Thursday, 31 October 2013

The case of Peter Swift will shock you

By Simon Breheny
Cross post under IPA copyright

peter-swiftPeter Swift is a Western Australian farmer who takes good care of his land and describes himself as a conservationist. He even spent his own money fencing off a large area of his land and planting vegetation to support an endangered species of cockatoo.

But for the past three years, Peter has been hauled through the courts by the WA Department of Environment and Conservation (now the Department of Environment Regulation) over claims that he cleared native vegetation from his land. Peter has always maintained his innocence and even provided aerial photographs showing that any land clearing had taken place before he purchased the property.

And last week he finally won. But his victory is soured by the fact that he now finds himself $360,000 out of pocket – not to mention physically and mentally exhausted.

Peter’s case highlights the damage that native vegetation legislation inflicts on farmers. Instead of respecting property rights and putting a regime in place that achieves positive environmental outcomes, native vegetation laws punish rural landholders and fail to achieve conservation gains.
It also demonstrates how uncompromising environment department bureaucrats have become in the pursuit of justice scalps. Malice is the only way to describe how Peter has been pursued by the department. And that’s why I’ve called for an inquiry into the handling of native vegetation cases by the department. The evidence of Peter’s innocence is clear and should have seen this case dropped years ago. But bureaucrats with a prosecution-at-all-costs agenda sought to bully a vulnerable farmer into submission.

Peter was right to stand up to thugs in the department and the result achieved in court is a good one. But these laws are still on the books despite their deep flaws and as long as they remain the threat to the livelihoods of farmers across the state looms as a very real possibility.

The Western Australian government must repeal its native vegetation laws to put an end to the injustice that this regime creates and to restore property rights to rural and regional landowners.

UPDATE: Peter Swift has launched a campaign to defend rural property rights here.
First published at IPA Freedom watch


  1. How wrong, wrong wrong, that onus of proof was on the innocent defendant, Peter Swift, to prove his innocence.

    The onus should have been on the Department of Environment and Conservation to submit evidence of wrongdoing beyond reasonable doubt. In my view such behaviour is criminal: the department should be able to be sued for wasting $300.000 of an innocent man's finances.

  2. Peter Swift has been put to unnecessary expense and stress to fight a charge which should never have been brought. He is an unnecessary addition to a line of farmers who have been unreasonably persecuted by so-called environmental laws. As is the case with all of those who plead “not guilty” instead of the department’s preferred option of “guilty” Peter has felt the full weight of the State’s resources against him stretching over a period of years. He is still waiting for clarification of which parts of his farm he is legally allowed to run cattle on.
    Western Australia has come to the notice of property rights groups as a result of the inordinate amount of power held by departmental officials, not only to charge farmers but to invoke rules which can and have caused bankruptcy to individual businesses.
    The laws do not preserve the property rights of farm businesses, are unclear, opressive and should be repealed. Property Rights Australia has always had the policy that the costs of environmental policy should be borne by the whole community and not individual businesses. In a free market economy and democratic system of government the whole community in the form of government must bear the cost of public policy. This is a minimum requirement. It is a principle which is well recognised in the various states’ Acquisition of Land Acts for public infrastructure.
    If the state cannot just march onto your land and take it or part thereof at no cost in order to build a road why should it be able to do so in the name of protecting the environment? In the field of community environmental policy the opposite has been the case.
    The IPA has called for a Senate Inquiry and this would undoubtedly uncover some of the worst abuses of the laws. Previous Senate inquiries have already commented on the undesirability of individuals bearing the cost of public environmental policy. Labor Governments have steadfastly refused to acknowledge such comments but this should not be the case with Liberal or National Party governments.
    The concept of model litigant is lost on the enforcers of environmental law.

  3. Good to read your informed comment, Jo, and also to learn that the IPA has called for a Senate Inquiry.

    We can only hope this call might be more well received under the new government.

    1. Elizabeth,
      I believe I may have been mistaken in the belief that IPA were calling for a Senate inquiry. I think they were referring to a State inquiry. Sorry for that.

  4. Is this particular Peter Swift matter associated with law legislated because of CO2 and Kyoto Protocol? If so, that law is a farce and part of a scam to operate emission trading schemes.

    Such law will have to be repealed and all who have fallen victim to that law should be fully compensated for financial cost and stress.

  5. Doing a little research there myself during a busy day, I see the word "offset" is used quite often in a WA environ law media report of 2013. I see the word is now being used re 'offset' re loss of native vegetation. But I think the history of that word is to do with offset re carbon.
    I do think some governments are now aware that the CO2 angle is nonsense.
    This goes back to my original question here, did the Swift charges begin in relation to law relating to subject of CO2 and Kyoto?

    There is need to be clear about this because CO2 can be proven to be nonsense, whereas protection of native vegetation can be justified.

    1. John
      It is not necessarily about CO2. WA protects all sorts of areas for all sorts of reasons. Some of the protected areas are wetlands or water catchments. We cannot make assumptions about the reasons without specific knowledge but grazing can be considered illegal clearing.
      People are just told they cannot use areas of their agricultural business for agriculture and farmers only seem to be aware of this legislation/regulation if it happens to them.

  6. Jo Rea,
    I was taught about conservation in primary school in about 1950 but then it was about contour ploughing. Now it's about WWF agenda linked to CO2 plus the aspects as you state above.

    My fundamental point here is about recent use of the word "offset".
    But perhaps WA has used it for a long time and I don't know about that use. But lets see.

    Where else in the past and in what regard have you ever seen that word used apart from to do with carbon/CO2 ?

    I think "offset" originated with CO2 nonsense and that now they are into spinning it into general conservation law.
    Mitigation has been the word I have heard. Like damage mitigation.
    I just think if hounded farmers can decry law contrived from CO2 nonsense, they may then win their case.

  7. The Greenies and WWF are very quiet on the subject of the massive "Raft of Junk" the size of Texas that is floating straight for the good old USA.
    This massive mass of debris and junk is the product of the earthquake and the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.

    Many countries do not dispose of their rubbish the same as we do but load their rubbish onto barges and dump it all out at sea.
    If the halfwits that are claiming that carbon dioxide will destroy the world, turned their attention to solving the real and existing, provable problem of the junk floating in all of the oceans they would be better spending their time.
    The "global warming" con is in a very grey area. This problem with floating garbage and rubbish that eventually sinks to the bottom of the ocean, is a far more serious and pressing problem than the global warming con.
    This junk is from a natural disaster but there are billions of tonnes of rubbish, much of it polluted, being dumped into the oceans.
    If the likes of Gore, Suzuki and Flannery turned their energies towards the real problems, they might be able to make a difference. All they are doing now is terrorising vulnerable people.
    The halfwit global warming alarmists, (while millions of people are grieving and mourning the loss of thousands of lives and everything that they own) are castigating those affected for causing the destruction that has befallen them and claiming that they brought it all on themselves. One of the halfwits was on TV last night warning the people suffering that because they do not change their ways there will be far worse to come. Can they produce solid science to prove that this is in fact the truth? I think not. Link to the story below.

  8. And doesn't Aunty ABC love promoting the CO2 climate change myth whenever it gets an opportunity? Peter is right, there are many real environmental problems being swept under the carpet while we are constantly told all we need to do is cut "carbon" emissions.


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