Hats off to Premier Campbell Newman for having the courage to make much needed reforms to the Vegetation Management Act. With many of the worst attacks on our civil rights such as reversal of the onus of proof, denial of the right to silence and mistake of fact, to be reversed. These rights have long been considered basic principles of the Westminster system and their removal has received criticism from jurists and legal academics.
The Queensland government has acknowledged that it will not stay in power without the support of the South East corner and that a well organised and vocal environmental front will seek to portray any reforms as environmental vandalism. We are mindful of that.Photo sourced Courier Mail
Property Rights Australia (PRA) appreciates and applauds the reforms made on behalf of rural Queenslanders by the Newman government.
The Vegetation Management Act 1999 had almost 400 amendments made during the terms of the Beattie and Bligh ALP governments with about half being retrospective. Clearly it was hastily drafted and unworkable.
The prosecution of the Act was shambolic with the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) and its predecessors completely forgetting that as a government agency it was required to be a model litigant which requires it to adhere to the highest standards of probity and fairness in its conduct of litigation. It is also required to spend taxpayer's money with due cause and due process. Many who believed they were innocent were charged but were unable to field the resources to challenge against the might of the State. Charged but exonerated were landowners such as Ashley McKay who had a legal permit to clear.
Using taxpayer funds to chance their arm and to the ire of some Magistrates the Department brought cases which were out of time, where correct certified vegetation maps as specified by the legislation were not produced and one case where a government officer was charged with contempt of court. Other examples can be found of cases where fabrication of evidence and perjury were a feature.
Fines have been exorbitant and appear to have been administered in an ad hoc manner, with the penalties being many times higher than mining companies are commonly required to pay under other environmental protection regulations. Given the stress and financial hardship caused to landowners by these regulations, the amendments to this Act are well overdue and much appreciated.Property Rights Australia has long advocated the necessity for reform and we are prepared to defend the Amendments against criticism in any forum