What’s interesting is that finally–after 45 days without food–Peter Spencer is starting to get some serious national attention. Today Tonight is a prime time “current affairs” show and this cover was fairly sympathetic. The British Financial Times has also run a story, both of these were serious enough to actually interview Peter Spencer. Finally it seems there is some investigation. A few new facts have been filled in, and also a very strong theme linking his actions to the Kyoto agreement.
The saddest point is that Peter Spencer has been trying to get some attention for at least three years, and probably over a decade. He wrote The War On Farmers in January 2006 and it lays it all out. He was already facing foreclosure in 2006.
The farm consists of about 14,000 acres, about 60 per cent of which was cleared before World War II. When I bought it in the 1980s, I had been working overseas to earn the money to buy the place. Unfortunately, I was unable to farm it for some time so extensive regrowth occurred. When I returned to Australia to begin to farm, I found that various laws to preserve native vegetation had been enacted in the meantime, and I was unable to “reclear” the land.
I could have applied for permission to clear, but not only was it unlikely this would have been granted, at that time it would have cost us over $300,000 merely to prepare the necessary farm plan. This was because of the number of different ecosystems present due to the 900 metre altitude variation on the property. There would have been no refund if the plan was rejected. It should be pointed out that under the just-released regulations (December 1, 2005) this cost would now be paid by the relevant department.
The result was that I was left with only 800 acres to farm: not nearly enough to live off and a financial catastrophe. The bank foreclosed on our mortgage and at the moment we are barely hanging on, thanks to the help of our extended families.
So three years later, what does a man whose land has been confiscated by the government have to do to get our media to stand up and pay attention, and focus some hard public questions on our elected representatives? He has to lose 40 kilograms and risk his life.
This is why we need to stand up and demand a healthy, investigative media. Spencer should have been the subject of feature articles years ago. If they had done their job then, he might not be so desperate, or destitute, now.
Today Tonight “Farmer Protest”
As a part of Australia’s commitment to protect native vegetation and to reduce carbon emissions under the Kyoto protocol, Peter Spencer and thousands of farmers like him, have been subjected to a government imposed ban on land clearing.
The saved trees are natural carbon sinks worth an estimated $10.8 billion to the government in reduced carbon emissions, should Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading scheme go ahead. But the farmers, who can no longer develop this land have received no compensation.
Says Peter: “Mr Rudd, how dare you tell me that you’ll just carry on breaching the constitution when I’ve followed every path known, I wrote to you two years ago and said, ‘don’t throw that excuse up to me in 2 years time’ – I knew he would pass the buck. How dare you work outside the constitution, wake up to yourself. It’s just not on. I’m not here to try and threaten you, I’m trying to get this country back on track.”
Peter King is Peter Spencer’s barrister. Before any hunger strike, the two Peters spent years fighting for compensation in the courts – to no avail.”
Peter King by the way, is a barrister and Rhodes Scholar, and was elected to the seat for Wentworth in Sydney. After only two years, he was ousted by none other than Malcolm Turnbull in a vicious preselection battle. Curious how these things go.
The constitutional legalities
“It’s my opinion, and I’ve offered that in support of Peter Spencer’s case, that it is unconstitutional for this reason. That there has been an acquisition of his land and that’s now been acknowledged by the lower courts, that there’s been a benefit to the Commonwealth, both in terms of an interest in his land and in terms of financial outcomes. And it hasn’t been paid for. Now in our country, under our constitution, the notion that we have, that is fundamental to our democracy, is that nobody loses his or her or its land unless it’s been paid for,” Peter King said.“What the Commonwealth did, before I came into the case, was to move to have it dismissed as being, as there being no case. I came into the case and we repeated the matter and the judge held that there was a case but then the Commonwealth moved in March of 2008, interestingly enough, shortly after the Kyoto Protocol commenced in operation in Australia, to have the whole case dismissed under a discretionary power that judges have in the Federal Court. And so that was to prevent the case from going to a hearing,” Peter Spencer said.
This poll question is rather loaded and it’s no surprise the results are predominantly “yes”. The serious question the government is trying to frame is “Why make policy because of threats?”, which seems eminently reasonable on face value, but ignores the point that a bad unconstitutional policy is still a bad unconstitutional policy.
Poll: Should the Prime minister meet with Peter Spencer?
(People overseas and in WA can’t join this poll)
Yes – Phone or text 1902 558 770
No – Phone or text 1902 558 771
Australian hunger striker fights farming ban
[Financial Times] By Peter Smith in Sydney Published: January 5 2010
Peter Spencer is scathing about the country’s prime minister and his campaign to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. “I want the world to know that while Kevin Rudd is strutting the world stage crowing about how he met his Kyoto commitments, he has been stealing from Australian farmers,” the 61-year-old sheep farmer told the Financial Times as the wind crackled down the phone line.
With barely 10 per cent of his property cleared, the determined father of six has been fighting federal and state authorities for the best part of a decade for the right to clear an additional 30 per cent of his 8,000-hectare property for sheep farming.
Mr Spencer argues the clearing ban violates his constitutional rights because the government has rendered his land commercially unviable. He says desperate other farmers have been driven to suicide and has written to Mr Rudd calling for a Royal Commission to examine the issue and for fair compensation for farmers.
Finally a letter from Peter’s neighbor to Senator Heffernan
This was copied from the Agmates site but it can be hard to find there, so I’ve reproduced it here. It’s not media coverage, nor is it “science”, but if you are interested in who the man is, this has some insights.
Firstly I would like to state that I am a ‘Peter Spencer Supporter’ [but number one a Family Friend] and I guess one of the ones that you referred to when you said and I quote ”I think it’s barbaric that we’re all sitting around here wondering how long the bloke is going to last … I think they, absolutely this afternoon, should go and get him, and take him to hospital,’‘ I would just like to help you try and understand the type of man Peter Spencer really is, a man that has the guts and the courage in standing up for what he truly believes in. Peter is a very passionate and determined man especially when dealing with anything that he truly believes in and especially when it concerns his family and will follow it through as far as he is physically able and he unfortunately is not afraid of death.
I have known Peter since 1989 when I became one of the Spencer Family’s next door neighbours and the two families spent a lot of time together especially the children as living 42 kilometers from the nearest town..
In those days Peter spent a lot of time in the highlands of Papua New Guinea as he had various… tourism accommodation type businesses and had been operating them for 10-15 years prior to us knowing him. Peter is/was accepted as a Chief in one of the Highland Tribes in Papua New Guinea and has been known to be called in by the then Papua New Guinea Government to negotiate peace between the two… fighting tribes putting his own life on the line in these situations but coming out with very positive results. In 1996/97 there was a riot at his Hotel in Mt Hagan where rascals tried to rob and burn his Hotel, Peter was taken captive and placed on his knees with hands tied behind his back and a gun placed at his head, fortunately for Peter the gun misfired and in the rascals confusion he was able to escape.
I guess my point being in all this is that Peter Spencer while he has ANY control will not come down from that tower, come hell or high water it won’t get him down, he’s that type of man fighting for what he truly believes in, and that scares the hell out of me and my family, let alone what his own kids Aaron, Khan, Sarah & Emma are going through. They flew out from America to be with him…
Yes! It is barbaric that we’re all sitting around here wondering how long Peter is going to last. BUT! not all of us have been voted into a position by the trusting people of this Great Nation and have the power to help Peter put pressure on Rudd to talk to him at the very least.”
Thanks to Peter, Pat and Linda for updates.