Article by: Hari Yellina
Social media users are propagating claims that a planned bill will restrict Victorians from growing their own food. The viral allegation has spread throughout Australia (examples here and here), as well as portions of Europe such as Estonia, Poland, Slovenia, and Lithuania. The assertion is based on Victoria’s Agriculture Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, which proposes to change 11 separate agricultural legislation in order to address issues such as biodiversity, chemical use, veterinary practise, and food safety. There is bipartisan support for the bill. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is behind the Bill that will prevent people from growing food in their own backyards, which has been re-posted by a number of conspiracy blogs and Facebook pages.
It goes on to call the law “an innocent-sounding bill to parliament that is meant to kill any crops people try to plant in their backyard during a period of food scarcity.” According to other comments, the measure “means you won’t be able to cultivate your own food.” The assertion is false. There is nothing in the Bill that prevents Victorians from producing their own food, according to an expert who told AAP FactCheck that the Act is intended to address potential biodiversity issues. Many of the social media posts highlight some of the Bill’s proposed amendments, notably those relating to government inspections, warrants, and penalties allege that these will result in a ban on marijuana cultivation.
However, according to Professor Paul Martin of the Australian Centre for Agriculture and Law, there is nothing in the Bill that prohibits individuals from growing food. “What the legislation does is create a mechanism for dealing with emerging or potential biodiversity challenges and invasive species problems.” In response, regulations are being tightened to make existing controls easier to enforce,” he stated in an email. According to Prof Martin, all laws have the potential for abuse. “Could I argue that the conspiracy theorists are completely wrong, and that these laws cannot be abused?” No, because every policing power has the potential to be exploited.
Is it, however, going to happen? Citizens’ rights are generally protected by Australian courts, which fight attempts by government authorities to abuse legal authority. As a result, I do not believe that the laws will be utilised to outlaw domestic vegetable or fruit production (unless the plants posed a genuine biodiversity risk). “I believe that abusing legal authority in this way would be politically untenable, if nothing else.” The allegation was false, according to Victoria’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions. “The adjustments will not result in crop destruction or restrict individuals from growing their own food – any claim to the contrary is untrue and misrepresents proposed improvements in the bill,” said the bill’s author.
In a fact brief on the Bill, the state government addressed the claim as well. The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) published a statement claiming that the different accusations made regarding the Bill were false. “The Agriculture Amendment Bill 2022 is a complicated and varied bill that attempts to alter 11 different Acts. The VFF is in favour of a number of initiatives, including increased biosecurity enforcement. “Misinformation regarding the Bill claims that approved officials will be able to search without a warrant, without landowner approval, and without the need to show identification.” The VFF considers that this misrepresents and misinterprets the Bill’s changes.”