooters’ proposed Select Committee on landowner protection from unauthorised filming or surveillance.
Labor, the government, and the Christian Democrats backed the committee – leaving Greens MPs standing on their own.
The committee will be chaired by Shooters MP Robert Borsak and will feature Courtney Houssos and Mick Veitch from Labor, Trevor Khan and Rick Colless from The Nationals, Scot MacDonald from the Liberals, and Mr Pearson.
Mr Pearson – who has in the past argued for feral cats not to be euthanaised – disagreed with Dr Mehreen Faruqi the committee was designed to usher in ag-gag laws “through the back door”.
I will be surprised if any party that supports animal welfare in this chamber votes in support of this motion
“I was surprised yesterday when I found out this committee was going to be established, and I consulted with my constituents who obviously had concerns about it,” Mr Pearson said.
“But at the end of the day it’s a committee where everyone will walk into the room, and they will, in my view, with a neutral approach to this question. I have been part of these investigations for 25 years. I don’t care who establishes it.”
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“Even though some members of inquiry may see it as a vehicle to restrict or shut down people documenting evidence, I see this as a vehicle to expose why members of the community are willing to risk their personal liberties to expose what is being kept out of sight”.
In proposing the committee, Shooters’ MP Robert Borsak said the law wasn’t keeping up with technological changes that had allowed trespassers abuse new surveillance methods and share the results on a wider number platforms.
The role of Facebook Live and other streaming platforms will be examined, as will the penalites currently in place, and protections for landholders.
Mr Borsak said the inquiry would canvass all sides of the debate “And despite what the Greens may want, it will take evidence and consider it properly and make recommendations.”
“It is important that that is what this place is all about. There are issues, time to time that need to be debated. Mr Shoebridge has been on many committees with me and he knows how fair I can be.
“I take the political points he is making but the reality is this committee will be run fairly and properly.”
Dr Faruqi said welfare issues such as live-export and greyhound racing would not have come to light without activists covertly filming and making the recordings public. She added that The Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers Party had already introduced a bill that seeks to further stamp out activists trespassing on farm.
“I will be surprised if any party that supports animal welfare in this chamber votes in support of this motion,” she said.
Mr Shoebridge said the committee was like ‘putting a shooter in charge of the rabbit hutch’.
I never thought that I’d see the AJP voting with Shooters, the Coalition and Labor to create a conservative-dominated inquiry into Ag Gag laws. But it’s happening right now in the #nswpol Parliament. It’s being chaired by a Shooter. Unbelievable really.— David Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeMLC) May 17, 2018
“This is not a fair inquiry,” he said. “It will have no legitimacy.”
Fears around ‘ag-gag’ legislation also plagued the 2015 Biosecurity Bill debate in NSW, with Mr Pearson accusing the laws of targeting animal rights activists and gagging employees, whistleblowers and the media from making evidence of animal cruelty public.