Saturday, 30 August 2014

PRA: Hearing into new Qld resources bill

Qld parliament AREC Chair Ian Rickuss & deputy Chair
Jackie Trand. Photo sourced Qld Country Life

On behalf of property Rights Australia, chair Joanne Rea appeared before hearing at MacKay 20th August  into the Mineral & Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill. The following is Joanne's opening statement to the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee

Property Rights Australia believes that this Bill severely erodes many of the protections and rights of landowners for the benefit of resources industries. In fact we believe it to be one of the greatest abrogations of landowner rights since the Vegetation Management Act 1999.

Some of our concerns are outlined in our submission but it is not exhaustive. They are concerns that are shared by many landowner representatives and by legal professionals specialising in representing landowners. PRA highly recommends the submission by Shine lawyers.

We have heard the Premier and Ministers say, when asked about landowner concerns that the resources companies and related infrastructure will create very many jobs and the royalties will fund infrastructure. Such statements imply that resource development and landowner concerns are mutually exclusive. This is not the case.

 We are constantly told of the billions of dollars in revenue which will benefit the state and we are well aware of the above average wages and conditions paid to mine workers and contractors. However, landowners are approached with an attitude of penury and meanness.

If resource companies want a relatively trouble free path they should approach landowners with a fair offer of recompense from the beginning, negotiate in good faith, not waste their time, apply pressure, bully, ignore concerns, renege on agreements and use various other bluff and deception tactics. They should also be mindful of local knowledge. Lobbying Government for changes to legislation which erode the rights of landowners because they are getting resistance to their unfair tactics is unacceptable.

Landowners feel that they have been thrown to the wolves with the lack of protection of their property rights under pieces of legislation like this. Commercial agreements alone are not possible without built in protection when one party to negotiations is an unwilling party whose time commitment is a cost and the companies who have full time paid professionals. This factor is frequently taken advantage of.

The balance of power in negotiations with resource companies has always been in favour of the resource companies and changes to legislation including those in this Bill have eroded almost every bargaining chip landowners may have had and handed the entire box and dice to the resources companies.

The superior fire power of the resources sector has won the day with this proposed legislation and the property rights of landowners are being disregarded. This is not the treatment that we expect from any Government which should be should be concerned about private property rights which are the cornerstone of our free market system.

All in all there is too much left to regulation rather than in the legislation, there are too many things which are not defined and landowner’s rights have been severely curtailed. This legislation should be deferred and taken back to the drawing board. It is entirely inappropriate that resource companies have damaged their own reputations as honest and good faith negotiators and then ask the government to fix their problems by legislation which damages landowner’s rights to the enjoyment of their property. It is very obvious that this legislation was “industry directed” for the benefit of resources companies and that landowner rights will be severely damaged. PRA does not support the further erosion of property rights by yet another government. It would appear that there are no major parties whose philosophical principle is to uncompromisingly to protect private property rights, a valuable and recognised cornerstone of our society and the ability of businesses to operate securely.


  1. Congratulations, Joanne, on your sound and forthrightly expressed opinions.

    How tragic, as you say, that it would seem "there are no major parties whose philosophical principle is uncompromisingly to protect private property rights, a valuable and recognised cornerstone of our society . . ."

  2. Lets hope the pollies who are supposed to represent the rural sector actually get a conscience and listen to the excellent points made by Joanne, and the other presenters. The Toowoomba hearing was well attended and some very confronting presentations made to the Parliamentary representatives. To ignore the pleas for fair and just legislation would be a breech of their role, and would invariably place question on their credibility.( wasn't especially impressed with the Public servants who added to the discussion there)

  3. This is something I wrote for the Basin Sustainability Alliance from the notes I took at the Toowoomba hearing. Just as there was only 2 parliamentarians attending the hearing in Toowoomba the same occurred at Mackay & Townsville.

  4. Well done Dale - a very revealing report.

  5. I want to congratulate Dale on his recent election as the new PRA Chairman.

    Outgoing Chairman, Joanne Rea’s following comment in the latest PRA newsletter is surely well deserved by Dale:

    "Dale is quite possibly the hardest working Board member that PRA has ever had. He has many submissions to Government and associated parliamentary hearings to his name, a great deal of research across PRA areas of interest, articles on the internet and he has started a Property Rights Australia page which highlights articles and newspaper items about various issues relevant to us."

    Joanne’s own dedication and significant contribution to PRA in her role as chairman is also deserving of high commendation.

  6. After 288 submissions & 5 hearings this report by the parliamentary committee is a joke.
    Below is PRA's view about the report.

    The parliamentary committee with the responsibility of overseeing the public submission and hearing process into the Mineral and Energy resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014 has made 4 recommendations which barely nod at the very significant concerns raised by landowner groups, individual landowners, highly experienced and qualified legal firms, Government enterprises and local councils.

    This so called modernisation and harmonisation of 5 Acts has been used as an excuse to wind back landowner rights even further in spite of a commitment not to do so.

    For such a highly complex bill with very wide ramifications across all resource legislation for the committee to make only four recommendations after very significant concerns raised in submissions and at hearings is surprising. But the disconnect of each recommendation to the forerunning text of the report is nothing less than astonishing.

    Part 4 of the report detailed the response to the bill’s changes to notifications and objections of new resource projects. Concerns ranged across the very limited definitions of “affected landholders” which do not take account of effects of neighbouring properties, limited grounds for objections which render them virtually useless and very limited notification.
    The ensuring recommendation to Part 4 is that the very good Qld Globe facility be used as a de facto notification substitute. This ignores the fact that not all landowners access the internet and that the vast majority of rural internet connections are insufficient to access Qld Globe at will. The recommendation completely ignores genuine concern about who can lodge an objection.

    Restricted areas (covered in Part 5 of the report) is another area which attracted a lot of criticism for what amounted to a winding back of landowner rights. None of the considerable and reasonable criticism has been listened to. Vital farm infrastructure is not protected. All of the reports of the difficulty landowners have in coming to some sort of satisfactory Conduct and Compensation agreements have fallen on deaf ears.
    “The committee acknowledges the concerns from land holders and other parties that ‘restricted land’ no longer applies to infrastructure. However, the committee accepts the intent of the changes to the restricted land framework, which legitimately seeks to achieve a consistent restricted land framework across all resource sectors.”
    This is an unacceptable response, a consistent framework across all resource sectors is of little value to landholders if it is consistently bad.

    The committee in recommendation 3 asks for a review of the land access code. Again this is surprising as it is an ongoing process that occurs outside of the legislation. This recommendation adds nothing to improve provisions within the bill itself.

    The last recommendation sensibly asks that “ the Bill be amended to provide that reasonable costs incurred by land holders in negotiating an agreement are compensable by resource companies including where the resource company withdraws from the negotiations prior to finalising the agreement” But this this apparent improvement for landholders is immediately weakened by the proviso of “with consideration of a capped amount”. Landholders face a large imbalance of power in CCA negotiations with resource companies and need at their disposal the full use of professional advisors.


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