‘Poaching’ not a quaint past time: Stock theft penalty too soft

17 May 2024

The somewhat quaint term "poaching" is no longer appropriate in describing the illegal killing and theft of livestock and wildlife in rural Tasmania. Once thought to be a practice where a person fallen on hard times was putting food on the family table, it is now more often seasoned criminals lining their pockets with cash from their ill-gotten gains.

The list is not exhaustive but in Tasmania, between 2017 and 2020, there were five convictions for armed trespass, recorded as either "Trespass with a firearm" or "Trespass on land in possession of a firearm". The penalties handed down for these convictions ranged from $300 to $582. In one case the penalty was Firearm forfeiture and undertaking to be of good behaviour for 12 months, and no conviction was recorded.

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TasFarmers considers that the penalties being handed down for armed trespass are grossly insufficient. They do not act as a deterrent and they do not reflect the serious nature of the offence which puts lives, property, and livestock at significant risk. Armed trespass is not tolerated in urban areas and equally should not be tolerated in rural areas.

While Park rangers, Police and landholders attempt to manage the situation with limited resources, they are let down by inadequate penalties from the judiciary. It is time that the State Government take steps to correct this dangerous situation with greater and targeted penalties.

The real broader social issue for the federal government here is the cost-of-living catastrophe wrought on the silent majority, with their ineffective economic policies, which have push hard-working Aussie families to the brink.

As the government tinkers in this budget around the edge of the problem to support the most at-risk and growing impoverished, market demand for stolen meat only increases.

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The government must pinpoint alternative economic strategies to tackle inflation and cut spending in areas where the issue cannot be effectively resolved.

The severity of this catastrophe is evident in the fact that 75% of Australians are earning below the average wage. It is critical the Reserve Bank board is brought to heal on interest rates, and supermarkets on price gouging.

Unfortunately, in what ideally should be a free market, even the average homeowner is even considering the unmanageable, which is to impose price controls on supermarkets and offer direct subsidies to consumers, a solution somewhat reminiscent of a soviet state.

It has now become essential for governments to rein in the profit margins of supermarkets. If supermarkets are allowed to maintain their monopolistic practices unchecked, then breaking up these monopolies might be the only way to restore a fair and competitive market landscape.

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As the leading advocacy group in Tasmania and the only one that focuses exclusively on farming and the rural sector, the future of Tasmanian agriculture is our focus.

Join TasFarmers today for a greater future.

Contact our Membership Engagement Officer, Jacqueline Shipton