Peter Spencer

A new site dedicated to Peter Spencer was launched on November 14, 2014
Check out - Peter Spencer versus The Commonwealth

Background to Peter Spencer, and similar cases:

In 1992, the Federal Government under Paul Keating signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment with the States.

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.

For further information, see:

Steve Truman in Crikey Dec 2009:

Justin Jefferson in Quadrant Dec 2009:

Chris Berg in SMH Jan 2010:

Peter Spencer’s Case:

Peter Spencer with his oldest daughter, Sarah in 1980, 
after he purchased his farm located at Shannon's Flat, near Cooma, N.S.W. 

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.

In the early 1990’s he had the following plan: “…the land itself was going to be developed along the lines of a farm plan drawn up by the Department of Lands and Environment, and this plan was drawn up with massive overlays, aerial photographs and studies of soil types, timber types, and it was going to be recommended, through that study, for agri-forestry and sheep, so timber and grazing amongst that timber. To keep all of our big forest, like our mountain gums and our ash, we were going to maintain those forests. We didn't want to damage the original forest, but the regrowth areas were a part of this plan which came out about 12 months before the government changed its position in regard to this type of development.”

Subsequently, land-clearing legislation ended this plan. 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, assisted by Peter King.

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 , which then lasted 52 days.

During his time up the Tower, he was supported by Senator Barnaby Joyce and NSW MP, Kevin Humphries. Farmers marched on Canberra o
n Jan 4 2010. 

 Feb 13 2010 the Property Rights Rally was held on in Canberra, attended by thousands of farmers, with Alan Jones as MC, and speakers including Barnaby Joyce, Kevin Humphries and Tony Abbott.

Following the February Rally, Senator Joyce pushed for the Senate Inquiry into Native Vegetation Laws, Greenhouse Gas Abatement and Climate Change Measures (see here: 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. (The Greens wrote a dissenting comment.)

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, then expected to take at least 2 years.

In January 2011:
Peter discovered an interesting extract from the Qld Government Hansard which seems to show proof of collusion between the Commonwealth and Qld Governments to use uncleared land for the Kyoto Protocol requirement
May 31 2011: On Tuesday 31st May, Peter Spencer had a very substantial breakthrough in the Federal Court, Sydney.  After almost four years in both the Federal and High Courts, the legal teams representing the Commonwealth and NSW negotiated and then agreed on the categories of documents for discovery to be provided by the two respondents.  This left Judge Emmett with the job of issuing the order.  The documents sought and agreed to are to be provided progressively between now and the next hearing set for Friday 2 September.

For four years, the approach taken by the Australian Government Solicitor (for the Commonwealth) has 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 November 2011: After months of research Spencer’s legal team made a first submission for discovery in November which was followed by a hearing of the Federal Court in December.  At this hearing the Commonwealth barristers reverted to the filibuster type tactics they have employed from the beginning, attempting to limit the award of costs to Spencer and questioning the clear findings of the High Court – attempting to deny Spencer discovery of the documents he and his legal team are seeking.

Peter Spencer is a very interesting character, perhaps no angel (which makes him human), but he has demonstrated incredible tenacity and courage in surviving the hunger strike and continuing to pursue this battle that has affected so many rural landowners.

Index to Peter Spencer posts published on the Evacuation Grounds site

Peter Spencer Update November 2012

1 comment:

  1. Peter Spencer's long running case finally comes to judgement tomorrow, Friday 24th July at 2.45-3pm. The actual ruling will occur at the Victorian Federal court but will be beamed to Sydney for 2.45-3pm, where the majority of supporters will be.


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