Monday, 25 June 2018

Peter Spencer's background story Part 3 of 3

In January 2011, Peter Spencer became aware of an interesting extract from the Queensland Government Hansard which seems to show proof of collusion between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments to use uncleared land for the Kyoto Protocol requirement.
2011 was a very promising year for Mr Spencer. He was in court several times and turned up many documents which seemed to prove that an agreement existed between the Commonwealth and the State. Access to Cabinet documents was approved by Judge Emmett with access to be granted by State and Federal governments progressively to 2nd September, 2011.
The latter part of 2011 and into 2012 was spent haggling over documents which were required to be disclosed. Many of the 3500 Commonwealth documents were redacted or refused on the grounds that they had “Cabinet privilege”.

On 26th November, 2012 three High Court judges struck down Mr. Spencer’s access to Cabinet documents which were needed to show that state and federal governments colluded to introduce land clearing legislation to lock up carbon on Australian farms so it could meet carbon targets under the Kyoto protocol without compensation.
For four years, the approach taken by the Australian Government Solicitor (for the Commonwealth) had been to deny the existence of any documents showing the existence of informal agreements between the Commonwealth and the Sates (relating to sequestration of carbon and land use change laws and measures) before and after the Kyoto meeting of the UNFCCC in 1997.
In May 2013, still in discovery hearings with Justice Cowdroy ruling that if relevant documents can be found they must be handed over. On 30th May 2013 Mr. Spencer had a productive day in court before Justice Cowdroy.
Barrister Peter King started by giving a detailed chronological account of signed international treaties, intergovernmental agreements, commonwealth/state legislation, commonwealth/state agreements and commonwealth/state committees starting with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 and followed on citing in detail many High Court authorities with regards to the merits of the case.
Justice Cowdroy ordered that various State and Commonwealth documents be produced within eight weeks with the court able to reconvene with three days’ notice in the event that this order not be honoured.
24th November, 2014 was the start of the major hearing in the Federal Court to determine if there was a clear direction to the States by the Commonwealth.
In spite of the considerable evidence showing dialogue between the Commonwealth and the States about Carbon emissions, the Judge managed to find that an informal arrangement between the states and the Commonwealth was not proven.
Justice Mortimer handed down judgement in July 2015, rejecting Peter Spencer’s claims against the NSW and the Commonwealth Governments
To read more, this web page documents this major court case - Peter Spencer verses The Commonwealth.

Mr Spencer appealed, with a 3 day hearing starting on February 27 2017 before a Full Court of three judges of the Federal Court. Eventually decision was published on 15 February 2018 to the negative.

But Peter Spencer was not giving up, on March 20 2018 it was announced on the Support Peter Spencer & Australian Farmers Facebook page that he is taking his case all the way back to the highest court in the land - The High Court. Read more [here]

The action through the various courts beginning in 2005, looks like it has come to an end on June 21, 2018 when Peter Spencer was informed that  the application for special leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia was refused with costs. 

Further reading:
'The Death of Property Rights' by Alan Moran
No just terms on 'acquisition' with quotes from Murdoch University law lecturer Lorraine Finlay. 

Peter Spencer's background story Part 1 of 3

Peter Spencer's background story Part 2 of 3

Peter Spencer's background story Part 2 of 3

“In recent decades, thousands of farms have become economically marginal and have gone out of business. What is not widely known is that this “marginality” has often been the result not of market forces but of government regulation. In particular, governments in pursuit of urban green votes have imposed a vast range of devastating new costs on farmers”
Peter Spencer wrote this in 2006 after he commenced legal action in 2005 for just compensation, unable to re-clear his farm to bring it back into productivity.
On 22 November, 2009 after reportedly 200 court events and the threat of bank foreclosure on his property, Peter climbed up a wind-monitoring tower on his property (later dubbed “The Tower of Hope) and commenced a hunger strike.

