The Tasmanian Government’s proposed new arson laws, though well intentioned, could criminalise farmers should legitimate burn-offs get out of control, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association said today.

TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said that, paradoxically, the Government had itself not anticipated the consequences of its actions because, once again, it had not consulted those whom its law would most affect.

“In the current climate, we all have a responsibility to reduce the hazard of bushfires. That onus falls on famers and other landholders more than anybody else and they accept it,” Ms Davis said.

“However, by dictating that even a permitted fire that gets out of control will amount to criminal arson, the government will put farmers at risk of being classified as arsonists if a permitted control burn accidentally gets away from them. They would then face the potential of 21 years in jail and, just as importantly, their insurance companies will not cover them once their actions are deemed to be criminal.

“That amounts to a form of double jeopardy.

“The Government has not thought this through,” Ms Davis said. “There are already civil remedies for the damage a permitted fire might cause if it gets out of control. Criminalising farmers going about their lawful business is simply not acceptable.

“The government should pull the proposed legislation and ensure that, when it comes forward again, the offence of arson is clearly limited to lighting fires with malicious intent,” she said.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive Jan Davis