by Ian Hampton
|Peter Spencer, photo sourced ABC|
On Thursday 6 March, on the NSW ABC Country Hour, Michael Condon interviewed Hugh Nivison, Chairman of the Trust administering the Australian Farmers Fighting Fund (AFFF).
The interview was in response to Spencer supporters informing the Country Hour that the fighting fund assistance used to back the legal fight against the Commonwealth had been stopped, and that this untimely withdrawal has left Spencer 'high and dry' at a critical time as the case is getting closer to going to trial.
However, when challenged by Michael Condon, Mr Nivison said that was not accurate. Mr Nivison “blew a bit of smoke”, saying the fund had only committed to funding the process of legal discovery and is now looking at the documents to see if any more assistance is warranted, according to the merits of the evidence. He also said "It is a complicated issue and we want to have a look at the evidence before we make a decision on where we go to from here," he said.
There is a report on the issue, and an audio of the interview on http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-06/nrn-spencer-case-funding-in-limbo-6-3-14/5303300
Nivison’s statement lacks credibility. Peter Spencer’s solicitor, Mr Peter McKell was advised by letter in January that the funding was to cease and the letter is clear and makes no such qualification. It includes the following words “the Trust has now carefully reviewed the above matter post discovery. As a result of this review the Trustees have formed a view to no longer support the case, and the Trust therefore will provide no further funding for this matter (Spencer v The Commonwealth of Australia)”.
The AFFF website home page includes the following two statements:
“Established in 1985 - by farmers for farmers - the Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund (AFFF) provides financial, legal and professional assistance to farmers facing major issues that have the potential to set legal precedents.”
“The AFFF supports farmers in their fight against unfair and unwarranted barriers to the development of sustainable farming practises and vibrant regional communities.”
Surely the Spencer case meets both of these tests. One has to wonder why the AFFF Trustees firstly, and without qualification withdrew the AFFF funding, and when challenged resorted to making politician like statements about their support – when the Fund’s continued support is most needed.
The Spencer camp are not inclined to let the issue rest; it is hoped that a supporter will be interviewed on NSW Country Hour in the near future to clearly put forward the facts of the issue.
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