Chris Berg’s article, ‘Lost property: home in deed but not in fact’ published 10th Jan 2010:
“NSW farmer Peter Spencer is coming up to the 50th day of his hunger strike. Spencer is arguing that he should be adequately compensated for native vegetation regulations that prevent his chopping down trees on his land.
Tower of Hope, photo sourced ABC

The Government hasn't literally taken Spencer's property away. He hasn't been kicked off: he's still allowed to wander his land at his leisure. He still holds the title. But his right to use the land has definitely been taken. And if Spencer is not compensated for this regulatory taking, how is it much different from legalised theft?

Peter Spencer's hunger strike in defence of his human right to property is drastic and dangerous. We can only hope it won't be tragic. But his desperation must make us rethink our attitude towards this essential, but increasingly neglected, human right.”

Two days later Peter Spencer ended the hunger strike. His drastic action achieved 3 results. On Feb 2nd 2010 the Property Rights Rally was held on in Canberra, attended by thousands of farmers, with Alan Jones as MC. Following the February Rally came the Senate Inquiry into Native Vegetation Laws, Greenhouse Gas Abatement and Climate Change Measures. The inquiry received almost 400 submissions. The Report was completed in April 2010, and received support from both Labor and Coalition Senators, although to date it has not been acted upon. Importantly avenues to pursue the legal case were opened.

Alan Jones with Peter Spencer at the Property Rights rally, Canberra Feb 13, 2010
On Wednesday 1 September 2010, the Full Bench of the High Court held that the case Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia should not have been summarily dismissed in the Federal Court in March 2009 on the grounds that Mr Spencer had "no reasonable prospect" of successfully prosecuting the proceedings (under section 31A of the Federal Court of Australia Act).

This allowed Peter’s legal battle to continue.

Further reading
'Peter Spencer' by Justin Jefferson 

Peter Spencer's background story Part 1 of 3

Peter Spencer's background story Part 3 of 3

Peter Spencer's background story Part 1 of 3

Peter Spencer with his oldest daughter, Sarah in 1980,
after he purchased his farm at Shannon's Flat near Cooma, NSW

In 1980, Peter Spencer bought 14,000 acres in southern New South Wales (near Shannon’s flats and on the ACT border). It had previously been significantly cleared during the 1930’s and 40’s, however, regrowth had occurred so that only about 2000 acres was uncleared at the time of purchase.

Throughout the 1980's Peter was involved in tourism in the Papua New Guinea highlands. He became close to Jiga tribesman Paias Wingti, who when he regained office as Prime Minister of PNG bought Peter to Port Moresby in the mid 1990's. Peter drafted a National Law and Order policy which dealt with corruption, which later may have been the reason an attempt was made on his life and encouraged a permanent return to Australia to begin work as a farmer on Shannon's Flat.

Peter returned to find the laws had changed and he could no longer manage the regrowth to return the land to productivity. In 1997, the Federal Government under John Howard decided to meet its Kyoto Protocol commitments with shifty accounting: they offset greenhouse-gas emissions with uncleared vegetation on private property. To avoid any obligation for compensation (under the Australian constitution), legislation to prevent land clearing was used at State level. NSW Premier Bob Carr introduced the Native Vegetation Act.

Peter attempted to use his land gainfully with a trout fishing enterprise – this ran into water problems. He set up a fine wool breeding program (in association with CSIRO) – the Canberra fires of 2003 destroyed surrounding national parks, driving dogs and kangaroos onto his property, killing many of his sheep.

In 2005, Peter commenced legal action for just compensation for the loss of his property rights.

Read - 'The war on farmers' by Peter Spencer, written in 2006

Further references for the above background information:

Peter Spencer's background story Part 2 of 3

Peter Spencer's background story Part 3 of 3

Friday, 11 May 2018

Peter Spencer - Not giving up - Back to the High Court

Peter Spencer is not giving up, he is taking his case all the way back to the highest court in the land - The High Court.

[first published March 21 in a Facebook post]

Peter writes: "'I am writing this brief to bring all supporters up to date with developments surrounding the ongoing court proceedings in the struggle for property rights in Australia.

This submission will is supported by a number of documents - being the High Court of Australia (HCA) - Application for Leave to Appeal and the HCA letter of acknowledgement and instructions.

