The Victorian Farmers Federation and the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria have welcomed news that animal activism group Aussie Farms has had its charity status revoked by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
VFF president David Jochinke said common sense had prevailed and the commission had recognised that inciting illegal activity, such as invading farms in the dead of night, was not the actions of a genuine charity.
“Animal activists have been able to openly flout Australian charity laws by structuring their business operations to take advantage of tax concessions and rebates,” Mr Jochinke said.
“This is a great step forward, but there is still a lot more work to be done to ensure farming families and employees can feel safe at home and in the workplace.
Mr Jochinke said “currently, Victoria’s weak trespass laws” did nothing to deter individuals or businesses that invade farms, disrupt businesses and steal livestock.
“As a priority, the Victorian Parliament needs to pass laws that send a strong message to animal activists: if you trespass onto farms, you will be prosecuted,” he said.
As a part of the Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture, the VFF and UDV have called for trespass penalties to be strengthened to $220 000 for individuals and $400 000 for organisations, and $1000 on-the-spot fines.
UDV president Paul Mumford said when the Aussie Farms map was launched earlier this year, farmers across the nation were shocked and angered by the attempt to incite activists to invade farms.
“Our members asked us to join the push to remove Aussie Farms’ charity status. After working behind the scenes, in co-ordination with other agricultural bodies, we are grateful to the ACNC for their strong stance against abuse of the charity status,” Mr Mumford said.
“This is a great win for grassroots advocacy and shows the importance of the agricultural industry uniting in the face of such blatant attacks.”
ACNC commissioner Gary John said charities must stick to their purpose under charity laws.
“Revocation of charity status is the most serious action the ACNC can take,” Mr John said.
The revocation takes away the organisation’s Commonwealth charity tax concessions, including income tax exemption, fringe benefits tax rebates and goods and services tax concessions.
The findings from the investigation will remain private because of secrecy provisions in the ACNC Act.
Aussie Farms said the ACNC failed to conduct the investigation independent from external influence due to notifying the animal agriculture industry of its decision in advance.
The group said appealing through the ACNC would be futile and would call for an external review into ACNC’s role.