We would hope that The Australian would stand up for … Australians. Instead our National masthead is not investigating the claims of an Australian farmer against our government, they’re not interviewing constitutional law experts, they’re interviewing his brother.
Peter Spencer is on Day 47 of a hunger strike and trying to get compensation for all farmers whose land was effectively expropriated. Journalist, Paul Maley could have investigated the veracity of the $10 billion dollar claim, but instead he tries to assess Peter’s mental health and personal finances. While these might be a relevant part of the big picture, the big-picture itself is missing.
The Australian sub-heading is: “SERIOUS doubts have emerged about the case of Peter Spencer”,… but the serious doubts amount to a 40 year old story, and the fact that Peter owes money to his family, rather than to the banks. Serious? Not on the scale of billion dollar carbon commitments.
The story goes that way back in 1970, Peter Spencer was married to the daughter of diplomats, and they were taking her out of the country. Apparently he took a gun, and was involved in a stand-off with police, threatened to hurt himself and demanded they stop the plane and ask her if she wanted to go. She did.
Passionate circumstances no doubt. He should not have done what he did, but seriously, is this more relevant than interviewing other farmers who have been caught by this legislation? Is it more useful than quizzing legal experts about just how much money Australia would owe to a foreign committee if the farmers had not been forced to hold unpaid carbon sinks?
Was Peter Spencer just a passionately disappointed Romeo 40 years ago, or is he a bit unhinged? It was his wife, and it’s been a long time for other incidents to surface. If we’d had saturation coverage of his claims, then it might be understandable to rush to fill in all the details.
As for the family loan, presumably that’s how Peter Spencer stopped the foreclosure he says he faced back in 2006. The banks would have taken the farm then, and it’s a credit to the family for helping him out. But in the end, that doesn’t change the value of the carbon credits, or the serious consequences of international agreements. It doesn’t change the effect of the native title legislation.
In an article from Monday the pattern was the same. The story could have been about Peter Spencer and the grave injustice he suffered, and all the farmers he speaks for. Instead, the headline was Bill Heffernan: “Bill Heffernan Demands End To Hunger Strike“. It’s another “orbit” story — one that runs rings around the main issue without ever crossing it.
The Australian quotes Senator Heffernans opinion on the state of Spencer’s mental health. Heffernan, recall, helped set up the legislation that Spencer fights. Heffernan possibly, is a biased pop psychologist:
Senator Heffernan, a farmer who has met with Mr Spencer’s family, said if his claims were true they posed real questions about his emotional, as well as his physical, well-being.
If Peter Spencers claims are true they pose real questions indeed, but not about Peter Spencer so much as about the health of our Australian constitution. That’s the elephant in the kitchen. It could be that the only thing afflicting Spencer is an unfailing sense of justice and dodged determination. After being shredded by successive governments and failed by our legal system and our media, Peter Spencer’s actions are justifiably desperate and very sane. It may seem like an extraordinarily risky gamble to the rest of us in safe-house-suburbia, but remember this man has been left with nothing to show for 30 years of work, robbed by the people who are supposed to protect him, and left without dignity or a home. His choice of a rock and a hard place means there was enough of an optimist in him to hope that this last desperate move might pay off somehow. If he had no hope at all, presumably he would have grabbed a gun like others have and disappeared into an ABS statistic.
Even if Spencer does not always have the best judgment, ponder what Justice Rothman said of Spencers case in October 2008 as he found against him:
‘‘…the overall effect of the different pieces of legislation seems grossly unfair and unconscionable”…
The Australian did at least capture the essence of Barnaby Joyce’s comment.
“Outspoken Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was more interested in writing nursery rhymes and international problems than domestic issues.
“Your responsibility is not to the people of Copenhagen, it’s not to the people of some massive conference … your responsibility is to the people of this country,” he yelled.”
And Peter if you read this somehow, please know the you have got our attention and made a powerful point. You could serve the people of Australia so much more by staying alive. Would you consider running for the Senate? The people of Australia could use another good man in government, one who will stand up for principles and other ordinary citizens.
UPDATE1; PROTEST TODAY (Friday)
Peter Spencer needs our support and encouragement to come down and continue the fight without risking his life.
A rally is being staged at his property “SAARAHNLEE” at Shannon’s Flat via Cooma in NSW on Monday 11th January between 10am and 3pm.
Please come along and show Peter that you care.
The rally is being widely promoted on Radio 2GB in Sydney, and information can be found on their website.
ACCESS TO PETER’S PROPERTY IS BY 4WD ONLY.
PLEASE BRING A PICNIC LUNCH. ………………………….. Thanks to Bunny for the update.