I do point out the number of applications made to the HCA for Leave to Appeal are successful at the ratio of only 6% to 8% of the applications. 92 to 94% are rejected and that means for them - there is no other appeal path.

However, previously an Application to Appeal in this matter ACD 24 2007 was granted that right in appeal from the Federal Court of Australia (FCA) and the judgement of Emmet J and the FCA full bench.
This application was successfully heard, and Judgement handed down on September 1 2010.
It was significant in that all 7 High Court Judges agreed with our application.

In this matter, as submitted, we are saying that the FCA did not adhere to the HCA of Australia’s Orders handed down in the September 2010 Judgement. Therefore, there may be a higher potential for the HCA to hear this matter.

Further, I do point out in making that statement, that is only my opinion - I have no experience in such matters.

It must be appreciated; the Respondents have the right to defend the Judgement and oppose our submissions. 

Thank you all for hanging in there for the long duration – such a saga, and thank you for your ongoing support."
Peter Spencer

The immediate requirement is that Peter Spencer needs $10,000 of donations by about 9 April to keep this Appeal on track.

Payment Methods for the Farmers “Property Rights” Fighting Fund. Please remember any payment is appreciated and needed - Property Rights is a fundamental institution of our liberty.

Method 1:
Crowd Funding Link.
Please provide an email to Leslie Hillam with details of any payment - see below.

Method 2:
Payment using “Pay Pal” facilities.
Supporters intending donations find it on Pay Pal web site.
This is the procedure –
The supporter goes to the PayPal site on the web and accesses the payment indicator advising that they want to pay money.
The page will request the code needed to identify who the payment is for. Then type in this ID –
and that is the access code to the instructions and payment will process thru to the farmers “Property Rights” fighting fund.
Please provide an email to Leslie Hillam with details of any payment - see below.

Method 3:
For direct payments to the “Tower of Hope” Bank Account.
The “Tower of Hope” Bank Account details.
National Australia Bank.
BSP No. 082 535 Account No. 48 464 3925 The account is in the name of the:
Peter Spencer - “Tower of Hope” National Australia Bank.
Please provide an email to Leslie Hillam with details of any payment - see below.

Method 4:
For direct payments to the Fighting Funds Bank Account in Dubbo
The fighting fund Bank account details are as below:
BSB No: 032646 Account No: 494974 The account is in the name of the:
“NSW Regional Survival Group Fighting Fund” at Westpac in Dubbo

Farmers Fighting Fund Administrator’s Contact details:
Lesley Hillam: e-mail address:
For any assistance with payments regarding all above methods and notice of all payments.'

Please go to the Support Peter Spencer & Australian Farmers Facebook page for a lot more information posted there last night in a 4 part series

Part 1 - advice provided by Barrister Peter King to Peter Spencer dated 28 February 2018

Part 2 - Application for Special Leave to Appeal

Part 3 - response letter from the High Court confirming Spencer's application for special leave and setting out the timeline for further submissions

Part 4 - Peter Spencer's email & links to articles published by Alan Moran and David Evans

Peter also writes:
"I intend to brief as many farmers as possible, on the judgment, the decision to attend the High Court for “Leave to Appeal” and the reasons.
Anyone who can organize meetings - 50 or so farmers and as many meetings in one general area as close together so my visit is productive.


First published at Beef Central
24 April 2018

THERE IS A BETTER WAY! – in social media capitals denotes shouting and this is what many Qld farmers and graziers  feel like doing, caught out in the midst of the rough and tumble of the latest match of vegetation management political football.  The frustration is palpable, as seen in the rural media, social commentary, in submissions to this latest Bill and to the inquiry hearings.

The people, who provide food for the table of Queenslanders, all Australians and also contribute to the economy through exports, are feeling demoralised, denigrated and misunderstood. The explanation given by the Palaszczuk government for the latest changes to the Vegetation Management Act (VMA) and the contrived debate in the lead up, is not the reality known to those who live and work with these rural landscapes. Statistics are used out of context to create alarm and an imperative to toughen up the VMA. But if government did care to listen and embark on genuine consultation and two-way communication with food producers, it would learn that at fault is not what adjustment is made to the VMA, but the very basis of the VMA is at fault. A different approach is needed – there is a better way.

