Over the past few days, we have seen a very distressing series of events unfold relating to tampering with strawberries, particularly out of Queensland. This is a shocking and cowardly thing to do.
The Liberal-National Government is acting to increase the penalties on the cowards who commit these crimes.
Our priorities are to keep Australians safe and support the farmers whose livelihoods have been put at risk.
We are announcing:
$1 million to make more food safety officials urgently available to increase detection, fast track recalls and assist the strawberry industry to rebuild confidence.
An increase to the penalty for existing offences relating to the contamination of goods. These offences currently carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Given the seriousness of the offences, this penalty is not high enough. The changes we are making elevate the offence, in terms of penalties, from one similar to forgery or theft of Commonwealth property (which carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison), to one akin to possession of child pornography or funding a terrorist organisation (which attract penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment).
New offences of being reckless as to whether this type of conduct will cause harm, which will carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
For the most serious cases that have national security implications, we will amend the Commonwealth sabotage offences to ensure that sabotage of Australia’s food supply is captured by the sabotage offences. The penalties range between 7 and 25 years imprisonment.
The Government will introduce its new criminal legislation tomorrow.
These actions reflect the seriousness with which the Government views the current threats against Australian industry and, in particular, the livelihoods of growers, communities, towns and whole regions.
This Government remains committed to working closely with industry and state and territory law enforcement agencies to ensure that we protect Australian consumers and protect our farmers.
Families need to have the assurance that the Australian produce they are buying is safe for their kids.