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Labor backflips on drone law review

The Nationals WA have criticised the McGowan Labor Government for retreating from a previous commitment to review drone legislation in Western Australia.

Agricultural spokesperson Colin de Grussa raised the issue of drone laws during Question Time this week in response to concerns around the use of drones to support criminal activities in regional areas, and recent incidents of drone harassment in Perth.

“There is great concern in regional areas about the use of drones by animal activists to conduct clandestine surveillance on agricultural properties, with activists recording footage from afar and altering footage to suit their own agendas,” Mr de Grussa said.

“Farmers are also concerned around the ability of drones to be used to aid in stock or equipment theft, or the use of drones to stir up and scare stock.”

Mr de Grussa said the lack of adequate legislation was further highlighted by a “disturbing” situation in Dianella last month, where a rogue drone operator allegedly harassed and intimidated residents with impunity.

“This drone operator has allegedly filmed through people’s windows, placed photos of people online and followed women as they walked down their driveways,” he said.

“It is extremely disturbing behaviour but the State Government has shrugged it off and claimed it’s a matter for Canberra to solve.”

Mr de Grussa said concerning incidents such as these showed there was a need for WA to review drone legislation on its own terms, as other states had done.

“NSW didn’t wait for the Federal Government to get its act together,” he said. “They conducted a review last year aimed at protecting landowners from unauthorised filming or surveillance, and there is clear scope for WA to do something similar.”

Mr de Grussa said he was concerned the Police Minister had failed to raise the issue with the Commonwealth.

“I asked the Minister this week if she had raised the issue with the responsible Federal Minister, and I received just a single word in response: ‘No’,” he said.

“This lack of action shows the State Government does not take the issue seriously and has failed in its duty to protect WA residents from illegal drone use.”

In February Mr de Grussa called for a review of drone laws in Parliament, which was supported at the time by the State Minister for Agriculture.

“It appears Labor has now abandoned their commitment to investigate this issue. In doing so, they have sent a message to activists and criminals that drone harassment will continue to be tolerated,” he said.