15th September 2014
It gives me no pleasure to write my very first newsletter as Chairman of Property Rights Australia with the subject matter being the Queensland Government sell out of rural property owners and their property rights with the passing of the Mineral & Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Act complete with amendments at 4 minutes to midnight Tuesday night September 9th.
The lead up consultation was pretence and the parliamentary committee report a farce on a Bill that was so bad that it had the potential without considered and responsible modification to be second only to the notorious vegetation management act of the previous government. But then the last minute amendments presented in block with no scrutiny realistically possible, rammed through on party lines delivered a disastrous outcome that deserves equal notoriety of anything landowners suffered under the Beattie/ Bligh era.
Across the board in submission and at the hearings rural organisations and individual landowners outlined their grave concerns about the Bill and offered constructive suggestions to how improvements could be made. The parliamentary committee chairman, the LNP member for Lockyer, Ian Rickuss failed to make recommendations which took account of these serious concerns. Numerous submitters and witnesses at public hearings gave personal accounts of the difficulty of securing a satisfactory Conduct and Compensation Agreement (CCA) and the gross imbalance of power. Mr. Rickuss seems to think they were all just whinging. In the debate on Tuesday night Mr. Rickuss displaying his insensitivity to the submissions made said:
“What I can say about the conduct and compensation agreements for the landholders is that some of the landholders have to grab these and take control of the agenda. This is what it is about. If they sit down and think about what they have to do with these conduct and compensation agreements and get the appropriate advice, these will be a real win-win for the landholders. I think they will also be a win for mining companies too, because it will be a rock solid agreement. People will all know where they stand and there will be certainty about it. Some of the landholders have to start controlling the agenda. I have plenty of farming mates, and at times they are too kind hearted. They are not all loudmouths like some of these blokes up the back. They have to start controlling the agenda so that when they do these conduct and compensation agreements they get what they want. I ask landholders to put in a lot of effort into these things.”
Mr. Rickuss is urging landholders to get the appropriate advice and yet the Government has left in a primitive clause in this Act which was meant to “modernise” the resources Acts where landowners can “opt out” of conduct and compensation agreements. This will catch out many landowners who loose their ability to access the Land Court and is binding on future title holders. We urge members to get legal advice and not to agree to this option as you lose the ability to call on the umpire, the Land Court, which does its best to be fair.
One would wonder who the minister, Andrew Cripps, believes is appropriate to give advice as he repeatedly slandered legal experts experienced in representing landowners who at their own expense wrote submissions and gave evidence at the hearings. Under parliamentary privilege Minister Cripps stated that certain legal firms were scaremongering lawyers; legal profession with vested interests; encouraging conflict; attracting and/or protecting their business; whose main interest is to generate community concern and discontent and were irresponsible.
PRA believes that it is the Minister that has been highly irresponsible. Not only are these allegations patronising and insulting but plainly untrue. It is negligent behaviour for the Minister and the Government to discourage landowners to trust experienced legal professionals who are essential to protect landowner rights in negotiations; it is also negligent behaviour when legislation smashes landowner’s rights with a wrecking ball and unmercifully throws landowners to the wolves.
The Minister has been misleading in his statements not only before the Bill was passed but in defending it afterwards. Most notable was throughout the debate stating clearly that even though the Bill removes objection rights to small mines that objections can still be made on large mines. In his speech introducing the Bill for its second reading Andrew Cripps did foreshadow the later introduction of further amendments but any informed person would have thought what he was talking about was quite different to what he ultimately introduced. Despite his earlier assurances amongst the amendments was one that effectively has removed the right to object to a large mine as the Coordinator General’s conditions will be considered to address the environmental concerns and therefore almost no one will have the right to object to the Environmental Authority.
For the government to talk about small mines as low impact mines is nonsense. There are large mines that affect a large number of people, even entire communities right down to small mines that affect a single landowner. Some of these small mines can drive a single landowner round the bend. It is wrong to remove landowner protections just because a mine is small in size.
Restricted areas have been severely curtailed and will not exist for most infrastructure unless it is negotiated in a CCA. Again the minister has been misleading on this subject talking about landowners being left with isolated infrastructure; a Swiss chess affect, he called it. The reduction of restricted areas is of benefit to the resource company rather than the landowner who not only loses protection over important essential infrastructure on their land and privacy around their houses but also loses a very real bargaining chip for the landowner during negotiations.
The PRA board urges members and any concerned citizen to contact their local member of parliament to express their displeasure of landowner’s rights being seriously eroded. Also members can play a part by writing letters to the editor and voicing their concerns at whatever appropriate forum that is available.
Dale Stiller, Chairman
Property Rights Australia
Phone: 07 49213430
Fax: 07 49213870
STAND YOUR GROUND