Scott Morrison
Australia's Immigration Minister Scott Morrison speaks during an interview with Reuters in Phnom Penh September 26, 2014. Reuters/Samrang Pring

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has proposed a new legislation that would see people who tamper with food spend up to 15 years in prison. He said on Wednesday that he created a new offence covering those who engage in hoaxes or contaminate food to hurt people, referring to the recent strawberry and fruit contamination scares that are plaguing the country.

Morrison had strong words for those who sabotage produce products from supermarkets. He said he would want to see the culprits spending up to 10 years in prison, calling their behaviour “reckless.”

“Any idiot who thinks they can go out into a shopping centre and start sticking pins in fruits and thinks this is some sort of laugh or put something on Facebook which is a hoax, that sort of behaviour is reckless and, under the provisions that we will be seeking to introduce swiftly. That type of behaviour would carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison,” he said.

“It is not a joke; it is not funny. You are putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk. And you are scaring children and you are a coward and you are a grub.”

He said he wanted the law to pass parliament by Thursday evening. He added that he would expect to receive the votes of all parties. “I will be very surprised if we don’t receive [support], I’m sure we would.”

And it looks like he would get it. Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said Labor would work with them on supporting farmers and stopping food contamination.

“We haven’t been briefed on today’s announcement, but on the face of it, it looks reasonable and we are glad the Government has listened to Labor’s calls for more support.”

Relief for farmers and reward for information

The Federal Government has earlier unveiled a $1 million relief package for strawberry farmers as the industry fears succumbing to the fruit contamination crisis. The announcement followed just days after West Australian farmers have been forced to dump their produce.

On Tuesday, the Queensland Government announced that it would said it would also spend $1 million to assist local farmers and promote their strawberries. It would also offer $100,000 to anyone with information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the strawberry contamination.

The West Australian Government has followed suit, offering $100,000 reward to anyone with information as well.