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Proposed legislation allowing unions unannounced access to farms may jeopardise farmer safety and biosecurity

Mr. Littleproud expressed alarm at proposed changes, citing privacy concerns, safety risks for farmers, and potential animal welfare issues. The Fair Work Bill grants unions more access, raising worries about unintended consequences.

By news@gippsland - 5th February 2024 - Back to News

Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud said new Closing the Loopholes legislation could put farmer safety and biosecurity at risk by giving unions the right to enter farms unannounced. Mr Littleproud said he was alarmed at the potential changes, which not only intruded on privacy and the personal safety of farmers, but also had animal welfare implications.

'New Closing Loopholes legislation is to be introduced to Parliament this week. It gives unions the right to enter farms unannounced and The Nationals will not be supporting it,' says Mr Littleproud

'New Closing Loopholes legislation is to be introduced to Parliament this week. It gives unions the right to enter farms unannounced and The Nationals will not be supporting it,' says Mr Littleproud

Fair work legislation rights

It comes as the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes No. 2) Bill 2023 comes up for debate in the Senate this week in Parliament. The second tranche of the Bill grants unions more entry rights into workplaces including farms.

Mr Littleproud said The Nationals would not be able to support legislation which emboldened unions with additional power to talk to workers and conduct snap inspections of pay records or properties without notice. "These changes would give unions enhanced rights to enter farms unannounced, which is mind boggling and defies common sense."

"The farm is often the family home for many Australians. This is about safety and privacy, as well as animal welfare and biosecurity risk. Any unintended consequences leading to an outbreak of a disease will cause lower food supply and higher food prices - this is the last thing Australian families need in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis," Mr Littleproud said.

Concerns about privacy

Organic poultry farmer Sarah Sterns, who has 6000 chickens on her Kilkivan-based farm, said her smaller, family farm was very much also a private property. "We live and work on the same premise so that would be a huge risk to our privacy."

"I am not comfortable with the idea at all. Because we are organic and free range, we cannot afford to have people on our farm, who are unfamiliar with the risk of viruses spreading. Being organic, we can't use antibiotics or drugs so it would have an enormous impact if that happened, it would wipe out the farm," Sarah said.

Employment status changes

Mr Littleproud added Labor also needs to address the subjectivity and ambiguity around their new definition of 'casual' in their proposed legislation, which was creating too much risk for farmers. "The changes mean that an employee will only be 'casual' if there's no 'firm advanced commitment to continuing and indefinite work', founded on mutual understanding, which is difficult when it comes to agriculture."

"A casual employee will also have the right to convert to permanent employment after six months of employment, if the employee believes their status no longer meets the definition of 'casual'. In other words, the casual employee, not the employer, gets to choose their own employment status. Labor is creating a mess of this and making it hard for farmers, but it's families who will pay for it at the checkout," Mr Littleproud said.

Pictures from Victorian Farmers Federation Facebook page.


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