Imagine a third world nation was mired in corruption so deeply that the ruling class were able to stealthily steal the rights to vast acreage of private property from landowners without paying any compensation.
Imagine that one of the victims of this injustice had approached every court of the land and had not even had his case heard, even after more than 200 attempts.
In desperation, and with no other avenue available, having officially “lost the farm”, he starts a hunger strike, which has now gone for 28 days unbroken, threatening to starve to death if he has to.
Get ready to be shocked. This is an moving example of why “policy by accident” is a dangerous way to govern. In this case, innocuous feel-good laws end up crushing upstanding citizens. Peter Spencer is still alive (though he may only have 12 – 20 days to go) but how many other farming men were put through the environmental-ringer, and drowned themselves in brandy, picked up a gun, or crashed the car into the only tree near the road? None of these deaths would be recorded as victims of bureaucracy.
Peter Spencer bought a farm south of Canberra in the early 1980’s. In the mid 1990’s new laws rolled into action that prevented land clearing. That meant, even though the land belonged to him, Peter could no longer clear the regrowth. Eighty percent of what he paid for was effectively confiscated. He received nothing in return and there was no way out. He couldn’t sell the property — who would buy a piece of land they have no right to use?
But Peter still had a mortgage to pay, and no way of earning the money to do it. Recently, his last legal avenue was exhausted, and the sherriff gained a warrant to take the farm off him. That was the final straw…
Peter Spencer has issued the Prime Minister of Australia with a letter of his demands. He wants a Royal Commission and compensation for all the farmers who have lost the right to use their land.
Compensation would cost billions. But Kevin Rudd’s “stimulus package” (spend-for-the-sake-of-spending), was 42 billion dollars big.
This is what happens when big government gets your money. It gives a “free” handout of $950 per tax-payer to randomly “stimulate the economy”, and uses the rest to build school halls, even in schools which already had a hall, or in schools which desperately needed a library.
The long story
ABC Radio National (Counterpoint) has one of the best descriptions of his story in the transcript of an interview with Michael Duffy. It’s clear that Spencer has been willing to try to work around the laws, and be creative about managing his property. After the land-clearing laws came into effect, Peter paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up ponds for trout fishing. But new water laws ended that too (and also without compensation). Tenaciously Peter then set up a fine-wool breeding program, but the bushfires of 2003 (that destroyed 500 homes in Canberra, and native forest near Peter) meant that hundreds of wild dogs were forced out of burnt areas. They over-ran his property, killing hundreds of sheep.
Spencer: Every one of my projects is destroyed, every one of my…it’s just disgraceful, Michael, I just feel sick. I was just thinking last night, I can remember going off to court, day after day, sometimes the last eight or nine weeks I would come back, spend one night [unclear], change all my files, back to Sydney again. I spent nearly five weeks there non-stop the last two months. And I’d watch sheep dying in the paddock and I couldn’t go round and shoot them because I had nobody left to help me. I had to let them die on their own, just kicking and struggling because they couldn’t stand up anymore, nothing to feed them with, it was just unbelievable.
Spencer points out that the land-grab by the Australian Government meant the nation met it’s Kyoto commitments, a target that would otherwise have been blown away. The carbon stored in confiscated land amounts to about $10.7 billion in carbon credits. Probably the total value lost (with interest) from the productive use of that land would be many times higher.
The Australian has only covered this story as an attack Barnaby Joyce. The man who hasn’t eaten for four weeks, and who is a victim of a fascist government illegal action, doesn’t make a news story in his own right. (This spans both sides of politics). I can’t find a mention of the hunger-striking “Peter Spencer” in the Sydney Morning Herald, or in The Age. If you thought you were buying one of our major dailies because they would tell you all the news, think again.
A search of The Australian site over the last month reveals just the one mention of Peter Spencer within the piece on Barnaby Joyce, but 94 mentions of Tiger Woods. This is our national masthead?
If your property was stolen by a creeping cancerous form of government, and you are prepared to die for your rights, you might get a passing mention. But if you are a foreign sportsman who had … affairs (!), it’s front page news.
If we don’t have full meaningful ownership of our own land, then we have already been conquered by fascism. What use is the “free press” if they don’t warn us as it comes, inform us as it happens, or even bother to report the coup, post hoc?
This is the Alan Jones radio interview with Peter Spencer, and his lawyer with images overlaid. Listen to just how articulate and well spoken Peter is.
Peter Spencer’s site on Agmates.
A Current Affair visited Peter Spencer and got some moving footage of the tower and him speaking.
Carbongate (Crickey.com) – Steve Truman exposes The Great Carbon Heist: How 83.7 million tonnes of Carbon Credits was stolen from farmers.
Justin Jefferson in Quadrant looks at the legal side of the question, and explores the bigger picture of why both National and State governments are palming this off to the other.
Under the Australian Constitution, if the Commonwealth wants to acquire a person’s property, it must do so on ‘just terms’, i.e. pay fair compensation. Since land-use rights form part of the equity of a property, the taking of those rights, and vesting the control and benefit of them in government bodies, is in effect a compulsory acquisition of property rights.
In the High Court, the Commonwealth is arguing that the Constitution was not intended to protect against forced acquisitions of property by the executive arm of government! The absurdity, or dishonesty, of this argument should be obvious. If it were accepted, it would make the very idea of private property, and constitutional and limited government, meaningless.
The Alan Jones interview. The ABC “Rural News” coverage.
Peter Spencer has been fighting this since 2005. His thoughts back then are here.
To contact the PM Kevin Rudd about this shameful case
UPDATE1 : There is a fund developing to help farmers like Peter. You need to register as a member of Agmates to see this page.
Thanks to JoNovva for the post