15th February 2011
Here we are in February, many of us with the wettest twelve months in memory behind us. Our deepest sympathy goes out to all those displaced by flood waters and cyclones and those industries suffering substantial damage (and that’s most).
We are reminded once again that this country was formed by drought, floods, and wind and water erosion.
On a trip to WA recently we called on Matt and Janet Thompson. They are still in residence on their facility behind locked gates in as good spirits as can be expected under the circumstances. Their court challenge is their last chance. We also met the very impressive young Narrogin businessman and his wife who are in charge of the Thompson children’s trust fund. We would like to thank Matt and Janet for a wonderful visit.
WA has two Green senators so green causes are much more up front than they are here and there is no doubt the DEC is widely despised in the rural community. When we finally get a change in government in Qld we are going to have the same difficulties with green activists entrenched in the bureaucracy.
The contrast of WA’s record low rainfall in the wheat belt, and bushfires on the coast, to Qld’s record high rainfall with destructive cyclones couldn’t be more stark.
The latest assault on property rights appears to be in SA where the minister is proposing metering and taxing the use of rain water for stock and domestic purposes. This quite justifiably has generated spontaneous outrage with 500 hostile hits on the internet in a few days.
The government seeks to control and tax access to water stored in infrastructures they don’t own, which is subject to seepage and evaporation with the possibility of destructive oversupply as experienced recently in Qld. The whole proposition is preposterous.
We have been coordinating with Aussie helpers for some time helping families through trauma on rural properties. John O’Loughlin has been very helpful and has asked us to pass on any cases of people in stressful circumstances, for instance the recent floods and cyclone.
For more information on the work they do: http://www.aussiehelpers.org.au/
Just before Christmas we attracted unwarranted criticism from a coalition politician. I have no idea what sparked this attack but we were given space in the Christmas edition of Qld Country Life to answer. He can attack us, giving gratuitous advice and we will defend ourselves, but his problem is really with his constituents and fellow shadow ministers. Catastrophic natural events always favour incumbent politicians and Anna Bligh’s profile has lifted, making the opposition’s task that much more difficult without scoring own goals.
We have obtained transcript of the Draper case (land clearing, case heard last year) and Joanne Rea and our barrister are now giving it urgent attention.
On Tuesday I attended the Rockhampton court where a land clearing charge was heard. The landowner did not attend, proffering to the court an emailed picture of his vehicle hopelessly bogged on his entrance road that morning. The court, citing the fact he had stated that he had supplied all the material he intended in his own defence and had not asked for an adjournment, proceeded in his absence. The landowner refused any assistance PRA offered and used the Constitutional Defence, used unsuccessfully in court at least 15 times previously. The judge spent five minutes citing many of the unsuccessful precedences and disposed of that defence forthwith. The prosecution then spent two and a half hours, without any defence cross-examination, outlining their case. It was heartening from PRA’s point of view that on a couple of occasions the prosecution virtually acknowledged our past criticisms. They made much of Satellite Imagery Sensing, declaring it a new science and their innovative practitioner with five years experience gave the court a power point presentation. This included infra-red signatures of the paddock in question for every year this century but was unable to explain evident changes in cover two years before the alleged offence. We were then addressed by an expert from the herbarium who still has the problem of not being able to prove beyond reasonable doubt ground cover signatures and relies heavily on the investigating officer’s ground-truthing on the day of inspection. Judgment in this case has been reserved.
In NSW the prosecution pulled out of a case charging the Hudson family in the Gwyder wetlands area with habitat destruction after the judge insisted that the prosecution expert witnesses appear in person and submit to cross-examination by barrister Peter King. The penalty the Hudsons faced for allegedly destroying a rookery included seven year’s jail. The prosecution’s case collapsed under cross examination and they pulled out at the last minute, proving once again that, as in Qld, governments are not model litigants. The landmark Spencer case in the High Court will continue this week. This is the culmination of twelve months of agitation and the successful Senate Inquiry. PRA has been following this case all the way. Peter Spencer has been fighting for justice for years. NFF has labelled the case “a perfect scam” and it is to be hoped that under new leadership, they follow through with real assistance.
As a result of pressure from the graziers affected and a great deal of effort by Peter Anderson and his team, the Environmental Risk Management Plans in the Burdekin catchment have been simplified and made much more user friendly. There is a proposal now is to enlist voluntary participation in the rest of the reef catchment into a Reef Guardian Program. Peter suggests we hold action on this program until we can investigate it. Industry owned initiatives are to be preferred.
A recent graduate from Oxford University is proposing to make a documentary on the way Wild Rivers declarations in the north have affected indigenous and other economic development. He has asked us to participate, an offer we will accept.
Some of you have had trouble playing the CD of Ashley McKay’s speech at our Annual Conference. Firstly, it is a CD and some people have been able to play it in a CD player.
We are working on some other ideas to get this important speech to you.
If you can see your way clear under the present extenuating circumstances please keep the subscriptions and donations coming in (many thanks to those who have) as there are new initiatives to be considered. We can expect new assaults on our property rights as the tried and tested formula to get green preferences in used once again as the next state election approaches.
Something needs to be done to limit the assault on property rights by the LNG industry.
Ron Bahnisch, Chairman
Property Rights Australia
STAND YOUR GROUND