At the Longreach hearing Dominic Burden, chairman of natural resource management group Desert Channels Queensland, called for an outcomes approach instead of regulatory approach.
“An outcomes based approach allows for some flexibility in achieving that goal and can produce some innovative methods for managing vegetation that cannot be achieved through prescriptive systems.”[i]

At the Cairns hearing Justin MacDonnell outlined how the government’s use of vegetation management as a political football creates fear, encourages what clearing can be done and is punitive to prudent land managers.
“We need to see vegetation management resolved and removed as a political football. It is not acceptable for you to trade my family’s future and the future of people in this room and our viability just so you can attract some political gain and achieve favourable preference deals by chasing inner city green votes.” [ii]

In the submission that I wrote, I never bothered with what provisions were in the Bill but tried to communicate the frustration of the bush and to leave the prescriptive approach using the tools of control & coercion to an outcomes approach using the tools of cooperation, on ground reality and respect.
“Such methodology creates distrust, division and resentment. It creates minimal adherence to an alien constraint to the realities that agricultural producers live, work and know. The urban politician who make these types of laws and the public servant who administers the law appear oblivious to how they, through these legislative instruments, indifference and ignorance, cripple the farming community and all those other levels of the community reliant on farmers being able to continue effective and profitable farming.”  [iii]

The Palaszczuk government would do well to replicate the approach taken by Major General Michael Jeffery as The National Soil Advocate in his report, Restore the soil: Prosper the nation. It calls for collaboration and knowledge sharing. This is a call for a better way we should aspire to of how environmental considerations are meshed with agricultural production
“The policy will recognise Australia’s soil, water and vegetation as key national natural strategic assets, better support our 130,000 farmers as stewards of about 60 percent of the Australian continent, and seek to reconnect urban Australians with their rural roots through establishing school gardens in every primary and junior high school through the National Curriculum. The policy will support long term research directed at priorities identified through a stocktake of our scientific knowledge of soils and Research Development and Extension capacity, and where possible encourage regulatory consistency for farmers.”  [iv]

There is a Better way which is not the false different approach in an opinion piece last week where it was proposed that farmers and environmentalists should bypass Governments and work together.  For goodness sake, allowing environmental non-government organisations (ENGO) have such a large input is why landowners find themselves in the current untenable situation.  Talk to landowners who represented agricultural interests on government tree clearing consultant/ reference committees over the years.  Negotiations prior to the introduction of the VMA were marred by the practice of the ENGO’s engaging landowners to reach a compromise position. The ink was barely dry on signing off on an agreement and another campaign would launched by the ENGO’s leading to another round of negotiations. It’s called the ratchet effect – take up control one click at a time. At the same time the ENGO’s would be trying to short circuit the negotiations by getting in government’s ear.

For an insight into the disingenuous, underhanded way that ENGO’s approach negotiation with farmers read what they say themselves in the document, ‘Rethinking deliberative governance: dissecting the Queensland landclearing campaign’. Look under the heading of ‘Rethinking deliberative governance’ on the top of page 7. [v]

The Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) has been forced into a reform process by the Qld government and are questioning the role of environmental groups.
Environmental groups pose a significant threat to the long-term viability of the commercial seafood industry in Queensland. The Queensland Seafood Industry Association will continue to advocate for the removal of any environmental group representative on working groups.
The interest of the environment can be protected by government agencies that have a conservation mandate – the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing. Why then should environmental, special interest groups have a seat at the policy table with commercial and recreational groups as well government?”  [vi]  [vii]

WWF has revealed in its submission that beyond the government’s current amendments that WWF wishes to ratchet up further controls. This includes removing the protections of PMAV mapping; severely restrict the use of bulldozers to push mulga to feed livestock in drought and have graziers lop mulga;  and that thinning operations be done selectively with a chainsaw.
This is the organisation that on a number of occasions called regrowth control, deforestation.  Now marry this thought with the policy of the WWF initiated Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) of zero deforestation. [viii] The author of the above mentioned opinion piece calling for farmers and environmentalists to work together, Greg Brown when as President of Cattle Council Australia tried to take the entire Australian beef supply chain into membership of GRSB.

