In April 2022, a lengthy piece of text claiming that officials in the Australian state of Victoria were pushing legislation that would ban people from growing food circulated on conspiratorial websites, which presented the alleged bill as a nefarious plot to starve Australian citizens. The headline of an article on XYZ.Net.au, for example, read: "Psychopath Daniel Andrews (Premier of Victoria) Plans To STARVE Victorians."
On social media, the claim was boiled down to digestible memes and brief tweets, including the following:
The claim was not true, however.
This rumor centered on a genuine proposal by Victorian lawmakers called the Agriculture Legislation Amendment Bill 2022. That bill — which had bipartisan support, as of this writing — dealt with invasive species and other potential threats to Australia's agriculture industry. In a fact sheet about the bill, the state government explained its purpose and addressed the false claim that the legislation would prohibit Australians from growing their own food:
This Bill aims to help safeguard food security, food safety and access to export markets which are vital for Victoria’s economy.
Claim: The State Government is passing a bill now which means you won't be allowed to grow your own food, they can forcibly come in and rip it all out.
* The amendments will help safeguard food security, food safety and access to export markets. For example, by preventing contamination of food from pesticides.
* The amendments will not result in the destruction of crops, nor will they prevent people growing their own food.
* Information circulating online misinterprets and misrepresents amendments in the Agriculture Legislation Amendment Bill.
Professor Paul Martin, director of the Australian Centre for Agriculture and Law, told AAP FactCheck:
What the legislation does do is provide a way of dealing with potential biodiversity issues and invasive species problems that have emerged or could emerge. Some of these are serious, real threats, and laws are being tightened in response, to make existing controls easier to enforce."
Reuters spoke to a Victoria Government spokesperson, who also said of the bill: "No one will be prevented from growing their own food as part of these changes."
[The spokesperson] added that the bill was designed to support the agriculture sector, as well as safeguard food security, food safety and access to export markets.
Professor Michael Blakeney, from the University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture (here), said he “couldn’t find anything” within the bill that “prevents people cultivating food crops on their own properties."
The claim that Australian lawmakers were considering the purported food-growing ban was shared in articles that also pushed other debunked conspiracy theories. The article on XYZ.Net.Au, for example, falsely claimed that there had been an unusual amount of fires at food processing plants this year and that the U.S. government was paying people to destroy crops.
While the rumor about Australian legislation gained traction on social media, it reached a larger audience thanks to podcast host Joe Rogan. In an episode that aired in mid-May 2022, he talked about the claim like Australian officials really were pushing a policy package that would prohibit people from growing their own food. Then, another person on mic presumably looked up online whether any reputable news outlets had reported on the alleged initiative and came up empty. In other words, the conspiratorial podcast was once again spreading misinformation.
It's important to note that this claim was part of a baseless conspiracy theory that the government (either Australia's or the United States' or the "New World Order") was purposefully creating a food shortage in order to starve people so that a nefarious group of elites could enslave them. These conspiracy theories are often connected to white supremacist ideals as they pit "regular" Australian farmers attempting to grow their own food against "others" who are competing for the food supply.
The XYZ article, for example, ended like this: "We’ll also need to defend our food supply, and a network of solid friends to help us. Time to tribe up, White man."