Interview with Oliver Peterson, 6PR Perth

19 November 2019

OLIVER PETERSON: The Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission has stripped Aussie Farms of its charitable status. Aussie Farms is not as the name suggests, it is in fact the activist group that published, earlier this year the locations and names of various farms and their families right across the country.

For analysis, David Littleproud is the former Agriculture Minister. He is the Water Minister. Minister, g'day

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Good to be with you, Oli.

OLIVER PETERSON: What do you make of the fact that Aussie Farms has been stripped of its charitable status?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, candidly I'm delighted. When all this came to light I wrote to the Charities Commission to ask them to strip them of their charity status. I don't believe any Australian would rightly believe that what their actions indicate is that of a normal charity in this country. But proudly, what Christian Porter as the Attorney-General - and I also did when I was Ag Minister - was to create new laws to go after organisations like Aussie Farms who provided the information for those that trespassed on innocent farming families. So we also increased the penalty for $2.1 million, plus jail terms up to five years for anyone that provides information where a wilful act of trespass takes place. So, the Federal Government acted swiftly. Christian Porter as the Attorney-General put in place these laws straight away, and now I'm glad to see the Charities Commission has taken away their charitable status. So the tax-deductibility of anyone that wants to hand these people a quid, is taken away. And that's the right thing. That's what any normal Australian would see is the right thing to do.

OLIVER PETERSON: And I couldn't agree with you more. This attack map though, it's still live, it's still on their website. I just had a look at it, Minister, before you and I had a chat this afternoon and they're still publishing it. They're still letting everybody know where the farms obviously are in our country.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, it's absolutely abhorrent, and I mean, this is where the Information Commissioner can now work with the laws that have been put in place to assist the Information Commissioner to make these determinations. The reality is, I get there's people out there that don't agree with me and have different philosophical views, and I get people angry these days, we've all got to have a cause. But there's a respectful way in which to prosecute your own cause. And to impinge on the rights of innocent Australian farming families who are doing lawful things of producing the best food and fibre in the world in a sustainable way, is not the right way to do it and this is where common sense and a bit of respect needs to come in. And I'd just say to the Information Commissioner or anyone else, if these people are defrauding the laws, they need to be held to account. That's why Parliament's put in place laws. We expect them to be upheld.

OLIVER PETERSON: Yeah. And you expect that people who are going about their daily business and their families are living on their farms anywhere across our great country, just given the respect that you and I have, Minister, to go to bed and sleep in our own homes every single night.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Oh, look, let me tell you, some of these attacks happened in my own electorate. And I rang a lot of these families - and they are families where children live, where children reside, and they were traumatised. And in fact, some of the families nearby are living in anxiety for the fact that these parasites might come down their road and start attacking them. I mean, if you I and a hundred of our best mates, stormed a house in Perth this afternoon, there'd be police there and we'd been in cuffs in the clink within 30 minutes, and so we should be. The same should be afforded to those people living in regional rural Australia doing lawful things, producing food and fibre. And this is where states need to step up and actually complement what we're doing in going after the people who provide the information, and going after the ones that then use that information to go and trespass. It's as simple as that. The rights of regional Australians are just as important as anyone in metropolitan Australia.

OLIVER PETERSON: And speaking of states stepping up, we've got a situation here where the WA Attorney-General John Quigley has told me over and over again that beefing up the trespass laws will be a priority of the government in coming before Cabinet. But we've heard diddly-squat this year, Minister. Are you disappointed by that?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, sadly, they're not the only state. And unfortunately there's a lot of talk by our state governments, and particularly in WA where it's an issue as well. These guys just need to step up and prove it with actions. Time for talks over. We went straight to the parliament, and in fact, Christian Porter created these laws overnight to make sure that we protected farmers from our perspective under the communications. It was then up to the states to compliment that to go after the ones that do the trespassing; that's their remit. That's what they get elected to do. You know what, the reality is time’s up. I mean, they’ve just got to follow through with this otherwise we’re just going to see innocent Australians unfairly targeted by extremists who want to push their own agenda, and in a way that's unrestrained and disrespectful.

OLIVER PETERSON: Yeah, this Aussie Farms map, there's a pretty simple solution here from those behind it - they could just delete it.

One other for you though, Minister. We have a link here at the moment between Chris Delforce who heads up the Aussie Farms website, and his mother who is any employee, Julie Delforce, of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade working in the agriculture development food security section. Now, she has been stood down at the moment following an external investigation into potential links to those activist websites. Would that disturb you, Minister, if there is some correlation here between Chris Delforce and his mother being an employee of the Australian Government working for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, look, and I think that answers the question, the fact that there's an investigation and the person in question has been stood down while that investigation takes place. We live in a fair country where everyone is afforded the opportunity of innocence until proven guilty. The reality is, I think, the Minister- the Foreign Affairs Minister has taken appropriate action, and I think it's appropriate that we allow that to take place, and obviously I'll be watching very carefully to see the outcomes of that investigation. But obviously, you have to afford everybody the presumption of innocence initially, but I would be watching very carefully to see what happens with that with that investigation.

OLIVER PETERSON: Sure. But would you expect those who are working, particularly within that section of DFAT, in agriculture development of food security, that they would be working to support the industry as opposed to- potentially here, anyway, being linked to some sort of website that he's trying to attack the industry?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, I think they would raise some very, very serious questions about the integrity of that if that was to be proven. And I think that's where this investigation needs to be allowed to get to. And then the Minister now then needs to be given the opportunity to make that determination, but it would raise very serious questions in my mind.

OLIVER PETERSON: David Littleproud, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Great to be with you, mate.