A new approach is needed for environmental law. Without change the ENGO’s will continue to ratchet up a click at a time tighter controls, just as a python constricts its victim.  The Qld ALP appear addicted to the need of a new calamity scenario at election time to gain that extra few percentage of votes to get a few candidates over the line. Not only should the different agricultural sectors unite against this unacceptable situation but also stand with other primary producers and support QSIA call for removal of ENGO’s from the policy table.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

The Wanton Worship of Woody Weeds

By Viv Forbes,

Greens worship woody weeds. Their proposed tree-clearing bans in Queensland are the latest salvo in a long war favouring trees and damaging grasslands and pastoralists.

For millennia Australia’s open forests and treeless plains have supported our national emblems – the kangaroo and the emu, which in turn sustained aborigines, eagles and dingos. Australian grasslands also nurtured now-endangered species such as bustards, quail, pigeons, finches and grass parrots.

Nothing stands still in nature. Savannas are forever a battleground between grassland, scrub and desert. Greens gaze in rapture at the trees but ignore the valuable grasses beneath their feet – native plants like Mitchell Grass and Kangaroo Grass and cultivated grasses like wheat, barley, oats, sorghum and sugar cane.

Greens hate grazing animals like cattle and sheep (but not wildebeest!) and, like trained parrots, repeat the hard-hoof fairy-tale about soil compaction and erosion. In reality, hoof action breaks crusty soil. A short burst of concentrated animal impact with hoof cultivation, seed burial, and application of dung and urine fertilisers does wonders for the long-term health of the pasture. It is not a question of hard hooves or soft paws - it is a grazing management question. A healthy pasture needs grasses, herbs, legumes and periodic grazing animals – shut out the ruminants, or stock heavily and continuously, and you will get weeds and desert.

Greens favour “Do Nothing Pasture Management”. Along with their bans on mechanical or chemical control of tree invasions, they try to prevent bushfires which have for millennia maintained the vigour of the grasslands. To have healthy pasture requires recycling of nutrients from old dead grass before the summer rains. This is best achieved by concentrated short-term hoof impact or by controlled burning (both of which may also kill tree seedlings that are forever trying to invade the grasslands).

Greens are always nibbling away at grasslands and open forests by demanding ever more nationalised parks, conservation zones and other green blockades. Instead of supporting graziers with their productive pastures and grazing animals they create ever-expanding sterilised un-managed areas which become havens for weeds like lantana, prickly pear, cactus and wait-a-while and pests like feral dogs, wild pigs and wild cats.

Proposed new Queensland laws will hinder landowners in harvesting mulga scrub during drought and controlling invasion of grasslands by woody weeds. These destructive green bans plus the unjust Kyoto tree-clearing land seizures are part of the global Green plan to drive farmers and graziers from much of the land.

The great value of ruminants is their efficiency in converting the vegetation of poorer grasslands and open forest into edible proteins and fats. ALP/Green policies will reduce the supply of this truly free-range food and increase our dependence on feedlot food, which is worse for the environment and our health.

And for those who believe the greenhouse warming fable, grassland plants remove the bogey-man (carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere. This carbon collected by grazing animals ends up in long-term storage in human bodies via meat and other animal food products. At the end of their life, most human bodies get sequestered in carbon-based coffins and buried in carbon cemeteries. Greens should be happy with that, but the plant world will gradually suffer from this relentless loss of the gas of life from the biosphere.

The bureaucracy of our “Brave New Green World” will use drones, spy cameras and computer programs to trap and punish any grazier who dares to defend his grassland from invading trees.

Instead of tree clearing bans we need to free our land managers for a war on woody weeds using controlled burning, better grazing management and reversal of the unjust Kyoto land sterilisation program.


Viv Forbes has a degree in Applied Science, and long experience in soil science, pasture management and breeding and managing cattle and sheep.

Further Reading:

Saving the Grasslands with grazing animals by Alan Savory (well worth watching):

What landowners think of the proposed vegetation management bans:

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Why Bother?

Hell bent on making changes to the Vegetation Management Act, the Qld ALP Palaszczuk government is showing disregard to the hands-on knowledge of farming families.  They don’t appear to be listening, so why bother writing a submission. Reluctantly, after a number of people made the request, I sat down at my keyboard the eve submissions closed and went to write a one pager to basically say F U. However something a little more positive emerged, with a little more optimism, that perhaps, just maybe sometime in the dim distant future that the  collective light bulb will go off, bringing a new dawn of a better way of working together. The cynic in me doesn’t give it much hope – anyway this is my submission.

photo sourced Department of Environment, Commonwealth of Australia

The very premise of the Vegetation Management Act (VMA) is at fault to the point that it is not amendments that should be under consideration but a journey to replacement legislation that aims to achieve genuine consultation with the people most subject to the current Act’s apparent tyranny.

The Regional Vegetation Management Plans (RVMP’s) was the last time there was genuine consultation and two-way communication between government and rural landowners. This process was designed to initiate a cooperative and consultative approach on how to best to manage the balance of vegetation management and farming. As history has shown, common sense did not prevail and these were discarded in act of duplicity by the then Premier and government and the VMA introduced.

The approach taken in the VMA was also repeated in changes across the board to how government interacted with agricultural producers.  The core of the VMA champions coercion and discards cooperation. It saw the change of agency staff working with farmers in an atmosphere of goodwill and mutual respect to that of policing, prosecution and distrust. Previous important practical and common-sense “in the field conservation measures” were abandoned to remote, austere and antagonistic direction based on a political imperative and bending to the whims of the green movement. 

Such methodology creates distrust, division and resentment. It creates minimal adherence to an alien constraint to the realities that agricultural producers live, work and know. Loss of hope prevails to a level where farming families see no future for the young adults to come back to the farm and continue with agriculture as a career path. The urban politician who make these types of laws and the public servant who administers the law appear oblivious to how they, through these legislative instruments, indifference and ignorance, cripple the farming community and all those other levels of the community reliant on farmers being able to continue effective and profitable farming.

Some of us have been in the debate about vegetation management for over three decades now.  Even though we work, live in and have a long intimate relationship with the land, there is a sense of being treated as only a minor stakeholder whose views are consistently overridden by more powerful interests. It has been a degrading and humiliating experience being used as a political yo-yo during the many changes over the years to the VMA and legislation of its ilk.

One is left more than just a little cynical on why should we continue to play the game of perpetual submission writing, detailing a view on each provision being amended. We, the real custodians of the land, are left with the feeling of being ignored and treated with contempt.

There are those like myself who absorbed the original ethos of the Landcare movement when it first emerged. We, who are interested in practical, hands-on conservation, who know there is a beneficial tree/ grass relationship aiding both environmental and agriculture production criteria, who understand each bio-region is very different and cannot be administered by State-wide blanket legislation, we who do NOT want to knock down every tree but know that vegetation management can be as beneficial to farming as it is to the environment. Simply put, tree clearing itself is not bad, rather it’s a matter of where and how development is conducted.  There are those of us who live assuredly in a role of both the steward for our patch of land and as a provider of food for our society.

We could be prevailed upon to work together to a better legislative future, but until there is genuine demonstrated pathway of goodwill, respect, empathy, understanding and certainty of agreed negotiations be fully honoured, why should we bother? There needs to be a reversal of the current near certainty that we will be completely ignored - Ignored in favour of green groups who have no interest, or knowledge, in the successful integration of farming development and the environment.

This current Bill should be voted down for it ambiguous provisions, the possibility of increasing oppressive outcome, the continued enlarging upon flawed negative counterproductive laws and a total disregard for the opinions of the real
stewards of the land.